Let’s just get one thing straight. I hate that I have to write this anonymously to protect the name of a dear friend. I hate that I cannot address the relevant academics directly, the actual department that I know to be guilty of negligence and—let’s be honest—of cruelty to their students. I regret that this is going to take the form of a generalisation, despite my knowledge of plenty of academics who take their teaching responsibilities seriously, and who love passing on the very same knowledge they spend their careers advancing. But enough is enough.
I have a friend. You know them as a Student Rep. I know them as one of the most dedicated, intelligent and selfless people I have ever met. Out of a schedule already packed full of tasks they find extremely stressful, my friend donates their time to act as a liaison between the students and teachers of the Department of Pointy Headed Elitists. They aren’t doing it to bulk up their resume. They spend entire nights writing incredibly thorough emails, addressing every concern that students could have—with a particular emphasis on the ickle firsties, some of whom (bless their hearts) don’t even know what a cover sheet is.
Their recent project, a good example of how far above and beyond they are prepared to go, was a modest proposal for increased representation of what students find relevant to today’s world in the teaching syllabus. And after leading my friend on rather shamefully, the academic staff of the Department of Shits and Giggles stonewalled them. Between consoling my distraught friend, assuring them that they couldn’t afford to take it personally, and discussing the incident with other students, I came to a shocking conclusion. Academics at the University of Sydney just don’t want to teach.
Given what some of my friends have said, my incredulity is more than a little naïve. While most academics won’t admit that they themselves resent teaching, they have no problem admitting that the general academic consensus is that teaching responsibilities are the most unfortunate, loathsome and pointless of their roles in the academy. Most academics would rather be rid of the obligation to teach smelly, ignorant, tardy little gnomes like ourselves. The luckiest of academics are those whose research takes up all of their professional life. Suffice to say, it would be inaccurate to characterise this attitude as anything but totally unacceptable.
The propagation of knowledge is at least as important as its advancement. If academics cannot respect and appreciate, let alone acknowledge, the paramount importance of training the historians, artists, doctors, lawyers and scientists of tomorrow, then we are in serious trouble. This is to say nothing of their role in training their own successors to be the slightly less smelly, marginally less ignorant, still completely unpunctual academics of tomorrow.
And a little bit of appreciation might not go astray. Last I checked, the majority of protesters against staff-cuts and the steady deterioration of your staff working conditions were students. We were on the picket lines with you. We were there on your behalf. And the truth is, there is nothing you could do individually or collectively to dissuade us from doing so again. We know that you are deserving of your rights; of supreme respect as workers and as intellectuals. Please try acting like it for a change.
Sincerely and with great esteem,