Fund or Fail: The Fear of a Doctoral Student

Originally published at Times Higher Education.

“Publish or perish” this longstanding paradigm of academia seems to be dying. In its place, institutions appear to be opting for a new, market-based strategy of advancement through the ranks. No longer will the quality of my work, or even the quantity, directly dictate success. Rather the extent to which researchers can generate external funding will.

This shift in values reflects a change from evaluating the importance of a researcher’s work based on its novelty or intellectual breadth, to judging its worth in the capitalist free market. The implicit message in this shift is that research has little to no worth unless someone is willing to, and able to, pay for it. It’s especially problematic for researchers from ethnic minority backgrounds or with marginalized identities.

As a doctoral student planning to seek a tenure track position, this change concerns me. The impression often given is that our research skills, and other academic related abilities (such as teaching), will be the measure by which we are judged.

However, if you pay attention to the CVs of early- to mid-career academics who are seeking full academic positions, the list of publications and presentations they have produced has been usurped in order by the funding their research has received, placing income over academic production.

Formerly, researchers and academic commentators have decried the idea of “publish or perish” because they believed that it, among other things, over-valued the quantity of work over the quality, created bias within results, and reduced the rigor of peer review.

But this paradigm shift brings about other sinister possibilities, such as granting or financial agencies censoring research or researchers influencing outcomes to secure dollars.

Most journals require authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest and funding sources so that readers may infer whether funding sources may have influenced research outcomes. But at the same time, with public research funding decreasing, researchers are virtually forced to seek backing from external sources that have agendas.

As a young, black hopeful academic this new method of evaluation is especially worrying. It is a poorly kept secret that researchers of Color do more work for less credit than their white counterparts.

Their work often consists of formal and informal mentorship of students of color, as well
as supporting any diversity and inclusion offices or initiatives set forth by universities.
Researchers with other marginalized identities often function in similar roles with little formal rewards for doing so. With these added responsibilities, these researchers have less time to seek and secure funds from the limited number of granting agencies and other funding sources.
Moreover, my research interests lay in exploring various social identities and the strengths and oppression that come with them. When one considers that many of the available funding dollars are held by systems that are implicated in, or have benefited from, the systemic oppression called out by such research, a creative imagination is not necessary to see how funds might be harder to come by.
Of course, there are many ways to work around these issues. There are more politically liberal and expansive funding sources that exist, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union or other national and local organizations interested in supporting social justice work.

These funding sources could be more actively pursued and perhaps even increased. Meanwhile, university programs could also train doctoral students on how to find and receive funding in the same way they teach us about publishing, providing the skills necessary to be successful in this new paradigm.

However, these workarounds are, by definition, not addressing the problem itself; they are adjustments to an unjust system.

As a student, I don’t know what a real solution could look like, or if it is even possible
considering academia will still be influenced by external capitalistic pushes for profits. I at least hope that the leaders within the institution – the president, professors and administrators – are taking time to reflect on the changing landscape and consider what it will mean for their own academic goals as well as those of the next generation.

The shift to looking at capital as the determiner of worthwhile research puts the advancement of knowledge at risk, especially the work on social justice when it conflicts with economic gains. If academia is to continue to hold systems, including itself, accountable, money cannot – and should not – be the driver.

Kahlil C. DuPerry is a PhD student in the Department of Counseling, Developmental, and
Educational Psychology in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development at
Boston College

Don’t be Hoodwinked, Bamboozled, or Led Astray by People of Color! Six Safety Tips for Communities and Police Officers

Dear Community Members and Police Officers,

We, law-abiding, proud American citizens would like to take a moment to thank you for all of your hard work. Most of us can’t even imagine how challenging it must be to be called out to a potentially hostile environment and have to immediately determine who’s the victim and who’s the Black guy…I mean criminal…. And to further complicate matters, sometimes it looks like the alleged criminal is doing very normal things (walking, sitting, etc.). Don’t fall for it, it’s a trap! As many White women have shown us, those “normal” things are often a red herring.  But don’t you fret, we’re here to tell you all the warning signs… but from a distance…like, through a 911 call… We don’t want to get caught up in all that messiness.

Our team of diligent researchers has taken on the task of demystifying the, at times, ambiguous nature of law enforcement and compiled a list of 6 “Pro Tips” based on recent true events (i.e. crimes) to help our community and police officers stay alert to the new wave of crime. As the kids say #StayWoke!

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Curing the Disease of “Implicit Bias” Requires Self-Diagnosing Internalized Racism

The internet has been ablaze with a video of police arresting two Black men for waiting for a business associate inside a Starbucks. As is customary, when White men and women engage in heinous acts of racism against Black men and other White people protest the injustice, the explanation from those who care is “implicit bias.” Implicit bias has been used to justify all forms of discrimination ranging from the shooting of unarmed Black men to the arrest of the Black men in Starbucks for the crime of waiting while Black.

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The Majority of White Women Voters Debase Themselves by Excusing Sexual Predators

Women and girls exist in a society in which white heterosexual male privilege (WHMP) is the zeitgeist. One of the entitlements of WHMP is ownership of women and children’s bodies and, therefore, virtually from the beginning of life, males have the right to engage in sexual assault and predation of women and children with little fear of retribution. By their votes to support two credibly accused white male predators, now President Donald Trump and former Alabama Judge Roy Moore, the majority of white women voters endorsed the doctrine that girls and women exist for men’s gratification—no matter how immoral.

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An Election to Save White Heterosexual Male Privilege

White heterosexual male privilege (WHMP) fought for and won the election of 2016. WHMP is buttressed by racism, but is not racism. Racism and ethnoviolence are longstanding tools for maintaining WHMP, but in this election era, misogyny and anti-femininity, Islamophobia, homophobia, and Antisemitism became additional tools—but they too are not WHMP…. 



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