I find little more loathsome in life and work than hypocrisy. Unfortunately, the bitter cup of academia runneth over with it, perhaps more so than in any other sector or industry. This is one of the reasons I am such a strong advocate of free speech on campus. Freedom of expression allows me to cross-check what academics (and students) say against what they do. Ultimately, I respect those whose behaviors align with their professed beliefs, even if I vehemently disagree with both.
Hypocrisy in academia is not a partisan issue. People on both the left and the right are guilty of it, as are academics and their overlords in administration. The key problem, in my view, is that we often don’t recognize the hypocrisy of our own actions as well as we do in the actions of others. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean.
“The key problem, in my view, is that we often don’t recognize the hypocrisy of our own actions as well as we do in the actions of others.”
You may be aware of the recent on-goings at the University of Leicester in the UK. To make a long story short, senior leadership at Leicester has proposed a not insignificant number of redundancies across the University, some of which appear to target a group of activist-scholars researching critical management studies in the School of Business. Now, if Leicester wants a more corporatized and a less “critical” School of Business, they should just own it and come out and say so. Instead, they publicly flaunt their supposed deep commitment to social justice, academic freedom, and constructive debate whilst, at the same time, with a slight of hand, purging from within advocates of social justice, academic freedom, and constructive debate.
Let’s not play games. Let’s say what we really mean, and let’s say it with conviction.
To be fair, I would be remiss to point out the hypocrisy within our own ranks, as academics. Many of us easily see the hypocrisy at play in Leicester, but we really struggle to see it at play in ourselves, for obvious reasons. I too often hear calls among academics, even (or perhaps especially) in Business Schools, to “dismantle capitalism” and “overthrow the hierarchy.” Umm, okay, then. These armchair “socialist” academics drive hybrid cars, are well above the 80th percentile in terms of earnings and wealth, order take-away whenever they feel like it, and invest their pensions in the stock market. Forgive me, but it’s difficult to take one’s talk of “dismantling capitalism” very seriously when you are one of its major beneficiaries. Maybe we need to have an honest conversation about the true meaning of privilege.
As I said, we are all guilty of hypocrisy to some degree. But we are not all equally cognizant of our own hypocrisy. I do my best to be honest and sincere, not only to others, but also to myself. When I do find a misalignment between my values and my behaviors, I take action to realign my behaviors or, increasingly, I reassess my values (as I’ve been doing recently). You may not like what I have to say, but hopefully you can respect me for at least saying what I believe.
Professor Andrew R. Timming
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