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Letters to the editor

 

Universities are not factories

“Productivity” is not a word I associate with the university (“Productivity isn’t possible without well-being,” December 2019 issue). Universities are not factories, despite the putative corporatization of their governing bodies. I lament that the author has suffered from the expectations that the production narrative fosters. If universities are to continue to be places that steward the existing body of knowledge while providing the conditions for discovery and amplification of knowledge and, by extension, wisdom, the language of productivity and its capitalist implications has to go.

Karen Zoppa
Dr. Zoppa is a tenured instructor in the collegiate division, and also teaches as an adjunct for the department of religion and culture, and the department of philosophy, at the University of Winnipeg.

 

A two-pronged approach

Thank you to Stephanie Whitney for putting in print what many women experience in the academic workplace (“Productivity isn’t possible without well-being,” December 2019 issue). I appreciated her honesty, her accuracy and the way that she pulled back the curtain on a warped view of resiliency. I remember struggling through the completion of my PhD, working full-time, parenting a preschooler – all the while knowing that it was expected that I would “suffer in silence” and be productive. Otherwise, I would not come up with the reward: the tenure-track position. In fact, I have a formal letter that outlines that expectation.

One winter, during that time, I was driving to pick up my daughter from my mum, who lives about 45 minutes away. My partner was out of the province working. A snow squall forced me off the highway and as I inched my way back to my house, a young driver hit me head on. Luckily, I had not been able to pick up my girl and I was alone in the car. My car was totaled; the airbag impact left me dazed. After an ambulance ride to the emergency room, multiple scans and a thorough screening, I was released and a good friend picked me up at about 11:30 p.m. I took some extra-strength ibuprofen, went to bed and showed up to teach my 8:30 class the next day.

I certainly didn’t think missing class was an option. I drove scared out of my wits that afternoon to pick up my daughter.

This is one of many stories I could tell. I know better now, but I also know I sacrificed my own health in the name of productivity so I could secure a job, be promoted (and climb back up to the wage I earned before starting at my university) and otherwise experience “success.” There is little systemic support or care in our academic workplaces. Today, I work hard to exemplify healthy leadership and find kindred spirits. Thanks again for sharing your story and describing new meanings for success.

Lynn Aylward
Dr. Aylward is a professor of education, and PhD program coordinator for the school of education, at Acadia University.

 

Of sound mind and body

Thanks to the author for your courage in sharing your experiences and plans regarding your commitment to prioritizing wellness as a critical ingredient of productivity (“Productivity isn’t possible without well-being,” December 2019 issue). The academic culture of “do more so you can matter more” is contagious, and I welcome any movement toward greater recognition that being of sound mind and body, and maintaining strong relationships, are prerequisite to a sustainable career and meaningful life. In the end, few of us wish to be remembered by the number of publications we accomplished or the academic titles we accrued. Achievement is a beautiful thing when it is in harmony with our core values, not at the expense of them. Congratulations for recognizing this early in your career. I hope you find the right department that embraces your healthy attitude and facilitates your pursuit of a balanced, well-lived life.

Stacey Dunn
Dr. Dunn is a professor of psychology at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.

 

Breaking down barriers

what great programs and success stories! (“Laurentian relaunches tuition waiver program for former youth in care,” November 2019 issue). The universities and provinces that support these tuition-waiver programs should be commended. Shame on Premier Doug Ford for turning the clock back at Ontario universities. Education is key to breaking down inequalities, to the benefit of all of Canada.

Frances Sharom
Dr. Sharom is a professor emerita in molecular and cellular biology at the University of Guelph.