Saturday, January 11, 2014

Academic Kindness

Is "academic kindness" an oxymoron?  Apparently not, according to the Academic Kindness Tumblr. This is a place for students and professors to post stories about the acts of kindness they have experienced or witnessed in academic life.  The Tumblr caught the attention of Colleen Flaherty at the Inside Higher Ed.  Here is a taste of her piece:

The Tumblr seeks “outtakes from peer reviews, emails, marginal comments on seminar papers, and other examples of kindness to publish as a testimony that not all academics are brutish self-centered narcissists who delight in tearing apart the work of others for sport,” according to a post from its moderator, Rabia Gregory, an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Missouri at Columbia. “Many more do pay it forward with gifts of time, inspirational words, and random acts of kindness. By publicizing these acts of academic kindness I hope to document that generosity and compassion are normative in academia.”
Gregory said in an email interview: “If even a few readers are inspired to shift their own behavior and be a bit more generous, (lending microfilm or a cell culture, writing a constructive peer review or sending a thank-you note), that's fantastic.”
She got the idea for the page in November, after receiving a supportive email from a colleague and posting the following on Facebook: “Amazed all over again by the excessive kindness of some academics. If the deadline hadn't long since passed I'd propose a k'zoo session consisting of outtakes from generous messages and reviews. You know. To balance out the equally necessary venting of vicious bile.” (“K’zoo” refers to the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, which last year featured a humorous but cringe-inducing dramatic reading of peer review outtakes.)
She started the Tumblr with her own post about once trying to buy a morning coffee at an academic conference. “As I stepped up to the counter to place my order, I saw a small handwritten note announcing the cafe only took cash,” she wrote. “Dismayed, I counted the coins in my wallet, then apologized and stepped out of line. A moment later, the senior scholar in line behind me bought me a cappuccino. When I asked for her name so that I could meet her later and repay her, and she said, ‘You don’t need to pay me back. But promise to pay it forward.’ ”