Over at the Chronicle of Higher Education Kelly Baker, a gifted writer and scholar of American religion who has recently left academia, wonders if academe is a cult.
On her blog, The Professor Is In, Karen Kelsky tells us that "academia is kind of a cult" that doesn’t tolerate deviation from shared norms. PhD Comics proclaims that "coffee is the Kool-Aid" of higher education. In The Chronicle Review, Rebecca Schuman compares academe to a cult because it isolates grad students, breaks them down, makes them believe there is no other path than the life of the mind, and uses the threat of shunning to keep scholars quiet about the conditions of our labor. "What are the similarities between academia and cults?" someone asks on Quora, where an upvoted answer emphasizes mind control, shame, and struggling adjuncts who can’t bring themselves to quit.
Baker is not comfortable with the term "cult," but she does describe academia, borrowing a phrase from Erving Goffman, as a "total institution":