The Academy Is The Grift

Last week in my Starting a Small Business webinar Q&A, somebody asked me, what was your biggest surprise in starting a business beyond what you have shared in the webinar?

I was startled by the question, and struggled to answer it for a minute. As I stumbled through my response, though, it became clear.

The biggest surprise of running The Professor Is In is that I do far more good in the world running this business than I ever did as a professor in a colonialist discipline (anthro), working in a neoliberal and grossly racist institution (UIUC but it could be any of them), in an industry that functions entirely on exploitation of contingent labor and worse, the systematic financial immiseration of undergraduates and grad students.

I had no idea this would be the case when I started. I had my own shame to overcome. But now I know it’s true.

I have been wondering how to mark the decade anniversary of The Professor Is In. Now I know that this is how. By calling out the academy’s grift everywhere I see it and the way shaming and fear-mongering are used to sustain it. It will be the mission of TPII going forward.

Those academics whose salaries are paid by student debt, who continue to push the gaslighting mythology that the academy is morally “pure” – all the while insisting overwork and exploitation are signs of commitment, while shaming and condemning those who leave, especially those who work in “business” — are the real grifters.

For 20-21 I’m calling out the academic grifters, by name. If you are wondering to what I am referring, here are a couple from the last week.

The indignant protestations of the “pure and unsullied” are my greatest sign that I’m on the right track.

I’m also collecting stories from others. I’ll share them as well, always using the hashtags:





Please share your stories of #AcademicGrift here in comments. Little by little perhaps collectively we can expose the shaming and self-dealing of the academic cult for what it is, and I hope, reduce its harm.

** Thanks to Steven Hu for this hashtag!

***Coined by Sophie Grow on an FB thread. There is another use of this term on the internet but it’s referring to a right wing critique of so-called liberal groupthink in academia.

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