David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
We Are All (Not) On Drugs

May 30, 2017

So I learned today that 1 out of 5 academics takes drugs to deal with their work responsibilities.  This shouldn't be that much of a surprise.  Pretty much any of us born in the 60's and pursuing the liberal arts imagined ourselves as Professor Jennings from Animal House, smoking pot and engaging in interesting intellectual conversations with cool undergraduates.

That's certainly what I thought when I first imagined, even first started, college teaching (well, maybe not the marijuana part).  My future was bound to be characterized by deep, weighty conversations about William Butler Yeats' "The Second Coming," hordes (well, maybe a dozen or so) of undergraduates analyzing every line to see how Yeats predicted the 20th century.  Who wouldn't be motivated to spend hours poring over the details of Theodore Gericault's "The Raft of the Medusa," looking for further evidence of Gericault's commentary on the human condition?  I might even have been naive enough to think that college undergraduates would see a writing or public speaking opportunity as the zenith of an average person's creativity.

And, yet, this is not the reality of college teaching, at least it wasn't at Detroit College of Business . . . and most other institutions of higher education, I am guessing.  In contrast to those lofty ideals of intellectual inquiry, my days as a faculty member were characterized more by empty seats, blank faces, cluttered prose, and stacks and stacks and stacks of papers to be graded on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Getting high would have been a good escape.  Too bad (or "too good" my dead father is saying from up high) pot never made me feel particularly anything. My drugs of choice remain within a spectrum ranging from beer through scotch to bourbon.

Lacking in the chemical stimulation to remain teaching, I figured administration had to be a path to a happier, if not necessarily higher, state of being.  Surely to teach the teachers would provide cerebral satisfaction.  To discuss the noble goals of academia, the nuances of learning, the richness of educational exchanges, certainly this might be the alternative.  It was almost as if I forgot what I faced everyday in the classroom.  And let's be honest, my beloved faculty, from multiple institutions now, emails, communiques, requests can be just as easily ignored by the professional in the classroom as by the amateur. Even if in the days after Labor Day we proclaim our own labor as worthy and rewarding, by the time fall turns to winter and winter becomes spring (through our linguistic trickery), we are all crawling towards Bethlehem to be asleep.

And when you are an administrator, summer provides little relief.  Faculty have gone off to recharge, or to teach more to make a livable salary, while administrators simply rechart their future path, working through painful staff evaluations, planning far-off events, filling last-minute faculty vacancies, and worrying about fall enrollment numbers.

Forget the blunt.  Give me the full assault.

However, it turns out these academics in this study are trying smart-drugs, prescription drugs intended for people with ADHD or Alzhiemer's to "focus the mind."  Apparently pupil and teacher are apt to use these: the students to prepare for exams, the faculty to write grant applications.  Let me repeat that . . . to write grant applications.  Or, to "concentrate in committee meetings."  Yes, concentrate in committee meetings.  There aren't enough drugs to get through bad committee meetings.  Besides, who will take the donuts and coffee?

So, now I question this study: 1 out of 5 academics uses smart drugs to write grant applications.  I am pretty sure not 1 out of every 5 academics even has to do grant writing.  Does 1 out of every 5 academics attend committee meetings needing to focus?  Usually just 1 person, the one calling the meeting, really needs to focus.  They are the ones doing the poor job.

It appears this study is another reminder that I/we are not like everybody else (see previous blogs).  It's enough to drive me to drink.

*This blog was written under the influence of a beer and a scotch.