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Elitism

February 6, 2010
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For those of you in graduate school: if you’re not at Harvard, Princeton, Emory, or whatever, that will matter greatly after you graduate.

There is an elite circle of people at and from these Ivy Leagues who think they’re the smartest and brightest, and they generally don’t allow outsiders into their network, no matter what your qualifications.

I’ve been treated like shit at times by these people, although I’m as sharp as most of them. This has left me with a pretty big chip on my shoulder.

If you’re not from one of these elite schools, it will drastically affect your ability to get a job, your ability to get ahead in professional organizations, your ability to present at conferences, your ability to publish, and so on.

As much as we’d like to think that these things are awarded on the basis of merit, they are not. But peer reviews are blind, right? Wrong. Blind reviews are never 100% blind, and sometimes there not even 50% blind. I’ve had stuff accepted because I knew someone (or knew someone who knew someone) despite the fact that I knew the review process was officially blind.

So, if you’re graduating from a second tier school, get ready for it, even if you’re the hottest thing since Eliade. For the most part those people at the elite schools don’t get ahead because they’re smarter or better than you, but because they have the right connections.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Vidya permalink
    February 7, 2010 3:36 am

    It makes me glad to be Canadian, really. While there is certainly a degree of hierarchy among graduate schools here — a phenomenon which is worsening with the stupid MacLean’s university rankings, gah! — because our universities are all public, we don’t have as pronounced a gap as does the US. Of course, quite a few Ivy-Leaguers come job hunting here, but if they’re not Canadians or Permanent Residents, they are not supposed to be considered for academic positions unless there are no qualified Canucks. (This is also not to say that this regulation is always followed in practice.)

    I chose my present school not for its overall reputation (not great, and getting worse, it seems), but for the excellent reputation of my program, which has managed to hang on to its selectivity in admissions in spite of institutional pressures. I was very tempted by several so-called ‘top’ Canadian universities, but, on investigation, found the programs to be sorely lacking. (And I ruled out US institutions on account of that country’s severe restriction of rights and freedoms of late, especially for non-US citizens.)

    I believe that members of hiring committees here are usually aware of the actual quality of programs, given that most scholars will have at least some second-hand knowledge of virtually every Canadian university with doctoral training programs.

    Now, if I could only get myself in gear and produce some noteworthy work…

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    February 7, 2010 10:22 am

    I have to say that the U of Toronto students and graduates I know are extremely sharp but not at all elitist. Apart from that I don’t know much about Canadian schools. Sounds nice!

  3. larry c wilson permalink
    February 7, 2010 10:26 am

    Eureka! The wheel is rediscovered!

  4. February 7, 2010 12:02 pm

    Oh now really, Ms Marx. This is a bit paranoid, don’t you think? Why, next you’ll be telling us that these elite institutions systematically exclude the working class. I simply don’t believe it.

  5. fuzzytheory permalink
    February 7, 2010 10:45 pm

    I do agree with Vidya. I know the relative merits of most of the programs of my discipline across Canada with second-hand and first-hand knowledge of many of the faculty across Canada in my field. There are a couple of schools that are over-rated based on reputation, where their reputation as a school overweighs how their particular disciplines actually fare (*cough*McGill*cough*) but in general, it doesn’t follow the tier system.

  6. Classical Liberal permalink
    February 8, 2010 2:41 pm

    This makes me glad I’m entering a discipline that will, over the long run, give greater reward to my capabilities than to the names on my sheepskins.
    At least, I hope so.

  7. larry c wilson permalink
    February 8, 2010 10:09 pm

    Dream on Classical Liberal.

  8. Classical Liberal permalink
    February 9, 2010 1:29 pm

    Well, I’m a law student. So long as I don’t desire to teach or to practice in BigLaw…
    *sigh* Larry, you’re probably right.

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