The Cult’s Eye View: On ‘The Professor Is In’

My latest for the Chronicle is on “The Professor Is In”, a career counseling service that paradoxically highlights the worst elements of academia while encouraging people to join it:

Imagine you meet an escapee from a cult. Having recently fled her confines, the escapee is full of anguished tales from the sequestered realm she once inhabited. She has learned its tacit rules and analyzed its internal logic. She shares this information with an intrigued public, many of whom are members of the cult themselves. The escapee issues dire warnings. The cult is brutal and unfair. The cult is both powerful and rotting from within, its leaders scrambling to assert their relevance through a series of punishing rituals and loyalty tests. The escapee is relieved to have gotten out.

Now imagine the escapee offers to help you join the cult if you are willing to pay her hundreds of dollars.

This is the business model of The Professor Is In, a career-counseling service for would-be academics launched by former professor Karen Kelsky in 2011. An anthropologist, Kelsky quit her job at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign after years of disgust with the conformity and exploitation of academe. “The culture of higher ed is increasingly soulless,” she writes. “Academia is a kind of cult, and deviation from the normative values of the group is not permitted or accepted within its walls.”

Read the full article, The Paradoxical Success of the Professor Is In, at the Chronicle of Higher Education

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