What is expected of academics?

These are thoughts that have been fermenting for a very long time (around 2 years or so). They’ve been nagging me a lot, but it is only that I’ve finally managed to gather them in a relatively coherent manner. So far, these thoughts only existed on paper, in the private journal that I always carry around.

Earlier in 2019, I was working on an article on the role of community organizations in extremist deradicalization in Indonesia. The premise was simple: state-based deradicalization in Indonesia has not always lived up to expectations. Maybe community-based initiatives can pick up the slack. I was writing the article in tandem with two other senior academics. As the junior in the group, I did most of the work. Once the first draft was finished, we sent it in for review. Then came the naturally long silence that I expected in academia. I used the three-month silence to work on my first conference paper and other things I’ve either picked up willingly or been thrusted upon. (Update: that article is now published in Journal for Policing and Counterterrorism [paywall])

At the conference, I felt it was a holiday. I didn’t have any teaching obligations. I didn’t have to work on anything else. All I had to do was attend panels I liked and present my paper. Other than that, I could practically do anything else. It was there where I met my professor from my Master’s days and we did a bit of catching up. The following conversation happened. It happened a while ago, I may have mis-remembered some details.

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A volley of misguided higher-ed policies and now, we’re supposed to import university presidents?

In 2016, Minister for Higher Education, Research, and Technology (just “DIKTI” for short), Mohammad Nasir, proposed importing university presidents to chair in national universities. The proposal was buffeted with negative criticism and eventually died down. Three years on, it has resurfaced.

Why did this proposal resurface? According to the Jakarta Post, Nasir, speaking on behalf of the government, basically wants to “get local universities listed among the top 200 universities in the world.”

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Is academic experience inferior to “work” experience?

I can’t believe arguing with people on Twitter would lead me to produce more blog posts. I might as well re-label this column as “Summary of Things I Argued on Twitter Today”.

Anyway, this musing is brought to you by this thread by @ernabila_ . In the post, the OP (original poster) posted a screencap of a LinkedIn post by Ann Ping Saw, who told a story about an (ex)employee who begged them for a job, but after a few months, quit to pursue a Master’s.

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The long haul: failures, successes, and equilibrium

Drawing from the informal poll I did weeks ago on Instagram to solicit suggestions on what content should appear more on this blog, one of the suggestions was a discussion of my failures in academia. I don’t know why, but it kinda just popped up in my head as I was vacantly gazing outside the window. My dog was chasing a garden rat.

When I was a student, both undergrad and grad, I imagined academe would be nice place where everyone is civilized (not all), intellectual (definitely not all), and working together towards the common goal of human enlightenment (some are actively conspiring against this). Plus, my dad is an academic and he got to travel—business class!—everywhere. Given these rose-tinted goggles, I sought my place in academe.

What most people see on the outside are the happy moments: graduation, completion, and acceptance. These are moments I choose to present. However, this is all superficial. What often goes unrecorded are the constant failures, rejections, and plain old stress. Also, back pains because of too much sitting and irritated eyes because of too much screen-staring. And indigestion. Lots of it.

What I learned, especially in these two years of holding an active academic position, is that everything oscillates until it reaches equilibrium. If you haven’t failed yet, you will, and vice-versa. You just don’t know when. So here’s a short summary of my academic journey. It’s not always smooth, as you may infer. Caveat abound. Some unconscious self-censorship may be present.

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Student-professor relations

Starting from a Twitter thread by @roythaniago (see below) which basically compiled a bunch of complaints students had to their professors, I also want to chime in with my own two cents.

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Reflections of an academic: one year after

After a year in academia, let me solemnly reflect on where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and what the future may hold.

The month was September. After a couple of months stressing over job applications, I finally landed a teaching job at my alma mater. Of course, it was exciting. Being an academic was what I wanted to be since my Bachelor’s degree. I didn’t even have to go through a rough adjustment phase; it felt like I was coming home.

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A letter to me in 2016

Dear me in 2016,

You enrolled in this MSc Strategic Studies program hoping to be able to contribute to your country’s national security. You thought you would become a strategist, someone who could help Indonesia in its time of doctrinal stagnation. You had high hopes for yourself that you would come home and be there for your country, even when they rejected you twice.

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Reading science fiction in an age of political turbulence

Lately, I’ve found myself reading more classic science fiction. I went through Asimov’s entire Foundation saga, and am currently reading Clarke’s Odyssey series and his Rama series. The science fiction of old reflected a time of general optimism for space travel and colonisation. One day, we’d escape our cradle, Earth, and settle throughout the galaxy. We may or may not encounter other intelligent life-forms; even Asimov thought humans would be the dominant space-faring species in the Milky Way (but he hinted, at the end of Foundation and Earth, that Andromeda may host a new form of life we’ve yet to encounter).

The main enabler for us to engage in space travel would be technology. As we sailed the seas with ships and aircraft carriers, so too will we travel the stars in advanced starships like the USS Enterprise. At this moment, we’re taking baby steps towards the development of space technology, slowly and clumsily crawling towards that dramatic breakthrough or “revolution” that would propel us into the future. But, Asimov’s dreams of humans establishing a galactic empire tens of thousands of years into the future maybe under attack.

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