The Canadian Common CV and the captured academy

Most Canadian academics have to write their resumes using a government online tool called the Common CV. When it was first introduced, it was described as a time-saving tool: instead of writing your resume multiple times for different grant agencies, you would write it just once and be done with it. In practice, it turned into something of a nightmare for many of us. You have to adapt it each time for each grant application, sometimes in convoluted ways, using a clunky interface.

What the Common CV does do is provide much power to middle-managers who can insert various bureaucratic requirements. You have to use their tool, and they can tailor it administratively without your consent. It is part of an ongoing technocratic invasion.

How did Canadian academics react? Did they revolt? Not at all. In fact, they are embracing it. I recently had to formally submit my resume as part of a routine internal review process, they asked for my Common CV. That is, instead of fighting against the techno-bureaucratic process, they extend its application to every aspect of their lives including internal functions. And it is not that everyone enjoys it: in private, many people despise the Common CV.

So why won’t they dissent?

One reason might be that they are demoralized. Why resist the Common CV when every government agency providing funding to professors requires it?

If so, they are confused. We dissent as an appeal to the intelligence of a future day. A dissent today is a message to the future people who will have the power to correct our current mistakes. These messages from today are potential tools in the future. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” (Shaw)

The lack of dissent is hardly new of course. Only a minority of academics questioned the Vietnam war (Schreiber, 1973), and much of the resistance came when it became safe to speak out. The scientists described by Freeman Dyson in The Scientist as Rebel have always been a fringe.

Chomski lamented on this point:

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies. This, at least, may seem enough of a truism to pass over without comment. Not so, however. For the modern intellectual, it is not at all obvious. Thus we have Martin Heidegger writing, in a pro-Hitler declaration of 1933, that “truth is the revelation of that which makes a people certain, clear, and strong in its action and knowledge”; it is only this kind of “truth” that one has a responsibility to speak. Americans tend to be more forthright. When Arthur Schlesinger was asked by The New York Times in November, 1965, to explain the contradiction between his published account of the Bay of Pigs incident and the story he had given the press at the time of the attack, he simply remarked that he had lied; and a few days later, he went on to compliment the Times for also having suppressed information on the planned invasion, in “the national interest,” as this term was defined by the group of arrogant and deluded men of whom Schlesinger gives such a flattering portrait in his recent account of the Kennedy Administration. It is of no particular interest that one man is quite happy to lie in behalf of a cause which he knows to be unjust; but it is significant that such events provoke so little response in the intellectual community—for example, no one has said that there is something strange in the offer of a major chair in the humanities to a historian who feels it to be his duty to persuade the world that an American-sponsored invasion of a nearby country is nothing of the sort. And what of the incredible sequence of lies on the part of our government and its spokesmen concerning such matters as negotiations in Vietnam? The facts are known to all who care to know. The press, foreign and domestic, has presented documentation to refute each falsehood as it appears. But the power of the government’s propaganda apparatus is such that the citizen who does not undertake a research project on the subject can hardly hope to confront government pronouncements with fact.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

4 thoughts on “The Canadian Common CV and the captured academy”

  1. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest academics have mostly embraced it, and only dare critique it in private. Most regular faculty don’t like it and a quick google turns up petitions and complaints galore. However, I suspect the issue is more that, in the grand scheme of all possible things in society that one might launch an outright revolt against, it feels like fairly small potatoes. And it’s required to fund your research, so most people just shrug, grit their teeth, and deal with it.

    1. I think that it is fair to say that there is little to no open dissent.

      I wrote about this topic back in 2013. I reported back then on the opposition.

      I know many universities who make Common CV a requirement for internal processes.

      The point about the issue being to minor to warrant dissent is fair but if people won’t loudly question the Common CV, do you think that they would question the Vietnam war?

      1. I guess it depends on how you are defining “open dissent” here. Essentially no one likes it, everyone knows that and is mostly happy to tell you so, and the fact that some universities also institute it internally does not contradict that fact. But, yes, people mostly have more productive things to do than quibble over the format/system through which we provide our CVs to funding bodies, as problematic as it may be.

        In any case, analogizing paperwork under the modern neoliberal university to a catastrophic two-decade war that killed millions strikes me as rhetorically irresponsible. Both are bad, but framing it this way mostly just makes it seem like you’re trying to speedrun Godwin’s law. 🙂

        1. The Vietnam war was indeed atrocious and it was generally not denounced by academics, not until the public had turned on it. That is, the academy only turned on it when it became entirely safe to do so.

          One might think that universities would be better at fiercely speaking truth to power today. Could the Vietnam war happen today and would the academy speak up?

          Do you have indications that the modern-day academy would be better?

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