After reading an interview with Christopher J. Loving, of the Leadership Institute for Tomorrow, I think it may be a mixture of both. An excerpt:
Q: So what is involved in this transformation?
A: Often I hear grad students coming into graduate school very idealistic and innocent. What happens is that innocence turns into cynicism when they get disillusioned, when they see the politics, when they see who is rewarded for what. And then when they become a faculty member, they explain their cynicism as, ‘Oh, I’m just being realistic.’ They also enter with curiosity, which can turn into arrogance — and which later is explained as “authoritative knowledge.” People who ask questions can be perceived as ignorant. Grad students also enter with a sense of wanting to make a difference; this compassion can turn to callousness, which later is justified as “the thick skin of experience.” This psychological evolution is such a part of the academic environment that it handicaps faculty’s ability to communicate effectively.
When I talk to faculty who are in a “safe” place, I still hear their innocence, their curiosity, their compassion. If you’re in a department that isn’t as healthy as it could be, all these people who are cynical and arrogant create conversations that look realistic and authoritative, and they require thick skin. They flame each other in e-mail, insult each other in faculty meetings and tell and demand more than listen and invite.
The remainder of the interview focuses on the things my old (and very wise) boss used to say when things got dicey in discourse--"try to shed more light than heat onto an issue" and "always go ot the source first." That was great advice, and when I take it, I find that it positions me well. But I know exactly what Loving is talking about in this part of the interview, of what graduate school does to teach you to be a bully. That's really what he's saying, isn't it, that these dysfunctional relationships constitute some academic bullying: my position is the right one, yours is the wrong one, I'm going to fight you, overpower you to get my way.
Students learn this from me because I learned it from them and so forth. The cycle continues, and I'm now wondering if the peer review process that I use, with its suggestion of "right/wrong" "effective/ineffective" thinking may encourage students to adopt that posture of telling people what they think instead of asking and listening.