Adventures with New Faculty, Latest Edition

New Faculty: Person A is doing this and that to me, it is harassment and/or discrimination.

Professor Zero: I did not realize Person A engaged in this kind of activity. If you are as concerned as you say and you are not able to resolve the issue with her directly, you might ask the department chair for advice, off the record. This will alert her to the situation and she may be able to halt it. Keep a log of the behavior in case it does not halt. If it does not, you should report it formally.

NF: …

PZ: I am rather sure Person A has no ill intent, and I have reason to know she is under severe stress at this time. However, what you describe is serious and if it is real you should pursue the matter through channels, in a discreet way.

NF: Oh, no. I would never do that. I would never say anything bad about anyone to a department chair. That would make me look terrible. I just need to vent about person A. She is such a witch!

PZ: You have just met both her and me. I have been working well with her for years. I strongly advise you not to use that kind of language to talk about people here, especially not before you understand the lay of the land.

Comment by PZ: This person lost my support for his continued employment in that conversation. Be my guest, count the reasons. Keep in mind that his having “dissed” a colleague I know better than I do NF, and whom I trust at least to some extent is not one.


13 thoughts on “Adventures with New Faculty, Latest Edition

  1. I confess to having been this dumb, before, but it has been when my normative faculty of intuition has been attacked to badly that it became thoroughly bruised, and I was unable to attune myself sufficiently to a new situation, as a result.

    1. Yes but — this is patriarchy. Every year a new man is hired and every year he tries to set me against a woman. Without countenancing the fact that I. FUCKING. VOTE. like the men, and my vote counts, too.

      1. Yeah, there is no reasoning with patriarchy, because the range and quality of experiences of a patriarch are necessarily totally different from one’s own. A patriarch is, as Nietzsche would say, imprisoned in his own good conscience, and can’t even understand the games he is inclined to play. For instance, there was a recent thread of facebook which began with my status update telling people I would not stand to be called “dear” as it was a diminutive term.

        From this there followed three patriarchs — two of them telling me, either directly or indirectly, that there was a lot of emotion in my text, which invalidated my simple request.

        After I told the first one that the emotions he was detecting were assuredly his own, since all he had to go on were some written words, he retreated somewhat, but this was not enough to prevent a more robust patriarch from emerging on the scene to insist, three times, that the words on the page were heavily laden with emotion.

        Finally a third patriarch appeared to state that people were simply requesting an explanation for me — after I had already very clearly given my explanation concerning the diminutive nature of the term.


  2. Hm… that first part of the conversation I have had with various people in the department. There was an administrative assistant who was bullying me and harassing me. She was wonderful to other faculty but would do horrible sniping things to me. Small things, like hiding the water bottles at a catered lunch event (so that only faculty could get them), and offering them to every faculty member in front of me, then forcing me to dig them out behind the bottom of the cart where she had hidden them (after I asked for water). Not once, but every single week for a couple of months, enough so it seemed deliberate. Loudly telling me not to take more than 3 pieces of pizza, when not saying that to anybody else. “Accidentally” bumping into me with her supply cart while I made xeroxes because I was in the way and not apologizing. There’s more, but of a similar nature.

    When I complained to other faculty they thought I was paranoid. It may be that she didn’t like the WIC poster on my door… she covered it up once with a piece of paper. It may be that she didn’t think a woman with an infant should be working. It may have been that I’m small and young and cute. I don’t know. Maybe I look too much like Hilary Clinton– she had several anti-Hillary slogans/articles on her door.

    But… I did keep a log of events. I didn’t want to get her in trouble with a boss, though she did force a meeting with her boss and me in which she spent 20 min haranguing me in front of her boss about me being paranoid until I asked if I could go, please. That meeting was scheduled right before I had planned to tell her to knock it off the next time she harassed me in public. Eventually I took my mother’s advice and just kept quiet (keeping my log) and kept out of her way as I best could because if she treated me like this, chances are she would attack someone else and get fired on her own.

    Which, in a massive incredibly unprofessional email flurry in which I took no part, she eventually did. After she left, faculty started a petition and bemoaned her loss, but I was relieved. I am much much happier with her replacement.

    So I don’t know. Given the exchange above I have sympathies for new professor. Things could be real or imagined. It is scary to go to the chair. It is difficult to know what is really going on.

    1. I’ve been harassed a whole lot, too. But, my point: it’s never a good idea to stir up trouble for the sake of entertainment or for the sake of engaging someone — there are more positive ways to do it.

      And as I said above — I don’t like the behavior of all men.

  3. As a person of no importance who would never be given anything, I went right ahead and tested everything. It’s amazing I got an M.A. At Public U. the professors in control wanted either young women or non-threatening workhorses (male and female) in the department. I was neither. Most of the women were quite helpful and sympathetic, but they had to be careful. Prestige U. rescued me. In retrospect, my self importance at that time strikes me as ludicrous. But did I ever learn a lot!

    And no, the paranoia is rampant throughout the academic world. You would encounter the same situation in English departments and, although I don’t have direct experience, probably in science departments too.

    1. Yes, one of my departments is English, the other is Romance Languages, and this is a science heavy university. Notice that this dialogue is not set in any particular discipline.

  4. ultimately, I think playing politics is what allows people to continue to be truly oppressive in academe; but failing to play them will likely cost you your job sooner or later.

    In this case, it does not seem like this was an issue of oppression: male faculty complaining about female one, so obviously this is different. And yet, I wonder why there are not clear, enforced, and safe procedures for personality conflicts. And if there were such procedures would they not make identity based conflicts easier to navigate because even if you could not address oppression you could address the issue from the back door of “personality issue”?

  5. Es un gusto verla, Susurro.

    “Ultimately, I think playing politics is what allows people to continue to be truly oppressive in academe; but failing to play them will likely cost you your job sooner or later.” Definitely, and this is the great paradox. You have to play them right and there are really egregious examples of not doing so; this post recounts one such in a veiled way.

    On personality conflicts, I don’t know. This was an issue of new, insecure male faculty imagining he could secure a position by playing on sympathies of female senior faculty and setting [me] against the female assistant professor he erroneously believed to be his competition. All he managed to accomplish by this was to insult me. That is my point.

    I don’t know that it was a personality conflict. But aren’t Roberts’ Rules there to manage these?

  6. a ti tambien

    I guess I missed the Snr-Jnr aspects of the conversation on first read. So yeah, not personality conflict at all. It’s sad how little he could think through both the situation of complaining as a new person and that trying to divide and conquer across gender given what women faculty go through for tenure was a bad idea.

    Oh well, I think your advise was solid for anyone new.

  7. I’m glad you agree, Susurro, and I’m sure I’m right!

    Nicole and Maggie, I am sorry if you are scared to talk to your chair, but you should be REALLY scared to go rumor peddling among other senior faculty! You should be REALLY scared to try to dig up dirt and stir it!

    If you go and ask discreet advice on a real harassment situation of someone like me, and I am nice enough to explain to you both customs and protocol, and you choose not to follow this advice, and expect me to listen to your story again and to act according to whatever unsubstantiated rumor of whose truth you have attempted to convince me, you can bet I will consider you less than professional. I will assume, probably correctly, that you are engaging in some neurotic form of manipulation, and that what you are telling me is not true or only has a grain of truth in it.

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