How to talk to former trainees – part the second

Some of you may remember my quandary with a former trainee,. posted back in Isis-land. In short, it was someone who couldn’t get a job, largely because sie is a jerk.

Well, the plot, like pudding, thickens. I heard, through that ever reliable and totally verifiable source, Da Grapevine, that FT suggested that the problem is the letters being written. Two things leap to mind: 1) I’ve not written a bad thing about this person. 2) Sie is getting interviews and occasionally offers, which is well beyond the point where letters matter.

So, I am going to contact this FT, and ask how’s it going. Give sie a chance to unload on me (if rumor is correct), and possibly open the door to communication.

The most persuasive thing anyone said in the comments before was that there are good people not getting jobs, why should we sweat it when the bad ones don’t? Here’s the problem, FT is a damn good scientist and a good mentor of younger people. Because the demand of candidates well exceeds the supply of good jobs, it becomes a matter of weighting the pluses and minuses. No one (except possibly Isis) is perfect. What worries me is that the “collegiality” criterion has been used to reinforce deep seated or hidden prejudices (frequently a tenure time). People want to hire young scientists with whom they can work, but at what point does that outweigh the quality of the research?


3 thoughts on “How to talk to former trainees – part the second

  1. Yes,exactly. I was just discussing this in terms of “fit” — which like “collegiality” can be legit but is also a wide open door for abuse. To many men, especially boomer men, any woman with an opinion or who doesn’t giggle at their jokes is “uncollegial” on paper and a “bitch” in the hallway. Anyone with a funny accent might not be a good “fit.” After all, they are going to be your colleague, don’t you want them to be your buddy, too?

    Of course, people who think this way would be more than willing to transfer these emotions from a subjective collegiality criteria to their science, with aspersions about originality or independence. But in general, when SC’s start using code words for how much they like someone instead of talking about their research or teaching, there is a problem.

    And, at least to me, it is abundantly clear that being a jerk has historically not been a barrier to a long, successful, tenured career. But you have to be our kind of jerk.

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