A Field in Which the Old Devours the Young is a Field that is Dying
August 2, 2017 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Alison Harbin shares her three part story about how and why she came to leave academia: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

It's a story of protracted abuse and plagiarism by one of her dissertation advisers and how the situation was (mis)handled by her university.

A followup post

Her twitter feed
posted by PussKillian (67 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
This once again comes back to the simple truth that academia is a field sorely in need of reform. The fact that such stories are common is a sign of a field that long since lost its moral compass.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:22 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Say what you will about CS Lewis, The Inner Ring is a really great piece of writing.

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.

This is very good advice, but how is anyone supposed to do it in a field like art history? At least in technical fields there's sometimes the opportunity for a mathematical proof that is indisputable, or to come up with a new technique or method that's so useful people will just use it. But anytime that's not the case (a lot of pure science, and pretty much all the humanities) it seems like engaging with anyone's research is also making a political statement about how you're aligned between various factions.

Probably grad students organizing to support each other could help break the impasse. I don't know how useful the few existing grad student unions are in situations like this -- it seems like they more are interested in pay and labor disputes with the university as an institution.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:38 AM on August 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

Filed under my #acadfail tag. Thanks for sharing.

So, without having read all of them, I'd like to ask whether it's still operating under the drug ring model?
posted by runcifex at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2017

Jesus. So much fear. I thought it was capitalist corporations which were supposed to be cutthroat abusers, and I know that in some parts of the world they are, but I've only experienced one job in my career that was anything like this. And while we were there, we were able to anonymously complain to the Ministry of Labour and get them to investigate and enforce changes, and within a couple of years I was able to move on to a friendlier company where we all openly bitched about - and warned everybody else about - what a nasty place we had come from, and who exactly was responsible for the nastiness.

I wonder how much depends on the fact that, in the industry where I work, it's recommendations from peers which matter most in getting new jobs rather than those magic Letters of Recommendation from superiors.
posted by clawsoon at 8:45 AM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

clawsoon, a lot of people seem to want to blame capitalism for what is actually just human rottenness.

I've got a piece somewhere by an anthropologist who thought that redesigning women's bodies to make them supernormal stimuli was a result of capitalism, and then she studied the Mauritanian custom of forcibly fattening up girls to make the marriagable.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 8:49 AM on August 2, 2017 [21 favorites]

I wonder if this is part of the very nature of the University. X number of tenured professors require 2X number of phd candidates as support. Making the field by nature cut throat. Acerbate this by reducing funding, and thus, the number of open positions.

It's really funny that you hear about this chronic backstabbing, work stealing, and general abuse of underlings in a field purported to be about social justice and intersectionality. Granted they also pay people next to nothing as adjuncts, give them no benefits and bitterly oppose any attempt to unionise, so I guess they are consistent in their hypocrisy.
posted by zabuni at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

a field purported to be about social justice and intersectionality

Art history?
posted by thelonius at 9:16 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I understand why she didn't but I wish she had named names, pour encourager les autres.
posted by orrnyereg at 9:16 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

But whether it's human nature or capitalism or whatever, you can fight it if you can get the playing field more level. People do shitty stuff - to women, to grad students, to anyone who is weak - because they are weak, because abusers can get away with it. Lower hierarchies, less financial inequality, less tolerance for the more obvious forms of bullying and contempt, less ability to coerce people to participate in systems and processes that are harmful - all those things make it possible to fight. Dr. Mao isn't out there passing off, like, I dunno, art history isn't my thing, Donna Haraway's work as their own, because Donna Haraway has power and standing and tenure and a university structure that will back her up. Dr. Mao isn't compelled to plagiarize, Dr. Mao does it because graduate students are weaker than Dr. Mao.

Not all of us choose to hurt people who are weaker than us, but it only takes a few. Create structures that mobilize the weaker groups and those among the stronger who don't choose to hurt the weak, use those mobilizations to erode hierarchy, inequality and precarity, and you can push back against human rottenness.

(On a related note, this is why I'm an anarchist - hierarchy, inequality and the abuse of the weaker by the stronger are what seem, to me, to be foundational to all oppressions.)
posted by Frowner at 9:16 AM on August 2, 2017 [17 favorites]

Holy shit, I felt viscerally sick reading this. I'm in the process of writing my master's thesis in art history, so I guess I can really put myself into her shoes. This makes me really appreciate my program, which is incredibly supportive and student-focused. Of course, it's a terminal M.A. program, so the dynamic of us being direct rivals to our faculty doesn't exist (even though some people from my program do go on to get Ph.D.s, they go to other institutions for them).

I do know that after I finish the M.A., I'm done with formal academia. I have no stomach for the politics that I see if I look pretty much anywhere else, or for the insularity. I'd kind of like to turn my thesis into a book; but I have no interest whatsoever in writing for the academy. I think a lot about Barbara Tuchman, who made a big point of saying that she wanted to write for the public, not within the academy... I don't know, she seems like a pretty good role model.

a field purported to be about social justice and intersectionality

Art history?
posted by thelonius

Yeah, currently academic art history is really concerned with social justice and intersectionality. My thesis'll be a feminist reading of autobiographical comics, and most of my friends' thesis projects wind up having a social justice component. I can think of a couple of people who don't, but they're rare.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:25 AM on August 2, 2017 [25 favorites]

Holy shit, what a horror story. I'm glad that she has turned the experience into a mission to organize. I defended in May, and while there were some strains in my relationship with my advisor, it's peanuts compared to this. However it shouldn't be luck of the draw if you get a decent human or a Dr. Mao. There should be a formal union that protects graduate student labor. Imagine if the author had a million dollar legal team at her back, with a reputation of ending the careers of abusive advisors.
posted by codacorolla at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I ws thinking of this, from Part III:

I decided I would write the final chapter that I really wanted to write: a deeply theoretical shut down of the current art historical methodologies, arguing that they ultimately not only refuse to accept both racial and gendered difference, but worse, they actively work to suppress those voices. Building off the brave art historians and theorists who had come before me, I leveled my case. And, frankly, it was personal. I had finally shrugged off the weight of the desperate need for approval, for recommendation letters, for publishing opportunities, and, once that was gone, the need to critique the deeply entrenched conservatism of art history came to the fore. So I, in every sense of the word, wrote myself out of the discipline.

It sounds as if the author didn't find that the field is very friendly to social justice &c.
posted by thelonius at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2017

Anne Helen Petersen's another good example of an academic outside academia. Alison Harbin is a good writer and I hope she continues to do so.
posted by orrnyereg at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Art history?

I could see that, but as part of the liberal arts, and especially looking at the papers Allison wrote, and those of the person I believe to be her advisor wrote, and they hew pretty close to the "postcolonial studies and gender studies articulate a radical paradigm shift within academia" that she mentions in her after piece.

I understand why she didn't but I wish she had named names, pour encourager les autres.

A google search gave me a possible candidate for Dr. Mao, but no real evidence. I can imagine she'd give the name in private confidence to potential Phd candidates.
posted by zabuni at 9:33 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

It sounds as if the author didn't find that the field is very friendly to social justice &c.
posted by thelonius

Yeah, it's tough to say. I guess a lot of it comes down to specifics and execution, but in the program I'm in at least, a theoretical questioning of methodologies because of gendered and racial shortcomings would be welcomed and encouraged.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:34 AM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh man, do I have thoughts about this.

I actually had a really excellent, supportive committee, and I still left academia in part because of the two structural problems that I see as allowing this kind of thing to run rampant.

1. Extreme scarcity of jobs. I know a lot of people already know this, but it's worth reiterating what it takes to get a junior faculty appointment in the humanities. Generally speaking, each year there will be a handful of jobs that you're qualified for. You apply to those jobs along with literally every other graduate student and current professor in the world that is also remotely qualified for those jobs. This is what happens when there are essentially a fixed number of positions and everyone who has a job is guaranteed to keep it for life. It's almost as bad as trying to get a job as a Supreme Court Justice.

2. Weird alternate prestige economy. If you ask a member of the general public what, say, and English professor is for, the overwhelming likelihood is that they will say something like "teaching English to college students." And that is what English professors do that is public-facing and useful to others. So you would think that hiring and promotions would be made on this basis. Instead, they are made on the basis of articles and books that are only ever read by other academics. The peer-review process, in particular, puts individual professors in positions of tremendous power with respect to the careers of budding academics.

Not all of us choose to hurt people who are weaker than us, but it only takes a few. Create structures that mobilize the weaker groups and those among the stronger who don't choose to hurt the weak, use those mobilizations to erode hierarchy, inequality and precarity, and you can push back against human rottenness.

Yes! The structure of academia could not be more conducive to abuse if it had been intentionally designed to be.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:40 AM on August 2, 2017 [26 favorites]

So many parts of this are hauntingly similar to what Ms.Eld went through as she obtained her PhD. So, so terrible.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:53 AM on August 2, 2017

Protection of the weak from the "strong" is a product of centuries of devoted work, unimaginable sacrifice, humbly protected thought, and brilliant communication by individuals and communities. It is not what you get if you just do away with all government or religion. So, I'm not sure anarchy is the answer.

Once a system is in place to provide that protection, there is a natural tendency for people to try to turn that system to their own ends. We've been working out how to defend against those kinds of exploits for a long time. The process continues.

An academic career is a fairly protected berth; it has to be, for a number of reasons. However, the people in those careers are willing to do a lot to achieve that kind of protection, especially when other ways of life seem so terrifying to them. The habits of struggle that might help a person succeed even when they are working through fear of failure can be really awful if they continue once the person has real power.

Also: Here is my vote for using black text instead of gray text. Hard to read.
posted by amtho at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

I've worked in and around academia for 15 years, as research and support staff (my dad is a professor, so prior to entering the field myself, I've just been soaking in it my whole life).

This all checks out. When I was working as a research assistant, my PI was a totally good guy, so I was lucky. But Christ some people are assholes. They abound among tenured faculty, because there are no consequences whatsoever. If you can hold it together long enough in your academic career to receive tenure, you are thereafter perfectly free to be a colossal dick to anyone and everyone. Most people don't take that opportunity, because they are fundamentally not dicks, but the people who are dicks are free to be THE BIGGEST BESTEST DICKS.

I know quite a few children of academics because I live in a university town and went to the university lab school for a few years. None of us pursued anything beyond a Masters degree. Once you've seen up close how that sausage is made, the rational choice is NOPE.

Also our grad students are currently trying to unionize and one of the Provosts just posted a letter in response that was just so ugh. Basically "Unions! There's nothing wrong with unions! Let's all get together and sing some Billy Bragg some time! But I don't know what all you people are complaining about, shit is fiiiine. I will get in so much trouble if you unionize."
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:00 AM on August 2, 2017 [12 favorites]

These blog posts started coming through a professional listserv over the weekend and I read them with an all-too-familiar horror and icy feeling in my blood. They picked the scab off the "why am I doing this to myself?" wound that I thought had healed over the summer. Apologies for disorganized wall of pointless, angsty text.

I was my doktovater's first Ph.D. student. They really had no idea what they were doing (and nor did I-- first generation college student and all that). They discouraged me from publishing until I was out of school (which is insane and a BIG mistake, as I have since learned and had suspected at the time). They offered no feedback on my dissertation outside of basic copy editing (typo here, comma splice there). It was obvious to my committee at my defense that doktorvater had not read the dissertation for content beyond the second of six chapters (the sum of their comments for one entire chapter was "Meh." How... constructive). My experience was in no way as horrible as Harbin's, but the in the course of earning my Ph.D. I put up with abuse and passive-aggressive hostility from the person who was supposed to guide me and support me in a way that I would never allow in any other circumstance.

I've had my Ph.D. (yes, Art History) for almost seven years now. I've moved my household across the country without a moving stipend four times now for one-year positions because that $40k-ish salary with insurance is so welcome after a lifetime of being really fucking poor. I've been told to dye my hair to cover the gray so I can pass for a younger woman and be less intimidating to search committees. I currently get up at 5 AM to drive 2.5 hours to teach two classes back to back just so I have some sort of income, because this is where academia has led me and I honestly don't know what else to do. I am trying beef up my publication record-- I have a couple of peer-reviewed articles and a book review in print. Last week, I sent off the finished manuscript of my first book, which is under contract with a good publisher in my subfield (it is currently being scoured through the process of peer review, which is at once terrifying, but also not terrifying because it's good work). It's tough to do research as an adjunct or VAP because sometimes one just doesn't have access to source material and no money to travel to get to it. My work concentrates on brain sciences in a way that could be very timely for me, since a good deal of my subfield is starting to adopt an approach that co-opts scientific methodology.

Half of me is still in the old loop of thinking, "This is it! You have the book now! Surely THIS will be your lucky year!" The other half says to accept my failure and figure out what in the world I'm supposed to do now, when all I really want to do is teach.
posted by Heretic at 10:07 AM on August 2, 2017 [14 favorites]

What an awful experience this person has endured. It's sickening. I've been in academia for almost three decades. So I guess that makes me one of the eaters of the young the author is referring to. I don't in any way want to diminish the experiences of the author. (I'm in university government, I'm in the AAUP. This sort of thing comes up.) But I don't see why it's assumed that it's particular to academia. People, in their striving and social climbing, in their seeking for power and money and fame, can be and frequently are massive assholes. Is this news? Sorry, but there simply is no escape from class politics and class struggle. I wish there were, because it's fucking exhausting. But academia doesn't need "reform" any more than the rest of our benighted social/economic system.

The behavior described is extremely, egregiously unethical and, in my opinion it is legally actionable. But, for what it's worth, in my little corner of the universe it is very much atypical. What I see, as I participate in committee after committee, is much more boring: faculty doing their best to help students bring their work to completion at as high a level as possible, and then helping them put their best foot forward to get a job somewhere. I personally have never witnessed such a thing (the outright theft of a grad student's IP by a committee member). A couple of times I've witnessed faculty fishing for authorship, which is bad enough, but that behavior is viewed as dishonorable by their peers (though not necessarily by administrative bean counters, which is why it happens in the first place). I've seen disputes over author ordering, which can be severe. I have seen bad blood and personality clashes. And, yes, there is a power disparity between administrators, faculty and students that is a reality. But, again, humans are hierarchical as fuck, pretty much everywhere. So why is it so shocking that such behavior would exist among the Ivory Towers?

My personal psychohistory, as well as many conversations over the years with fellow travelers at various life stages, makes it obvious to me that it's the idealized image of academia that many budding eggheads have that underlies such reactions. Coming out of my small, stifling Ohio town, I thought academia would, more or less, involve wearing a toga and a laurel wreath, discussing Big Ideas under a tree with like-minded seekers. It turned out that I was confusing academia with a really, really good coffee shop. This idealization makes confronting academic realities--namely, that it's just as petty and crass and back-stabby as the rest of the world, and full of just as many mediocre "professionals"--so depressing, and such a shock. There are few people more bitter than those whose academic dreams have been dashed. It is the bitterness of the failed romantic. It's horribly painful.

But I guess my main objection to the gist of the piece is this: OK, so academia sucks. You think things are better outside of academia? Especially if one compares apples to apples, by looking at enterprises of comparable size? As someone who fled a Dilbert-like environment decades ago, I don't think so. I seriously doubt it. And I say this as someone who is saddened and outraged at the creeping (well, now it's galloping) corporatization of academia, represented by the steady assault on tenure track lines and the corresponding rise of the academic precariate. That, together with the equating of monetizable knowledge with intellectual merit. These things need to be fought. To do that, we need people with a clear-eyed understanding of what they're getting into and a committment to genuine academic values.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:08 AM on August 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

Many years ago I had a friend, a fellow college prof., with a PhD from Columbia. We taught in N.J. He had a job interview with one of the major TV studios for a job as a writer. At the interview, he told me later, he spilled his guts out on the academic world...the jealousies, pettiness, back biting, etc etc. The interviewer finally stopped him and said: Look, John. Just about every one working at this tv studio hates the stuff that goes on here and dreams about quitting and working in academia. You can not come here and tell us that is a foolish dream they have.
posted by Postroad at 10:21 AM on August 2, 2017 [15 favorites]

There are many reasons not to chase the academic ring, and the hideous ones outlined above intersect with my sadly, by now, boilerplate advice, from the chronicle of higher ed's "Thomas Benton".

Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go
Just Don't Go, Part 2
The Big Lie About the 'Life of the Mind'

If anything, things have gotten worse since the articles above were written.

Please, get any prospective MA/PhD students in the humanities to read the above before going.
posted by lalochezia at 10:52 AM on August 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

TL:DR but based on Part 1...

As a current PhD student I don't really understand how Dr. Mao would get away with it. At my institution, everyone in the department pretty much knows what each other is working on, and none of the professors would be able to get away with just poaching a students work.

But perhaps, its just a small department (Philosophy at a realtively small UK uni).
posted by mary8nne at 10:55 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

But I guess my main objection to the gist of the piece is this: OK, so academia sucks. You think things are better outside of academia? Especially if one compares apples to apples, by looking at enterprises of comparable size? As someone who fled a Dilbert-like environment decades ago, I don't think so. I seriously doubt it.

What is happening outside of academia doesn't fucking matter. Your field has problems - pointing to other structures and noting their flaws doesn't change that.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:56 AM on August 2, 2017 [16 favorites]

I think a lot about Barbara Tuchman, who made a big point of saying that she wanted to write for the public, not within the academy... I don't know, she seems like a pretty good role model.

"So maybe [humanities] scholarship and philosophical writing, or some of it, should be done outside the university system, by people who are not professionals or teachers."
posted by Gerald Bostock at 11:13 AM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a little bit confused - was Dr. Mao her thesis advisor? Either way what struck me is not just the plagiarism, but the utter failure in mentorship that is supposed to be the foundation of academia. Harbin does highlight that in her follow-up post. It shouldn't be surprising that sociopaths gravitate towards fields where they can have essentially unchecked power over other people, but they should not have unchecked power and they should not be protected. Harbin's follow-up is right - students in academia need to know that they're not alone, and that they have options even when everyone is telling them they don't.
posted by muddgirl at 11:22 AM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Man, I gotta wonder what's the scuttlebutt on the art history grapevine like right now.

It didn't take me more than 5 minutes to figure out who Dr. Mao was, and I'm just some rando. Everybody in that field knows by now, whether or not it gets acknowledged anywhere officially.
posted by ursus_comiter at 11:43 AM on August 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

What is happening outside of academia doesn't fucking matter. Your field has problems - pointing to other structures and noting their flaws doesn't change that.

Also, it is different in a simple way: every tenured faculty member is free to consider themselves CEO of their own fiefdom. There are far, far too many executive chefs in the kitchen, and some of them are Gordon Ramsay. And, like, what are you, a beleaguered sous chef going to do about that? There's no one above Chef you can go to. You can't even go to another restaurant because you'd have to start back at dishwasher again (and pay for the privilege).
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:49 AM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I wonder if there are any academics in other countries who can weigh in on the themes that seem specific to American academia?

I imagine some of the problems are universal (human nature, nature of power, scarcity of resources etc.), however, it seems to me that the American ivory tower is unique in many respects.
posted by nikoniko at 11:54 AM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am eternally glad to have left after my MA. My two big disillusion moments were:

a) being mildly chewed out for applying to "the wrong kind" of conference as my first one when I had no way of knowing what was "the right kind", and becoming so stressed that this was a foreshadowing of a million invisible rules I would have to follow to make it to tenure, where any innocently wrong step might wreck your trajectory, and

b) hearing countless times that in my thesis project, I had to explain and justify what it added to the field, what I was contributing in a new way. It felt so incredibly vacuous to pretend you were making some groundbreaking new paradigm, it was completely counter to the other advice that "a good thesis is a done thesis", and it was inane to me to act like my thesis was anything other than a gatekeeping device. I just couldn't manage to tell even myself that I was writing anything interesting or new to more than a handful of other people. What am I adding to the field? Another stupid book on a shelf.

I miss some aspects of it, to be sure, but I don't miss feeling like I had to justify or indeed that there was any greater universal good to churning out my academic hot takes, besides that I found X interesting. The whole field was people who found X interesting and kept trying to "prove" that that Meant Something.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:11 PM on August 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

It didn't take me more than 5 minutes to figure out who Dr. Mao was, and I'm just some rando.

Exactly. Ugh.

Just this morning on my way to work I was thinking that the only thing I really regret about having a relatively low-paying, low-prestige job that will never lead anywhere except to a very slightly higher-paying, very slightly more respectable one was that I would really have liked to pursue my childhood dream of becoming an English professor, and I was feeling sort of sad about it because if there's any one area where I think I have the background, skills and expertise to produce original scholarship, it's in the history of women SF writers in the Anglosphere.

And now I'm reminded that I would never, ever have even survived graduate school. No need for Dr. Mao - I've had friends do their PhDs in the humanities, and I have to be real that the ordinary competition and meanness and just generally fucked up stuff would have been more than I could have handled.
posted by Frowner at 12:16 PM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Having now read this whole essay, all I can say is that the entire story echoes just about every dissertation defense in the humanities I've ever been close to. Having watched my partner go through this process, she could have written just about the same story. The ordeal nearly broke her, which I think is part of the point.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:23 PM on August 2, 2017

WHAT AN ASSHOLE. I couldn't even finish Part II.

I am so thankful and fortunate that my undergrad advisor and y'all here on metafilter advised me not to go into grad school.
posted by fizzix at 12:30 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

vogon poet -- actually, I wrote to Alison after reading all of this because our grad union does in fact expressly help with things like this. We put a clause about intellectual property and research integrity into our collective bargaining agreement (you can read it here, this one was on of my proposals during our contract bargaining and I'm fairly pleased with what we got) specifically because there were so many grads who were worried about this kind of thing. The language looks pretty harmless ("anodyne," the attorney hired by the University for negotiations would say), but earlier versions of it included a clause about the VP of Research having the final say on appeals to this article. We refused that, because we wanted for complaints under this article to be appeal-able all the way to neutral third party arbitration. This is where the rubber meets the road. The contract incorporates all of the University's IP policies by reference. The University's policies are usually very good. They just don't ever have to follow them. Incorporating this into the CBA brings it under the purview of the Union grievance process, up to and including neutral third party arbitration, which means that it creates an entirely new and wholly independent avenue of recourse for grad students. Furthermore, it's an avenue that's "owned," operated, and staffed by their colleagues, with access to the enormous (well, relatively) political capital of the Unions and access to attorneys, accountants, and other professionals when we need them.

We also don't JUST use the contract to vindicate our rights--we've also filed complaints with EEOC and with the Office of Civil Rights when they're appropriate. We have all of this institutional memory and prowess that we can bring to bear to help our fellow workers, so when someone comes to a steward and says "oh my god, THIS is happening" we go "Hey. Let's work that out." We know what the next steps are.

Unions are really important for the bread and butter stuff, the payroll, the health insurance, etc. But when you *really* need a Union is when you are up against a power structure and on your own you just don't have the power to protect yourself. It's one thing to speak truth to power. It's another thing to speak truth to power WITH power, and that's what you have when there's 2,000 of your fellow grad workers backing you up.

A few important things we did in the FIRST YEAR:
-Protected a woman who'd been sexually harassed from being kicked out, and got her a new advisor
-Got back pay for denied maternity leave after a woman was effectively fired for giving birth early
-Won at arbitration to protect a man who had requested vacation time to go home over winter break, was denied the time off, forced to take his three sick days instead, and then denied a reappointment when he complained. He then requested vacation time again, and received it, and said "This is the first time I've requested something like this as a man and not as a slave."

I don't know if a grad union could have saved Dr. Harbin. I think that *mine* could have. I can see how the University would have played this--they'd have said that this was an academic issue and not an employment one--and I can see how we'd have fought it. There might be some "do-nothing" grad unions, but ours is fierce, and honestly, they just don't like having to deal with us.

soren_lorensen I think I know the East Coast University you might be talking about, and that letter from the Provost was one of the nicest, most pro-union letters I've ever seen from an Administration. He either actually thinks that they should unionize (some of our upper-level Deans thought we should, too, because it would give them the ability to do Good Things that the University didn't want them to and say The Union Made Us Do It), or he's playing the kind of 11-dimensional chess that University Administrators are totally unable to play, and trying to take the wind out of the sails by not fighting. ... Management is usually your best organizer.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 12:34 PM on August 2, 2017 [15 favorites]

I think we must be talking about different institutions, because the Provost in question here is a woman.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:38 PM on August 2, 2017

Ah! Well, then it makes more sense why you thought the letter was so ughhh.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 12:41 PM on August 2, 2017

I mean because it wasn't the same letter!! Not because she's a woman! aw dang y'all
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 12:42 PM on August 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

Oh, the other small but important straw to me: we had a "voluntary" in-house conference where grad students presented papers, that was held on the "reading day" that preceded exam week. As in the day that was clearly stipulated as a day that no class work or tests could be held-- grad students were not explicitly included, but not excluded from that statement. One of our profs decided we should all give our final paper talks, part of our grade, at said conference. And when I mildly complained to anyone, the overwhelming response was that grad students don't "Deserve" or get a reading day and I was ridiculous for even thinking it. And I knew I needed to just shut up and take it and I was more mad now about the principle of the thing -- but seriously, fuck everything about the idea that I was being dramatic for asking for the purpose of reading day to be respected. I flinch even writing this because I still expect someone to be like "look at miss precious demands thinking that reading day applies to her."
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:42 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

As an academic outside the US (I'm in the UK), these problems seem pretty familiar to me. I think doctoral supervision is always an extremely fraught power-imbalanced relationship, that goes wrong in spectacular ways when it does go wrong. Also, also academic work can become weirdly ego-driven and competitive - get my name on that idea, quick! - in a way that intertwines badly with these power dynamics. The US tenure concept adds a layer to that, of course, but I think the essential problem cuts across countries. (Sorry, Germans, doktorvater is a terrible word that sends a shiver down my spine whenever I hear it.)
posted by Aravis76 at 12:44 PM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oooh, now that I've done some cursory investigation, I see she was at a University that does have a grad union--and a pretty good one, too. But, that union is the same one as the professors'...
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 12:45 PM on August 2, 2017

I wonder if there are any academics in other countries who can weigh in on the themes that seem specific to American academia?

Ex-academic (humanities) from the UK here. Some of the systems are different to the North American sphere which would mean this story couldn't play out quite the same way. (E.g. here, your final PhD assessment (viva, equivalent of PhD defence) is done by two examiners, one from your institution and one from somewhere else, never by your own supervisor.) Also the job market is I think marginally less terrible here, in the same way that Neptune is marginally more habitable than Pluto. Also PhDs are faster (you're supposed to be done in 4 years). And we have a national union, which is nice!

When it comes to the general level of dysfunction and the tendency to eat its young, though, academia knows no borders. It's really, damagingly awful. (Also I know someone whose MA supervisor plagiarised some of her work, so even that happens!) There are some amazingly fucked up attitudes towards so much, I don't even know where to start threading it all together into a narrative. I will say that the general attitude that it's not a job, it's some kind of spiritual calling, is very very prevalent, and it works a lot better when you're at the top of the ladder than when you're on the lower rungs and want some of those mundane 'job' things like pay and job security and employment rights.

I loved many things about my work - the teaching, the research, (most of) the people, the sitting in archive rooms working my way slowly through boxes of uncatalogued 18th-century letters - but you could not drag me back to academia.
posted by Catseye at 12:46 PM on August 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

OK, so academia sucks. You think things are better outside of academia? Especially if one compares apples to apples, by looking at enterprises of comparable size?

Yes, and yes. I have many friends who left academia to work in both the private sector and the public sector and some of them are stressed and annoyed and have awful colleagues, and miss flexible hours and the fun of research, but all of them stress how bizarre and dysfunctional professional relationships in academia look from the outside. In particular, there is no equivalent to the grad student/supervisor relationship anywhere else. Having a manager is in no way the same thing.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:00 PM on August 2, 2017 [14 favorites]

I have been in industry for 11 years and my husband has been in (STEM) academia for the same time. I think STEM is dysfunctional in different ways than humanities and he has had some great mentors throughout his time, but I still look at some of the shit he has to put up with and wonder. The difference between industry and academia is that if I have a problem at work and management is being shit about it, I can leave. I might be unemployed for awhile, I might have to take a slight step back in my career, but I don't lose any credibility. But in academia, there really are two groups - either you have tenure, or you don't. Everything you do is working towards one prize. There is no academic plan B.

I would never tell someone not to go into academia, but I would say go in with your eyes wide open and disabuse yourself of any romanticism as early as possible.
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on August 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

A huge problem about discussing the merits of academia in an individualized way, and all the variations on that thereof, is that it constitutes a discourse that nevertheless inhabits capitalist ideology. That's what creates the absurdities of "should they go into academia or not"; that's a great example of false dichotomy which belies the intellectual bootstrapping. If you have any ounce of critical thinking skills (or whatever you want to call it)—and I basically expect as an ideal that someone who's gone through a humanities or STEM Ph.D. should have that, despite the actual outcomes being a total distortion of that—this problem of conceptualizing is immediately obvious.

To put it differently:

That, together with the equating of monetizable knowledge with intellectual merit. These things need to be fought.

I totally agree that that attitude is repellent.

To do that, we need people with a clear-eyed understanding of what they're getting into and a committment to genuine academic values.

However, a notion of that sort puts the cart before the horse, Because Capitalism. New people may self-select to pursue research because they are already academically inclined, but any prerequisite of "clear-eyed understanding" to participation fundamentally misapprehends the process of higher learning and social responsibility to the production of knowledge.
posted by polymodus at 1:49 PM on August 2, 2017

Oooh, now that I've done some cursory investigation, I see she was at a University that does have a grad union--and a pretty good one, too. But, that union is the same one as the professors'...

Yeah, she actually went to the same university where I got my PhD! Luckily for me, the English department there was far less toxic (although not without its problems), but if my dissertation advisor had wanted to do this to me, she absolutely could have. We were in the AAUP, but all of the information we got from the union was around protecting us as instructors, not as grad students. It would honestly never had occurred to me to go to the union about something like this.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:30 PM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

> But I guess my main objection to the gist of the piece is this: OK, so academia sucks. You think things are better outside of academia?

I didn't even click the links because I had such a horrible time in grad school and didn't want to relieve the trauma, and I wasn't going to comment in the thread until I read this, which pissed me off so much I have to. Yes, things fucking well are better outside of academia. After I dropped out of grad school, I spent a couple years working at minimum-wage shit jobs, then I endured a period of unemployment that saw me living (illegally) in a cellar shared with half a dozen other wretches and going out to the phone booth on the street (with snow up to my ass) to use a few more precious dimes making calls in the desperate hope of getting a job, then getting slightly-over-minimum-wage shit jobs that kept me fed and housed for a few years before I could claw myself into a job that actually paid enough to live decently on... and in all that time I never once regretted having left academia.

Yeah, I'm sure there are decent academic situations, and it's great if you've landed in one. But have the decency not to hand-wave away everybody else's experiences. Just enjoy your luck in peace and quiet.
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on August 2, 2017 [21 favorites]

The University would definitely claim that this was an "Academic Issue" and not an Employment Related Issue, but we've usually been able to find a way around that -- and when we can't, we use other policies of the University to get ourselves in the room anyway. (As graduate *students*, we usually have the right to advocates of some kind in most of the University investigatory proceedings, and so stewards have often filled the role of "support person.") Our University's IP policy (which is incorporated into our contract) also expressly states that University employees who are members of a union may have their union representative at any hearings or investigatory meetings.

But I get what you're saying. And it does help that our union includes both teaching and research assistants. (They've already said on record very often that it's almost impossible to disentangle the work that research assistants do as RAs from the work that they're doing as students for their dissertations, because that argument has suited from time to time.) Even so, a few times there have been students who aren't employed--they are paying for their degree instead of having an assistantship--and so aren't part of the union, and sometimes there isn't as much we can do for them besides provide guidance and advice.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 3:10 PM on August 2, 2017

mondo dentro, please just consider the following:

Do people hide the worst things that are happening to them in your University because you are in governance and you are assumed not to be safe to talk to?

If you think about it, do you know about at least one faculty member--probably not in your department--that you would warn students away from choosing as an advisor, if you knew it wouldn't get back to that person? But is that person still considered a perfectly fine colleague?

The higher level administrators that we negotiated with during our bargaining process really just couldn't believe that there were so many grad students who were so upset. They looked back on their own grad school days fondly--some of the best days of their lives!--and thought we should really be enjoying and appreciating how lucky and how privileged we were to be getting to just do research and explore ideas (and teach, obviously, but really isn't teaching just part of your education anyway?). It never occurred to them that some of us were having a very, very different experience than they did.

The only non-Academia job I've ever heard of that remotely reminded me of the fiefdoms and feudalism of Academia was listening to someone talk about being a junior associate in a big white-shoe law firm. There, you aren't bringing in your own business, you're just being internally hired by partners to do work in their practices, and if you get scooped up by a partner who is abusive and exploitative, you gotta just deal with it, leave, or if you're lucky, get requisitioned by a partner who is not awful.

~~~~ And to all the haters thinkin' that it's just the humanities that are like this ~~~~

Some of the most horrifying abuses I heard of or helped try to fix during my work with our Union were in the engineering departments. Grad students would literally be sleeping in their labs because they were expected to do so much work, and to be available on call if their advisor needed the equipment to be working over night. Advisors would call the lab on weekends and take attendance to see who was actually working. It's not a mentoring relationship, it's a tech spin-off incubator, and grad students are just cheap and highly skilled labor. I actually laughed once when someone said "Aren't you afraid that you'll make yourselves too expensive, and that the PIs will hire postdocs instead?" There was one lab on campus whose PI had a 55% attrition rate after 8 years. More than half of their new grad students left their lab, left the University, or dropped out of Academia entirely. And don't even get me started on how international grad students are treated...
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 3:40 PM on August 2, 2017 [16 favorites]

I have a STEM Ph.D., and my position is in government research. I'm averaging about a committed a year, mostly PhD, but some MS. This kind of thing didn't happen to me, but I know others who had much worse advisors than I did. I try really hard to be a good mentor, particularly when it comes to giving credit where it's due, but going forward I'll try even harder to be sure that I treat my students and postdocs fairly. I know that each field is different, but I don't feel like I need to worry about credit, I probably get more than I deserve and I'm fairly senior now. It's different or young scholars. The thought of taking a step down Dr. Mao's road is terrifying to me, as it probably is to most academics and scientists, but we owe it to others to stay on guard.
posted by wintermind at 3:59 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I remember a conversation I had about an academic who is famous for stealing ideas. The other person said, signing up to be his grad student is both thrilling and terrifying. You're working with the very best. You may also have your ideas stolen out from under you... by the very best.

Anecdatum: I know of one case where tenured faculty conspired to deny a grad student access to data that the student had developed for them. (apologies for the vagueness but such is the paranoia that academia begets)
posted by halonine at 4:02 PM on August 2, 2017

halonine: I remember a conversation I had about an academic who is famous for stealing ideas. The other person said, signing up to be his grad student is both thrilling and terrifying. You're working with the very best.

The very best at what, though? How do you know that any of the ideas that made him the best were actually his?
posted by clawsoon at 4:07 PM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I do not have a PhD, but during my fellowship, something eerily similar happened to me: dueling posters at our subspecialty's big annual conference. When I confronted the faculty member, they were all fake innocence, "Oh, I thought you were going to present on something else!" Fuck you, I have an email chain on this exact topic from six months ago where you said, "interesting topic! no one else is studying this, so the field is wide open for you." This person did the same thing to someone else a few years ago, which is why I'd emailed them in the first place, to see if they or anyone else was already analyzing this data. Zero consequences; in fact they are about to be promoted early because of academic productivity (i.e. plagiarizing). I chose not to report, because it is only a poster and I was able to write up and submit the paper in under a week. If it had been my dissertation, or something of similar intensity, though....

I think the more "publish-or-perish" areas, or places where people are much more dependent on external grant funding, are the worst. I'm not interesting in leaving academia, at least right now, because I really like teaching, but it's a major influence on the sorts of faculty jobs I'm applying for. (For instance, when the division chief offered to keep me on as full-time faculty at that highly regarded institution, in a city I like quite a bit, I basically laughed in his face and told him no.)
posted by basalganglia at 4:08 PM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

What is happening outside of academia doesn't fucking matter. Your field has problems - pointing to other structures and noting their flaws doesn't change that.

An excellent point, NoxAeternum. I am concerned, however, that we diagnose the source of the problems. Kinda have to do that to know what it is exactly we want to reform. Just saying "it's academia" is pretty broad and mostly unactionable, by itself.

Just as one tiny example, one could focus on the quite obviously unethical behavior in the story that few would defend. There's been enough of these horror stories that this is in fact happening: we now have seminars for grad students and faculty about academic ethics, which aren't useful so much because they give specific techniques for dealing with problems, but because they're a signal, a bringing to light stuff that has previously gone on in relative obscurity. Students now have been told in public and as a matter of policy that that sort of shit not only won't fly, but can lead to censure.
posted by mondo dentro at 4:36 PM on August 2, 2017

Holy shit it goes all the way to the top (of the Taoist medicine hierarchy).
posted by Sebmojo at 5:11 PM on August 2, 2017

> But I guess my main objection to the gist of the piece is this: OK, so academia sucks. You
think things are better outside of academia?

as replied to, not even getting into languagehat's reply (preach, my friend), here:

In particular, there is no equivalent to the grad student/supervisor relationship anywhere else. Having a manager is in no way the same thing

I'd like to second this by saying that I've got a STEM degree (undergrad only) and my wife has her PhD and the relationship between student/adviser has SO MUCH POTENTIAL to be toxic in SO MANY WAYS that are beyond the pale in anything I have experienced in the corporate world. Her adviser (that I've mentioned before here and here) was at various times apathetic, hostile, abusive, incomprehensible, and (more than anything else) apathetic/unavailable. But he did bring in a shit ton of research money to the institution in question.... Oh, he also was in no way helpful in helping her make personal connections in the field nor did he facilitate her getting papers out despite her fellow students, many of which were neither working as hard nor even getting through some of the harder statistical classes without my wife's help/tutelage, publishing much more frequently. He took on the same number of incoming grad students and graduated a third to half as many as the next adviser down the hall, and those that did finish took a year or two longer than their companions. Yes, we were bitter then.

All of this in a position where if she wanted to escape to work under someone else she would have to A) have/build a relationship with another faculty member that was i) available, ii) willing, iii) researching/focusing on very similar things, and iv) not under the boot of Adviser#1 lest they piss him off as well as B) she'd have to be willing to be set back, literally, multiple years of progress towards a static goal that is the gateway into her having not very nearly completely wasted any effort beyond that related to her master's degree. Not to mention C) that it would place a huge mark on her as someone who couldn't cut it and/or didn't deserve to finish her degree in the first place.

I'm not begrudging their position nor their wisdom, but to somehow handwash away the fact that the student/adviser behavior is so ripe for abuse that goes above and beyond that in the corporate world is just... maddening, much like languagehat said above, not to mention halonine's comment as well, that happened to her too. Recourse level: zero.

I guess for every Ph.D comics strip there's a Dilbert strip to match but, for a vast myriad of reasons (authorship of the comics in question included), I have a really, really hard time accepting the idea that one is just as bad as the other. That has not been my experience at all and I've seen a fair bit of both sides.

The comment above about kids of professors who all saw the system from the sidelines growing up and subsequently noped the fuck out after their masters degrees speaks volumes as well, thanks for that.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:22 PM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Final say and I'll shut up.

When things were getting really bad and she was, through no goddamn good reason on her end as she was dotting every I and crossing every T and had been for months for this motherfucker, close to missing some deadlines for getting her defense setup/scheduled due to his absence/not giving a fuck behavior we were calling on friends to ask advice and try to understand if this was in any way manageable or if there was a trick we weren't using to get things under way... when that was going on we asked a friend's dad who was/is a highly, highly respected researcher in his field with a M.D. and a PhD who, we figured, had maybe 'been there, done that'.

His response, with not a little bit of nose-looking-down/you-must-not-want-it-enough, tone in his voice was "You just need to sit outside his office door until he leaves and then you will be able to talk to him." I have never before wanted my wife to standup and shout, as I already knew the answer, "The motherfucker has 6 offices spread out across as many buildings spanning 2 campuses and he doesn't go into any one of them more regularly than the next, do you expect me to clone myself or waste time that I do not have driving around playing adviser-office-russian-roulette??!?!?"

The fact that what once worked, thanks to (I think) the ever increasing accumulation of power and glory to the top % of a given field, be it academia or economic groups, no longer applies just wasn't something that computed for this person who had gone through their graduate years in a different time/place/adviser-situation.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:31 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not only am I glad I never had a lick of interest in grad school, I want to burn down her grad school, Dr. Mao, and anyone else involved in letting Dr. Mao get away with this. Academic integrity, my ass.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:08 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

This feels mostly too close to my job for me to comment on publicly but I'll say this: if anyone is in this situation, your departmental hierarchy is NOT the place to start. Please, please - find out who your university's Research Integrity Officer is and start there. Your university almost certainly has a research misconduct policy and process that your RIO can ensure is carried out. But if you go to the department first and your leadership circles the wagons, your RIO may never hear about you and can't protect you.
posted by Stacey at 5:04 AM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Swapped "A followup post" link for that blog post's permalink so it remains accessible.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:50 AM on August 3, 2017

There's a great novel about a young untenured historian who has a rotten relationship with senior colleagues and whose article manuscript is stolen and published in another journal by an editor. The historian ends up pursuing an alt-ac career as a personal secretary.

Kingsley Amis published Lucky Jim in 1954, and, according to one of my grad school advisors at least, the part about the plagiarized article is autobiographical. There really is nothing new under the sun.
posted by sy at 7:31 AM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

am concerned, however, that we diagnose the source of the problems. Kinda have to do that to know what it is exactly we want to reform. Just saying "it's academia" is pretty broad and mostly unactionable, by itself.

The problem is that academia has a power structure that is fucked up, which makes it difficult to deal with abuse in academia. We keep seeing this happen over and over, whether it's stealing the research of graduate students or the stories of sexual harassment we hear about over and over.

You want to send a message? Start shitcanning these professors. As long as they think that there are no repercussions, this behavior will continue, and it will also weaken support for tenure as a principle - as I keep on saying, when a principle is used to defend abuse, then people will stop supporting that principle. But show people that tenure won't protect someone from abusing their position, and not only will you improve academia, you'll put tenure in a better place.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:45 AM on August 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

> The fact that what once worked, thanks to (I think) the ever increasing accumulation of power and glory to the top % of a given field, be it academia or economic groups, no longer applies just wasn't something that computed for this person who had gone through their graduate years in a different time/place/adviser-situation.

Yup. My advisor, who got his PhD in the mid-'50s and was immediately hired by a top-rank Ivy League department, had no idea that the job market had changed in the intervening decades, or at any rate had no interest in helping me navigate the new situation. As far as I'm aware, only one of the grad students in my cohort actually wound up with a job in linguistics.

> Start shitcanning these professors.

posted by languagehat at 8:41 AM on August 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've been thinking about my advisor, and my field, and wonder if my pleasant experience might not fall along a couple of lines:

> We're pretty close in age. I'm his second student, and the job market hasn't changed much since he got hired. Therefore, he understands the current situation pretty well, and isn't deeply wedded to any particular bad habits that might come from age.

> Funding is, if not generous, at least more abundant in our field. I feel as though this might lead to less desperation in the field overall.

> Although we're tied by a few common threads, I'm studying my thing, and he's studying his. He can help out with perspective, knowledge, and editing for style. I can help out by staying current in my field and using that to bolster his work. However, we're doing different things, and me publishing something doesn't really take away an opportunity for him to do the same.

> Our department is structured in the way that you tend to publish in big conferences for the central focus, but then have any number of a dozen or so other venues for publication in a semi-related field. Although competition is harsh in those central venues, you have a lot of options, which relieves pressure and competition within departments (since people tend to be studying fairly different expressions of our central discipline).

He's also a genuinely decent person. Every time he's asked me to take on extra responsibility, he's made it clear how I can turn that into a CV item. When he's been late on editing a dissertation draft, he's explained why. He's always seemed to treat our relationship as a partnership instead of an exploitative low wage job. Those are all things I want to carry on to when (god willing) I'm in a professorship and will be acting in the mentor position. A lot of bad behavior in academia is brusquely hand-waved away by saying "Well, I had to deal with that - you need to toughen up, or get out." By setting up healthy relationships, you also pass that practice along to your students, who comprise the next generation of scholars.

Still, I think that I am extremely lucky, and beyond fate or roll of the dice, have a number of elements of myself that give me privilege and make it less likely for me to be taken advantage of. Every student-advisor relationship should be productive and have equity, and if they don't, then the students (as laborers) should have recourse that isn't heavily vested in protecting the status quo / existing grant funding / reputation of the department.
posted by codacorolla at 1:50 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

The man who oversaw my masters thesis was one of my favorite professors, a kind and generous and funny guy. My masters thesis writing went very badly, partly because my department didn't have the sort of scaffolding that I've now discovered other departments in other places have. Plus, I was trying to write it while four hours away from the university working a full-time job. Needless to say, it got done very late, and by the end of it was really just a big paper, not a thesis.

At any rate, he recently passed away after living with ALS for several years, and the outpouring of support from his students all mentioned his generosity with his students, the fact that he cared about their careers. I didn't get as much of this focused attention from him because I was already starting down a different road towards working in a museum. (Sad to say, in many art history departments, museum work is definitely seen as a lower tier in a way that even my kind mentor didn't really challenge.) So I drifted away from needing his mentoring and support, while my friends pursuing their phds relied on him even after they left for other universities.

But even as someone who mostly just took his classes and who bumped around Rome with him for a few days, I could see how interested he was in the students he was mentoring, and how meaningful that relationship could be. One of my closest friends, who also worked with him, called him her second dad. Having him as my model for what these kind of relationships should be, seeing them so abused is just rage inducing.
posted by PussKillian at 2:26 PM on August 3, 2017

sy: There really is nothing new under the sun.

I was looking up "publish or perish" in Google Ngram the other day, and it was already part of a 100+ page internal Harvard report in 1938.
posted by clawsoon at 3:42 PM on August 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

codacorolla, I think I also hit the jackpot with advisors. Mine has not only been supportive of me pursuing a research agenda that was high risk/high reward, but when she was writing a grant on my research to continue supporting me, she sat me down and made sure I was definitely okay with her using my data to write the proposal ("If I get to be the postdoc on the grant if we get it, then sure!"). But beyond that... when my father was in the hospital and I had to leave town abruptly to be with him, she bought me $80 worth of gift certificates at the hospital cafeteria, and when my father died a few months later, she made sure I was able to get on a plane and get home immediately and she managed my experiments while I was gone.

And that's why I'm not even trying to get a post-doc position elsewhere. We've got money now for me to stay for a few more years and work more on the research that I love and care about, in a place where I know I'm not just supported but respected and cared about. I intend to slingshot myself into a place where I can set up a fiefdom and do the same thing -- be an incubator for baby scientists and help them grow up strong in the early days so that they will be defended against the slings and arrows later on.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 1:53 PM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

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