Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The baby professor

Oh, god.

I may have mentioned that last month I presented at this colloquium at my uni. It was only about a dozen researchers from across the uni, but quite well-attended. I presented some of my very rough work in progress on this book project.

A couple of weeks ago, a writer from the uni's communications department (or whatever it's called) contacted me to ask me for a slide I'd used in my presentation. She told me she was really interested in my research, and that she was going to be including some discussion of it in an article for the next in-house, pat-ourselves-on-the-back publication/piece of official propaganda.

Sure enough, the piece came out today. The article about the colloquium is huge and up front. There is a close-up photo of me giving the presentation, instead of the image from my presentation. I look about fourteen, tops. Both my Chair and the admin assistant commented that they didn't even recognize me. Whereas in reality I have a quite long and angular face, the angle of this photo makes me look like I have that particular kind of very distinctive round-faced look that young teenagers often have. Also, my hair is unkempt, somewhat in the manner of a high school student. (Note to self: investigate hair strategies!) I look like their little child prodigy prof!

As if that were not bad enough, there is quite a long description of my presentation, which (predictably) schematizes and oversimplifies it. But the worst is that the author says something like "Prof. Hilaire is one of the only scholars doing academic research in this area". Now, I did not, I absolutely did NOT, say that!! It's not true. How arrogant-sounding! What I said was that there is a dearth of research from the particular perspective I employ and field that I work in - that is true. But that's very different from seeming to imply that I'm some kind of boldly original (baby) scholar, daring to tread in completely unmarked terrain.

You start to see how misconceptions arise. If I hadn't met me, I'd have an eyebrow seriously raised, if I knew anything about the field I work in. I want to go and bury my head under the covers for a month. Sigh.


MaggieMay said...

Oh, I SO feel your pain. When I was a grad student, I had a longish piece about my research published in the fancy-schmancy university mag. Even though I met with the author of the piece TWICE to clarify things, she still published something that was, and IS, awful.

I say "is" because it is one of the first things that appears when one Googles my name. I wince horribly just thinking about it...

negativecapability said...

If it makes you feel better, the University mags always manage to make the person/people they're focusing on look/sound like a tool in some way, and I think everyone knows that :)

(a while back mine took a photo of me and an advisor in front of a photo of Eminent Old Gray Poet to talk about a project we were doing and it's STILL on rotation on the front page of the school's website. I look like a cheerleader in it. I mean, I was a cheerleader, back in the day, but bleh)

dbm/gaa said...

Oh yeah, I get this too! You've met me Hilaire, I'm also the baby professor and photos just make it worse. Don't worry too much, no one takes those Uni mags very seriously anyway...at least I hope not!