Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get ready for it

I am going to be spending the next few days evaluating graduate students' SSHRC (national social sciences and humanities funding body) fellowship applications. I just opened the files for a first quick glance. Each has two letters of reference. For one poor female PhD student, would you like to know what information was included in her reference letter from her male professor? That she was "a knock-out" and "the best looking woman in the department." This was conveyed in an anecdote about her getting all dressed up for a party.

That "I need blood" energy that I thought was dissipating? It's returned. On my list? This guy, obviously. And the stupid fucking students sitting across from me on the bus the other day cruelly ridiculing a friend of theirs for taking Women's Studies because "that was over in the 80s." Fuck you all. And this fucking profession.

20 comments:

K said...

I had a "fuck you sexist assholes" moment today too. I hope you can channel it into something good. I hate to admit it, but I often thrive on showing up scum like that.

Psychgrad said...

Oh my god. I can NOT believe that someone would write that. From a selfish perspective (because clearly being a decent person isn't a motivator for this guy), you would think that he wouldn't want his name attached to comments like that.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Sweet fucking GOD.

I think that's all I can come up with.

m(mmm) said...

every day in the academy chips away at that sense of goodness and higher calling that made me want to join it in the first place.

incalculable said...

This is pretty unbelievable, actually. Um, does this not constitute sexual harassment? Is this not a total undermining of this student's academic career? (Not to mention personhood?) Is there no mechanism to do something about this? Quite frankly, as a (female) student submitting precisely this application next week... this makes me quite ill.

Thoroughly Educated said...

I wonder whether there's an ethical way to let the student in question know that she has a damaging/inappropriate letter in her dossier.

Fifi Bluestocking said...

Holy cr*p.

dbm/gaa said...

Oh my good goddess that is one of the worst things I have ever heard. I think SSHRC should refuse to accept this person's letters anymore.

In a strange twist of fate, I'll bet one of my letters is in your stack.

Yeah, I think I'm approaching done with this 'profession' as well. I don't think I can deal with lumpen, over-privileged students anymore. I try to be charitable. I try to be understanding. This year I am failing at both of those things and it is only September!

Hilaire said...

I immediately sent the application to the Dean of Graduate Studies and she is going to figure out what to do with it. My sense is that the letter needs to be pulled from the file.

I think it does constitute sexual harassment or a human rights violation, incalculable. But confidentiality makes it almost impossible to do anything about it. There is talk, though, of phoning the person's Chair (at another institution).

TE, I think it's absolutely imperative that the student's supervisor be told to warn her not to ever use this referee again. Neither the supervisor nor the student need to be told why.

This is just so, so sick and demoralizing on so many levels.

heu mihi said...

Nothing to add to these comments. Just--wow. I'm sorry. It sounds like you did the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Oh DEAR GOD!!! I am speechless...

-DN

Susan said...

I am speechless. I thought people had learned not to WRITE that stuff (we can't stop them thinking it) some time 20 years ago or so.

I'm glad the Dean is in on this. . . it's really icky. And if I ever saw this sleaze bag, I think I'd empty my hot coffee all over him. That is, if I didn't have a handy pile of mud or dog shit to smear over his clothes....

My word verification is cryep, which seems oddly apposite.

Bardiac said...

Good call getting the Dean involved. Wouldn't it be great if there were actually consequences for sexist behavior?

Psych Post Doc said...

I really hope the dean is able to do something about this ass. I can't even believe he put that in a letter.

Anonymous said...

Just unbelieveable! Isn't it scary to even think that there could be individuals that would sit back and do absolutely nothing about this type of letter? I'm so glad you're so proactive, Hilaire. Wow. Incredible.

- Heather

JustMe said...

wow. i mean, wow. glad you were able to do something about it at least. of course i'd want to punch him in the face personally, but when would one even get that chance...

PossiblyFutureDrGirl said...

Although I'm a pacifist, it is times like these that I think that hiring hitmen --that is, hitpeople --sounds particularly appealing...

Hang in there. YOU are awesome for doing your best to change this crappy world for the better.

Maggie said...

jesus christ. I am so naive for being surprised that stuff like this still happens. Of course it does. But jesus.

Sfrajett said...

Wow. Wow. I can't help but think there is something illegal about that letter. WTF? The older I get, the more tempted I am to hate undergraduates. Not all of them, but many. Many, many of them. Sigh.

What Now? said...

A couple of years ago when I was on a search committee, one of the applicants had the most half-assed letter of rec from his former diss. director -- not one that constituted harassment, as in this case today, but one in which the older prof just clearly didn't give a rat's ass if this student ever got a job and thus couldn't be bothered to do more than dash off a line or two.

So after the search was concluded, I sent the candidate an email saying that his advisor's letter was really letting down his application and that he might want to consider getting someone else to write a letter instead. He wrote me back a very grateful email to thank me for letting him know.

It hadn't actually occurred to me before now that I might have been breaking confidentiality -- although I didn't actually tell him what the letter said, just that it wasn't a good letter -- but damn it, the poor guy needed to know.