Tuesday, May 08, 2007

WWYAD?

What Would Your Advisor Do? I went to a faculty meeting recently, knowing in advance that one of my colleagues was going to say, as he tends to do: "X says that.." or "X thinks that.." (X = his former advisor at a distant university). To him, X's opinions are profound and definitive and should guide discussions and planning in our department.

Before the meeting, a different colleague and I had discussed whether, on the occasion of hearing these magic words, we would say something like:

"Well, MY advisor thinks.." (even if we hadn't spoken to our former advisors in ages and were making it all up),

or possibly: "Hey, let's all go around the table and say what we think our former advisors would say about this topic!"

But that would be mean. In any case, we were thwarted because our advisor-worshiping colleague said, instead, "I talked to someone about this, and he or she told me ...". We all knew he was talking about his former advisor, but I guess he figured out that he'd better place a bit more distance between himself and The Great One.

30 comments:

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Ctelblog said...

Always struck me that this sort of behaviour represented insecurity, in the sense that the person saying it wants to say something but either (a) is afraid of saying it themselves for fear of being seen as stupid or (b) by invoking a 'higher' power, in the my ace trumps your king or whatever. I've also seen it in organisations where intellectual bullying is commonplace.

lady macleod said...

Perhaps the advisor because he has no opinion of his own, or no confidence in them?

Akira said...

Hello,

I just stumbled on your blog and I think I'll be a continuous reader after this!Some day, if my dreams actually come true I'll join the ranks of female scientists. XD

Histrophiliscientific said...

Sometimes we become so concerned with sources of and idea that we don't take time to evaluate the idea critically on its own merit. If it's a good idea who cares where it came from?

nappyheaddiva said...

wow.. your so nuce, I would have told him off...

Double-Dolphin said...

hey, came across your blog on blogger. had fun reading ur stuff. i'm linking you on my blog. hope that's ok with u???

Mike said...

Are "his" ideas good after all?

Female Science Professor said...

Alas, they are not, but I only say that because I tend to disagree with them.

YAMP said...

This kind of behaviour is totally normal for new junior department members. Partially it is because he does not have any ideas of his own yet, perhaps he still is over-shadowed by his supervisor (it can be easy to forget the strength of that bond for some) and lastly because he thinks his opinion will not be listened to simply because it is his.

It is completely untrue that the "best" ideas get listened to in a department. There will always be politics and unfounded bias. And, even when it is agreed that ideas are good it is another issue altogether as to whether anything is done about them.

Female Science Professor said...

My colleague is an Associate Professor..

wolfa said...

"My advisor would have said that their advisor would have said . . . "

Crabby McSlacker said...

I'm sort of an interloper here, (having not hung out in the world of academia for a really long time, and even then, only as a student) but this sounds like very silly behavior on his part. Who cares what his former advisor thinks? Why should his advisor's opinions carry any special weight unless everyone else present also admires this same advisor?

Are advisors always held in that much reverence, or is this just a personal issue this guy has? Maybe it's sort of like saying "my grandpa always told me blah blah blah..."

I gotta say I'd find it annoying, but like FSP, probably wouldn't embarass him by calling him on it. (Unless he was being particularly obnoxious).

Sounds like maybe he's already starting to feel self conscious about it anyway.

PS-you may have to resort to comment moderation at some point...the blog trollers are returning.

$ean Alday said...

This is the only way I know for sure how to contact you. I was wondering if you might get a colleague in the english department to look over some of my writings and essays.
Only if it wouldn't be to much of a bother, thank you.

They can be found at:

http://leavingtranquility.blogspot.com

BTW: I'm enjoying your blog, what will you do in the summer?

Da' Goat said...

Unfortunately, this is how intra-departmental wars get started. You and your colleague have chosen up sides on this very trivial issue against babbling-fool X, building this link between you and against him. These things grow, gaining more and more people on sides until the time comes for an important decision and it is based on this foolish social link instead of solid thought. I say let it go. This is like your spouse brushing their teeth the wrong way. Who cares. Suck it up and be a professional.

Susan B. Anthony said...

Sounds like another square for the Faculty Meeting Bingo game.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that this appears here as I have seen this sort of behaviour all over. "X company did it this way..." or "My supervisor in X group all was said..." are common in at least IT. Now that I'm back at school and finishing my PhD, I find that when I talk with my fellow grads in my group, I always say "my supervisor says..." - but to be fair he IS the dean of science :)

Female Science Professor said...

Fear not, goat, this is not a war or us-against-them. It's just a description of a colleague's eccentricity. In fact, I like this colleague personally, even if we disagree about department politics. Are you reassured that I can be professional? I sure am.

Ms.PhD said...

Wow, I was jealous at first of all the traffic on your site, but reading some of the comments... not anymore.

This post made me laugh. I have seen this type, and yes you'd think they'd grow out of it. I just don't understand the hero-worshipping attitude of it. Don't most people realize, eventually, that even their beloved advisors are fallible sometimes, just like the rest of us?

hedgehogman said...

nice thougt
we can think creatively and just
get the advisor thougt away

Klatuu o embu├žado said...

Universities are filled with «advisors»... The godfathers of an idiotic enclosed «marginal» society which build up padrons of convenience thoughts.
Better to be advise by a dog... its bark is pure reality! The decline of western civilization can be - considering its leading self proposed «mission» - well measured from the extension of the growing stupidity of North American «good thinkers».

«When Nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it.»
Ralph Waldo Emerson

YAMP said...

My colleague is an Associate Professor..

Yikes!

What I said before is still true, it just really doesn't apply to him. That kind of behaviour is fine for junior members -- especially those with little PDF time -- but not for an Associate.

Global Girl said...

This may be a somewhat odd and tangential question, but this is making me wonder: Are you supposed to bond with your advisor? Mine is rather distant, is that uncommon and/or bad, then?

kiran keswani said...

nice blog...

Female Science Professor said...

Global Girl, It's not uncommon or bad. Some people are closer to their advisors than others, depending on the people involved. My advisor and I were not close at all.

YAMP said...

Global Girl, it is also trickier for young women with older male supervisors. I have come to see mine as my closest colleague who just happens to have 20 years seniority. Relationships with supervisors are like those between any other pair of people -- they come in all shapes, sizes and depths.

As long as you are comfortable that you are getting what you need in terms of collaboration and mentorship then the rest is irrelevant.

Michelle Verges, Project Director said...

Yes, this post also reminds me of a similar line used by academics. It goes something like this:

"When I was at X..."

Usually X stands for prestigious institutions, like "U of M," as this person would always say. (For the rest of us, that would be the University of Michigan.)

How obnoxious--just recalling this line made my eyes roll!

:0)
Michelle
conserveplasticbags.blogspot.com

SandyShoes said...

Yep, the rest of you could hammer this colleage relentlessly. "Hey Bob, I was thinking of a tuna melt for lunch, but what do you think X. would have?" "So Bob, I was going to see Spider Man 3 this weekend, has X. seen it yet?"

But you're right, better take a somewhat higher road (dang!).

My own advisor had a pretty strong resemblance to Yoda. Quote him this way did we. At least it didn't lend itself to getting all pretentious. Tiresome, but not pretentious :).

Female Science Professor said...

I wish you were in my department! Those are exactly the types of imaginary questions my friend and I were tossing around before the faculty meeting. The possibilities are endless and entertaining, and then we have the take the boring old high road for the sake of harmony and world peace, alas.

scholar henry said...

I suffer from quoting also. Lately I say things like Jefferson said, Thomas Sowell says, Waldo said, Dr. Rice says, My Mother says, President Bush says, Trotsky said.

Then I have a string of Nobel Prize Winner's who speak. Kenneth Arrow indicated, Amartya Sen elaborated, Herbert Simon rationalized. One day I will be pointedly challenged with "And what do you say?"