Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Troll Tales

Lest anyone wonder if my previously mentioned most trollish colleague (1, 2, 3) confines his denigrating, patronizing, and rude comments to me, fear not: he treats other women faculty the same way.

Today, in the presence of an undergraduate student, Professor Troll loudly berated a female assistant professor in the hallway, telling her that she was irresponsible, that she was selfish, and that she was endangering her students' futures. My colleague said, as calmly as she could, that she had no idea what he was talking about. He said that she had a responsibility to provide letters of reference for student applications to graduate school, but she had not fulfilled this responsibility. She said that she believed she had.

She went to her office to investigate what had happened -- perhaps her letters had gone astray or not been uploaded correctly? As she was checking, she got a message from the department chair asking to see her. He told her that he had heard she had not written letters of reference for her undergraduate advisees etc. etc.

Soon after, she got the information she needed. All her letters of reference had been received, but another referee, a senior male professor in our department, had not yet sent his letters. Professor Troll just assumed that the problem was the FSP, and, without checking his facts, not only embarrassed her in front of her student and others within earshot, but he went to the chair and complained about her. When he does things like this to me, it is obnoxious; when he does this to an assistant professor, it is evil.

Will he castigate the malingering senior male professor in the same way, with raised voice and a lecturing tone? Will he apologize to the FSP? I don't know, but past experiences do not give much reason to think so. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, though, as this might at least demonstrate that his main interest is in the welfare of the students and not in the thrill of reprimanding a FSP.

21 comments:

Fernando Pereira said...

As a former department chair, I can't fathom why your chair would take the troll's accusations at face value without incontrovertible evidence. I never had to deal with a troll in my department, but I had to deal with similar issues in other administrative capacities. The correct response is clear: ask for evidence, without which you cannot do anything, and dismiss the complainant politely but firmly if the right evidence is not produced in short order. Protect the target of the unfounded accusation. If there is evidence of offensive behavior by the complainant, be clear that boorish behavior will not be tolerated.

Drugmonkey said...

Collegiality is nice and all, but why not just go all PhysioProf on his ass? I mean this chappie is so far beyond the pale of normal human interaction. It's practically a mental disorder.

PhysioProf said...

FSP, you have mentioned before that you and your husband have plenty of traction to obtain excellent positions at another university. Why do you stay among these fucking assholes (other than for blog fodder)?

Surely there are departments in your field that do not have "trolls", and/or do not tolerate and reinforce their despicable pathetic antics. I am not in the biomedical sciences, and my department does not have even a single faculty member who acts anywhere near like your troll. There is nothing shameful or weak or "running away" to leave a haven for shitty assholes. By staying, you--their most productive faculty member--reinforce their behavior. By leaving, and making it clear to the powers that be why you have left, you encourage them to clean house.

Angry Professor said...

It's time for the chair to step in and castrate this bozo.

Anonymous said...

And this is your problem because...?

Do you imagine an Assistant Professor cannot defend against this sort of thing? This so-called troll is speaking to the Asst. Prof's face making a complaint that can be readily addressed factually. You, on the other hand, are snarking around behind his back making complaints he doesn't know you are making, about things you know about only second-hand. Which would be easier to address?

Do you think your friend troll should ignore it if he believes someone is not writing letters for the students? Should he not be an advocate for undergrads who do not have any recourse at all when a prof leaves them high and dry (as I've seen some do)?

I think this so-called troll has unfortunate social skills accosting someone in a hallway, but it seems to me his heart was in the right place. I'd rather people advocated for students than keep their mouths shut about colleague's mistakes or gossiped about them but did nothing effective. You'd probably just build up resentments until there was a tenure decision or some such, not speak to someone in a hallway so they can take immediate corrective action.

Anonymous said...

Did you try staring at the Troll's zipper?

Ancarett said...

I'm with Fernando, here. I can't imagine someone taking a loudmouth, however senior, at face value. As graduate coordinator for our program, when such questions are raised, I go to the file and consult the documents. Then I contact the errant referee.

Your chair ought to be making a public apology to the assistant professor. I'd hope that your chair would also tackle the troll but I suspect hell would freeze over before that happens.

Schlupp said...

Yes, I also think that the Chair likewise has to apologize.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I would cry. I'm not a wimp, I don't think, but I would be so furious and mortified and offended all at the same time, I'd probably cry. I'm glad our resident condescending jerk limits himself to patronizing comments (which I'm sure he thinks are helpful); I can deal with that.

Schlupp said...

physioprof, I don't think such Trolls are that rare, the anonymous who commented that the Troll has his heart in the right place is a case in point.

Average Professor said...

Holy smokes.

Ditto the others who remarked that the chair should have known better.

And I kind of agree with this, too: Why do you stay among these fucking assholes (other than for blog fodder)? But I can myself list a million reasons why you would stay.

And finally, like anonymous, if I were that asst FSP, I'd cry too. I'd calmly state my case, and go back to my office, close the door, crawl under my desk, and let loose my anger in the form of tears.

Anonymous said...

I think the Chair needs to issue a joint apology, on behalf of the troll and himself.

Perhaps the troll might get the message, that way.

Kate said...

WTF? I can't even wrap my mind around the irresponsibility of it all. And your chair must be as bad as the troll if he automatically assumed troll was correct. And I'm with Schlupp: it doesn't make sense to decry that FSP should leave, because trolls are everywhere. That anonymous post was priceless... in a horrifying sort of way.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience with a colleague when I was a postdoc. The guy left a horrible message on my home answering machine accusing me of having ruined an instrument by running it without nitrogen. The name on the signing sheet was a male postdoc's, and to this day I have no idea why he assumed he had been me, other than he had seen me with the user in the instrument room that morning (I was saying hi). He did apologize after the user had shown up and set the record straight, but he certainly did not yell at the male user.
In spite of being one of the most productive in the lab, I was the most "complained about", most times for things that I actually had not done. I was also the only female.
Jerks come in all ages groups....
and boys feel threatened by successful colleagues at all stages of their careers

Female Science Professor said...

I agree that the chair should have questioned Professor T's complaint, but I think he was just trying to get the facts by asking the assistant prof. about the situation. He accepted her explanation and I am sure it didn't occur to him that his actions made it seem that he initially doubted her.

Most of Professor T's coeval colleagues have retired, though he shows no signs of doing so himself. He has definitely been a factor in my husband's and my recent discussions with other universities, but I can't see making a decision about my next 20 years based on avoiding this particular awful colleague.

franglais said...

FSP, if you are playing any sort of mentorship role with the assistant professor, it would be appropriate to advise her to request an apology from Troll at a meeting with the department chair. Troll may think twice next time before he screams at her and goes to the chair.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a little silly to suggest that staying at that department is condoning trollish behavior. In fact, one might make the argument that leaving the department is giving in to the troll. I think it is better to stay and stand up to trolls. Also, as much as people in academia may pretend it is not the case, there is more to life than work, and one does not leave an otherwise great work/life arrangement because of the one jerk.

Ms.PhD said...

This post is interesting. If nothing else, then to know that this sort of thing happens to people other than me, and that it might be partly due to sexist attitudes of 'blame the female.'

This sort of thing happens to me all the time. I'm 99% sure it has directly hurt my career, since you don't always find out who blamed you for something until it's much too late.

I hate how scientists can't and won't communicate.

I really, really hate it.

Correct protocol should have been for the chair to ASK this poor assistant prof to please confirm that all her letters had been received. Not ACCUSE.

But also this shows, once again, how departments not only harbor but protect and defend... professors who remind me of the kids I hated in elementary school.

Oh yeah, now I remember. We called them bullies.

You can call him a Troll if you want, but it's all the same to me.

The Bear Maiden said...

OK, I'm not at all scientific or a professor of anything (except maybe an adjunct professor in the School of Hard Knocks) but I tell you what... in the "real" world, in a corporate world, behavior you describe is called "Sexual Harassment". I can't believe that this is a.) tolerated and b.) apparently happens at other universities...

and it begs the question... why would I send my Sun to an institution--and probably pay out the ass for it, too--for him to see men disrespect women in this way, when I am explicit that I better never catch him treating a woman that way????

Fight Back said...

I agree with the Bear Maiden. Ladies, why don't we start fighting back? If we stand together we can get lawyers to sue these guys. Harrassing female scientists has got to end. It is not right. And just think. If we make these departments better for us, then they will be better for everyone.

I am sick and tired of all the cowardly men who serve as Directors and Chairs. Most are in it for the power and not for improving the status of female scientists (unless of course they can have sex with them).

Minos said...

I'd agree with much of what had been said here. The troll was obviously way out of line, and the Chair was very wrong to have handled it so badly (though I think the Chair could probably make up for his misstep with a sincere apology). The troll should definitely be reprimanded by the Chair, and official notice of the reprimand be kept so that a case log can be begun regarding this individual's behavior. The first step for dealing with these people is to keep an accurate, professional catalog of their abuses and to deal with their behavior on an official level. Such people have no business ruining the work environment for you or anyone else, and certainly have no business behaving that way to an untenured faculty member.