Professors behaving badly! Fer sure.

That's some tricky moves, Dr. Crazy!

Mighty tricky moves, Dr. Crazy!

I know–you’re shocked, shocked to find bad behavior here, right?  Here’s the dish:

First, Dr. Crazy tells a great story about her first post-tenure extra-departmental meeting, and revels in a bit of “D!ck Slapping.”  Hillarious!  (And inspirational.)  She writes:

So here I am, in the meeting of d00ds, and about 15 minutes in it becomes apparent that they think I’m a non-entity. And I notice their shock when I don’t accept that. I notice that they are actively surprised that I’m advocating for not only my position within the group but also for the position of my discipline and larger area.

I think the moment that I really realized what I was up against was when I challenged one of the committee members about an item of a proposal, and he had the gall to offer a rejoinder that ended, “So I just want you to understand that this is what you’re saying when you make this objection.” As if I don’t freaking understand what I’m saying! As if I don’t understand consequences! As if I’m I clueless little girl who needs to be schooled!

Never fear–there’s a happy ending to this story.  And maybe a lesson or two? 

Our second example of bad behavior comes to us from Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar, who engages in a little covert slapfest of her own with a missive to some jerk in her field.  (She’s not behaving badly–she’s calling out the bad behavior.): 

“[I]n the years since your first book came out, you’ve taken the opportunity to review just about every book even remotely related to your subject, and you’ve manage to subtly but thoroughly trash every one of them. Sure, there was the obligatory two-sentence paragraph at the tail end of every one saying how people should definitely read the book in question. But everything leading up to that point was intended to disparage the book under review. I haven’t read every review you’ve written, but every one I have read kinda follows this pattern.

Which is why I giggled with unworthy, shameful delight when I read a recent review of your second book. Did you read it? Uh-huh.

Karma’s a b!tch, ain’t it?  Most historians work in verysmall subfields, so bad behavior is usually noted and remembered.  I’ve had more than my share of jerk moments–that is, I’ve said (and even once published) something I regret.  It’s difficult, because the process of peer review requires us to render judgment on other people’s books, book manuscripts, and articles.  With book reviews, I try to keep in mind what average readers of book reviews will be interested in hearing about:  What is this book about?  What are its arguments and main contributions?  How does it fit with the current relevant historiography?  My personal views of a book are much less important than those questions.  Erring on the side of generosity doesn’t do as much harm as errors that go the other way.

What I wonder is:  who has time to write all of the book reviews that Notorious hints at?  Seriously?  Most history departments look at book reviews as more like service (as in service to the profession) than as scholarship.

What are your experiences with bad reviews–either writing them, reading them, or receiving them?  (Horrors!)

0 thoughts on “Professors behaving badly! Fer sure.

  1. Way to go Dr. Crazy! I practically have to pay someone to explain to me what I’m really saying. One wonders what august and non-humanistic policy issue was being defended–besides the primacy of the d00docracy–here. The university’s position on whether Pluto is a planet? A proposal to throw three tired old elements off the periodic table? Whether to keep using the Samuelson text in Econ 101? Something only a d00d could understand?

    On book reviews, I had one rejected once, without even the chance to revise and resubmit. An associate book review ed. said it wasn’t even a review, either. I said it was too. Was not. Was too. Was not. It didn’t run. I can’t even remember whether I praised or panned the book.


  2. The “you don’t know your own mind” thing ticks me right off. It’s one thing to hear it from a perfect stranger; quite something else to hear from people you’ve known for years. It’s really quite shocking to realize that people you know have apparently not considered you to be a whole, thinking, rational person with her own opinions! If not that, then what am I? Hats off to Dr. Crazy for wrestling them to the mat.


  3. I have always been amazed that some professors behave so badly knowing that such information spreads quickly. In my short time in academia, I have come upon many such horrible faculty behavior stories.

    For example, I met a grad student from a very prestigious school where a new faculty member from my doc program had previously been employed. She asked if I knew that professor and warned me to stay away from him, noting that he was known to take his doc students’ work, slap his name on it while removing theirs, and publish it. The story is also circulating about another professor who physically attacked a doc student who was rooming with him at a conference. And yet another professor is known by many for blackmailing her former grad student into not applying for a job at a certain school.

    Word of bad behavior spreads far and wide, and it can cost you grants, jobs, raises, and other opportunities.


  4. Feminist Avatar–it’s only fun when you’re able to give the book a largely positive review. Less fun is when you feel like you need to note some major problems. Then, even free is to high a price to pay for that book!


  5. Pingback: The Triple Day « Professor Zero

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