recommendation letters/alternate careers

aloisia schmid a-schmi at
Mon Dec 2 18:06:05 EST 1996

> What I meant by the "other side of the story" is the advisor's side.
> I am especially referreing to Alice's comments where she expresses
> an enourmous amount of outrage and judgement at a person she has
> never met or heard her point of view, and I think that is a very
> dangerous and unjust approach in every aspect of work and life.
> In many cases, reading some of the comments, I find people commenting
> on various experiences of others assuming that it is mostly the
> advisor's fault. That is a bit childish. It may very well be that
> in many cases the advisor was less than perfect, but throughout the
> years, I find that many of these situations can be overcome and worked
> through if one doesn't let things "cook" for too long and people keep
> an open mind.
> Another point that worries me when reading Alice's comments as
> well as Jenn's is about women supporting other women. Yes, women
> should be mentors and supportive, but by no means it should be
> obvious just by gender. It should be earned. I think we should make
> our enviroment friendly and make sure that all the possibilities are
> open for female students and postdocs just as they are for males but
> it should not be obvious that there should be anything different between
> supporting women or men. I am sure that we would all be upset if, for
> example, a black advisor would be a lot more supportive of his black
> students than his white ones.
> This kind of stuff can backfire. And if we are critical of old boys
> networks and the like we have to show that we do not do the same.
>                                         cheers,
>                                            Leemor
>Dear Leemor,

      I wasn't responding with unconsidered outrage;  I had been reading 
two sides of a story from two people over five or six letters--not all of
which were posted on the news group.  So I don't think I over-reacted. 
And I did say that I would be interested to hear what the adviser's
position on all of this was.  Nevertheless, my objections to this adviser
were that her demands of students in her lab were excessive (10-midnite
were unsatisfactorily short hours) and that two of her earliest students
felt abandoned by her, one moreso than the
other.  This is not to say the adviser may not have had some legitimate
concerns, but the considerable quantity of information both of these women
have provided suggests the adviser herself feels she may have acted
unsatisfactorily, and also suggests that their stories of abandonment in
graduate science education reflect real weaknesses in the system.

      Also, this group is dedicated to making the paths women follow in
science easier.  Of COURSE we all feel that everything should be equal and
fair to everyone, men and women alike.  It is ridiculous, however, to say
that the way
to achieve that is to be more noble than the present majority and sooner
or later they will come around and recognize that our behaviours are the
preferable way to be.  I have absolutely no objection to a black adviser
giving his or her students extra help in navigating their ways through the
system.  That is after all, why minority role models are so important. 
There is a big difference though, in doing the kinds of things I
suggested---giving advice and helping people plan meetings or entertain
speakers, or giving of yourself in those ways---and in doing things that
are blatantly unfair and unethical and maybe even illegal---things that
nevertheless go on every day, not only in science but in the world at
large.  I went to a golden wedding anniversary over the week-end and it
was at a large country club and they had a paneled wall with the
photographs of all of the club presidents since the club's founding 100
years ago.  And every last one of them was a white man.  Even the last
twenty years worth of them.   In and of itself--fine.  Whatever.  I don't
play golf and I don't care who the president of the golf club is.  But
it's NOT just golf.  I wonder how many business deals are cemented on the
links, I wonder how many referrals are directed through foursomes.  That
is exactly the WRONG kind of help to be giving people--the kind that gives
them an unfair competitive advantage.  I am not suggesting we play mean
and dirty in the other direction.  I don't think anyone who really thinks
about it does.  I am saying that because the cards are stacked against
women and minorities, by things just exactly like the old boy network,
women and minorities have to dedicate themselves to working within the
system to improve it, and that means mentoring and paying special
attention to the women and monorities in your charge who are having
trouble.  And to do less is to drop the ball.

       I resent it when people imply that to pay special attention to
women and minorities is to deprive the majority of fair treatment.  Of
course not.  It simply says that having experienced all that I have, I
will give someone who has the same disadvantages (and they DO exist!) some
special attention.  But I WILL also be supportive and mentoring to men and
to white students.  I mean really!

       So i appreciate your concerns about fair play Leemore, but I think
they were misplaced in this case.


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