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Friendly Academic Cooperation

I recently witnessed a fine example of the spirit of open investigation and cooperation that drives academics today. A friend of mine was contacted by his advisor. The advisor was contacted by a former associate's tenure review committee. My friend was given the assignment of reviewing the associate's papers and writing up enough dirt to make sure they would not get tenure. No, the committee is not at MIT.

I'm used to nice simple fields where only my coworkers, vendors and customers are busy trying to get me fired and destroy my career. For the most part people I've worked in the past leave well enough alone unless they are trying to (not) hire me at their own company.

No, this didn't really surprise me; I realize tenure politics are brutal. But in an ideal world it would seem like the committee could do its own dirty work.

Comments

now that's just appalling. DaveO always calls me naive because I don't like to believe that kind of thing happens. Gah.
I agree with you but some things to think about.
How would you feel if it were a doctor or safety criticals systems person being reviewed and the concerns were about general qualifications for the job.
ANother thing that seemed to be true in this instance is that the review was exclusively based on valid concerns about quality of papers published.
My issue is not with someone giving reasons not to hire someone, especially when asked because of a previous work association. Of course where lives are at stake it's very important, but I'd think tenure is a big deal too - professors and other teachers have (or should/can have) a huge effect on students' lives and futures.

My issue is with my (apparently inaccurate) reading - my impression was that the advisor was asking your friend to dig for dirt because the advisor didn't want the person hired and was looking for an excuse, as opposed to asking your friend to, for example, compile documentation to back the advisor's negative assessment of the person's work.

But it does sound weirdly complicated, as tibbetts points out.

The problem is that such a review was required

I would think the real issue here is that such a review was required. Usually when not hiring someone I don't want to work with, a simple comment on my part is sufficient, maybe with a little bit of justification. It sounds like the tenure process had proceeded much farther than it should have with this individual, if it got to the point where a written disection of this person's lack of qualifications became necessary.