Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The A**-holery of some faculty members

So I went to a faculty interview this week. Everything went fine (almost) including the talks, discussions with the faculty, discussion with grad students, talking with admin people and talking about the place/area/family. The lunches and dinners were amazing and I really enjoyed visiting the department and this mid-sized city. Everything went awesome (well almost).

You see there were two faculty member that behaved like a**holes. Both were senior faculty members with one of them being in a place of power.

The first one asked two inappropriate questions about my current job and the future job during my job-talk. Thereafter, he went on to tell me that he didn't see any XX sub-area being used in the research, hence should not apply for a job in this department.

I gracefully answered his questions and went on to take other questions. In the meeting with this particular person he kept on insisting that the problems that we are facing in my sub-area are trivial and should had been solved by now. Mind you that this person is not any where near my broader or sub-area in his research interests (a quick google search shows that he published his last paper 10 years ago !). Anyway, I very patiently tried to explain why the problem is complex and requires far more years than he was suggesting. Needless to say that this meeting left a bad taste in my mouth.

The second person who is in an influential position (hence I expected him to be professional) got all worked out about my sub-area. His argument was since I have not talked about this sub-area in my talk I should explain how I plan to incorporate this sub-area in my future plans. I tried to explain but he wanted more and more detail. Mind you that this person is not anywhere near my area or sub-area and does not have a slightest idea about the problems that is being faced by everyone. Also note that the same explanation (even less) was useful for other faculty members who did not worked in my area.

After trying to grill me on this he asked me to tell him the courses that I can teach ( reasonable but he wanted to know exactly what I would teach right on the spot), and some equations that I had not seen in the past 10 years of my research career ( again equations not corresponding to the research area or the discussion).

Interesting same person was nicer in the morning since he had very positive feedback from the other faculty members !

I do not know what to make out of this behavior.


  1. It is a disease in academia called "seniority". This condition is mostly observed in older and more established faculty and it gets worse the longer they stay in academia. Usually these patients no matter what their research background show paranoia in believing that they understand your sub area better than you and that if they wanted they could solve all the problems of your field in a month and therefore can judge your research plan and tell you that using the XX-sub area is more important than having a brain. Other symptoms of disease are illogical behavior, bullying, and giving themselves the permission to open their mouths and make stupid comments and grill you down. Solid pieces of scientific evidence or logical discussions have proven to fail in dealing with these patients. Unfortunately, there is no known cure to this condition. Patients leave academia after retirement.

    I will finish with an example of a recent patient I handled. A Faculty, in his late sixties who suffers from "seniority" turns to another faculty who is in his early fifties and says "How many students have you graduated? n? I have graduated 2n! ha ha ha ha"

  2. @M : This is funny and sad simultaneously :P

    The problem was that I couldn't say something like ( you don't know what you are talking about kinda thing) coz I was interviewing and I didn't wanted to not get the position coz I losed my temperament. At least now I know that any decision will not be based on me being an asshole and chips may fall where they may.

  3. I know how frustrating it is not to lose your temperament. You just want to tell the damn guy to shut up for a second and listen to your argument instead of repeating his own louder and louder. What else can we do except to be grilled?

    These kind of people usually shut up though if you use bigger names than theirs. For example you can say, "Your idea is interesting but when I talked to this super famous scientist who is more senior than you he found my approach totally innovative and had high hopes for my research". Although you must have actually met the super famous scientist and impressed him.

    All jokes aside, I don't really know how to deal with these people. If you figure out let me know. because in general, in my everyday life, I don't know how to deal with assholes either. Just remember these days and when you get in his position, don't be that asshole.