February 06, 2012

Life is much larger than them

My doctoral adviser recruited me and then dumped me after 5 years. She used my master's thesis to further her career, but knowing the quid-pro-quo situation in grad school, I turned a blind eye towards her blatant stealing of other students' (sometimes undergrads) papers and theses as well as mine.

When the time came, she had to get rid of me because I knew too much about her dirty laundry. She falsified information about me and spread malicious rumors in the dept (and I suspect also to the people in my field). I was suddenly dumped by my entire dissertation committee (later found out that the chair of the dept ordered them to do so) and was basically kicked out of school without any official reason. The school backed her up and didn't even give me a proper graduate school committee hearing. Friends and family urged me to sue the school as well as my adviser, but foolishly wanting to survive academia, I decided not to. I was lucky enough to transfer to another school and finally earned my doctoral degree, but what makes me shudder till this day is the manner in which my adviser manipulated people around her to eliminate me. I later found out that the official reason she gave to the dept chair and faculty was that her high school daughter didn't like me. And based on this, the entire school mobilized in such a manner that can only be described as monstrous bullying.

But at the end of the day, there is a thing called karma. The adviser got rejected by her own daughter later in life, one of my committee members lost their child and another ended up fat and lonely. Looking back, the way they treated me was indicative of how they would treat other people. I don't know what makes certain academics the way they are, but I'm suspecting the long years of bullying they witnessed might have registered in their heads as 'normal'. From where I stand now, it seems like academics are the most pitiful creatures. Nobody would ever know who they are except for each other, but they would literally kill to hang on to that little piece of what they perceive as 'glory'. Life is much larger than them.



Anonymous said...

After many years in grad school, I've concluded that if getting a Ph. D. had anything to do with intelligence, hard work, talent, and integrity, many universities would have to close because they wouldn't get enough faculty to remain in business. It's nothing but intimidation, abuse, and cheap politics.

Or is it? When I had about 2 years left in which to finish my degree, my Ph. D. supervisor informed me that he wasn't interested in what I was working on after I'd already put in 4 years and changed topics once. Instead, he devoted his attention to his golden girl grad student with whom I'm convinced he was having an affair. (He had an eye for the young ladies and she was enough of a slut to go along with it, even though she had no need to as she was certainly smart enough.) The last I heard, she was bucking for tenure at a university at the other end of the country. As for me, I can't even get hired at a junior college.

Anonymous said...

I am inspired by both of your comments. I mean you had horrible experiences and I had too and after reading yours I feel I want to fight and life is so much bigger than what I thought it was. I came to do phd in spain. I am from asia and in my master´s degree I had 7 publications because I had an amazing supervisor who guided me very well.In one particular university in barcelona I got in immediately... but soon afterwards the supervisor started treating me bad and want me to work on a certain project. He also wants to commercially use my master´s degree work etc. He left me to work with his ex student who finished phd already and it seems the ex-student doesn´t like me. I also found out they are doing some european projects in this field and they have no experience or work previously done in this field. Soon my supervisor started blaming me that I am a liability for his research group because I don´t speak spanish (though the university says officially that all doctoral work is done in english and performs every work in english). Well I wanted to make the work done so I used to translate every work and do it by myself. I also learnt the other language called catalan to work and do subject testing etc. But then their works have no transparency. One day my supervisor just told me that this is not ASIA! This is europe and no matter you have 8 publications in ASIA it means nothing because we don´t even believe in your publications. It seemed that no matter how much I would work hard to work with them they would only not cooperate with me because I am from asia. Well another thing was because I look like indian my supervisor wanted me to do an investigation of pakistani immigrants in barcelona. I wasn´t interested in it and so it seems he just didn´t want me so he and his ex student started bullying me and harrassing me in every work, every meeting. Also I am more like nordic, I speak very less while their nature was very different and talking aimlessly often. The supervisor also didn´t teach good manners to new students who were in the group but had no research etiquette. Some visiting professors came from USA and these students couldn´t take comments from the american professors at all and were seriously defending. Well after being racially bullied and being said on and on that since I have 8 publications in the past, they will not help me and blaming me that I am making language excuses etc. I was confused because I really wanted to work. So I consulted the phd coordinator of the university. He said he will try to find out what is the details of the situation. As soon as he talked, things got worse. I was being treated rude by the whole group and now it was vengeance. I never knew that people or spaniards (though I don´t like generalizing people) can be so rude and in a university. They took chance of my politeness and modesty and my lack of language to humiliate me. Immediately after that I couldn´t tolerate and I quit. Now I am moving to usa. I haven´t told this reason to my new supervisor. I told that I couldn´t adapt well to spanish way and I want to change. What you guys suggest? Is it something to discuss with my new supervisor?

Anonymous said...

I can relate to these. I am in a similar position as I have spent 3 years working on my own as my supervisor had limited experience in research but was imposed on me. When I spoke up about supervision and a change of topic, I started facing bullying and intimidation and risk losing all I have spent these years doing. I wish I had left three years ago!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I am new here,and obviously desperation has caused me to search around and find solace in commons.

Not to mention, I am going through something similar, but what I learnt over my course of so called harassment, was that one need not shy away from academics or all academicians just because we have had a bad experience with one.

It pays to be a little cautious. Spending a few months to a year working on a short project, before making long term commitments may often be a fruitful strategy. Observe your boss and then decide to commit.

if currently in a bad situation, just go outright and confront your boss. Confrontation often helps. If one is not confident, doing it in presence of some well wishers is often advisable. If confrontation does not help, just go outright and sue the damn person, with all the heft you can. That should straighten most crooked people.

Anonymous said...

I am currently in a situation where I have reported my (ex) PhD supervisor to the dean and vice chancellor for bullying and slander. I was on the verge of suing him, but its hard to prove slander - especially when im on a scholarship and he's a millionaire. He is a morally corrput person who wanted to steal my phd data to use on his grant application. When I flagged that I was unhappy for him to do that, he started a systematic campaigne of defamation making up stories about my mental health. Unfortunately for him, they way he went about it left him vulnerable to accusation of slander, as his lies were full of holes. My data was eventually submitted to the most prestigious conference in the field and has been selected as a finalist for the young investigator award. He has been forced to work on my manuscripts - rather than delaying on purpose. I am seeking a formal apology from the guy, via the University, beuacse he has no leg to stand on. He too, at the lowest of depths threatened to take everything, cut my funding and training. But thats how bullies operate! They make you feel as though they control you (but they dont). The University has policies and procedures and flow charts to guide action dealing with bullying. Never feel helpless. People like that almost always have enemies in academia world. After I present my manuscript in November, I intend on submitting the second half to another major award meeting. Last year I got the national research proze in the field. Clearly, he didnt want me reaching this level of success - but I am currently in the process of making him realise that his approach has back-fired. ps: My co-supervisor (currently the primary one) is the head of discipline - so he's the bully's boss. That helped a lot!