Academic Nuggets

There should be a special place in academic hell for:

  1. Expat academic scientists who only talk with, advise, and collaborate with people from their own home country. This is wrong on many levels. I know quite a few such specimens, from several different locales.
  2. Professors who work at research-intensive, PhD-granting institutions, yet cannot be bothered to train graduate students. They can only work with postdocs because their work is “too complicated” (as opposed to everyone else’s simplistic work). The fact that somebody else had to train all those postdocs, from baby graduate students to the level at which the are professional PhD-holding scientists, doesn’t seem to enter these people’s minds.

Any other candidates for eternal academic damnation?



  1. People of high rank who insist that “everyone should…” do something after one failure (e.g. a grad student complains, legitimately, that they haven’t had a meeting with their very senior, always-travelling supervisor for three months), attend many meetings, make a lot of noise, involve the Dean, create elaborate schemes with extra paperwork which are imposed as mandatory on the whole Faculty (e.g. monthly required one to ones with grad students requiring detailed documentation), which have to be monitored by a member of support staff etc. all in the very virtuous sounding name of supporting the graduate student properly, then don’t fill out said forms or follow said rules for their own Graduate students because “I know what I’m doing” or even MORE annoyingly “my group only recruits elite students who don’t need this level of hand holding because I am so fabulous”

    People who self-righteously harp on about how finishing the thesis within the official time limit is really, really essential to grad student training and not doing so proves the student is completely unsuited to further work in science or academe… but who took almost 5 years themselves when the time limit is 3.3 years,

    oh, I could go on….

  2. People who think that Mission Statements, Program Assessment plans, Strategic Plans, and other Consultant Newspeak terms are actually meaningful.

    I am on a high level committee, and there are administrators who honestly think that all of these things have some connection to what happens on the ground. I keep trying to hint that they are like the planners in Moscow, relying on reports from factory managers whose jobs security depends on telling the planners that the Five Year Plan is on track.

    What’s really pathetic is when professors believe in this bullshit. Don’t hire Ivy Leaguers, because they come from the social class that believes in this shit.

  3. Senior Very Important Professors who intimidate or power-trip junior or “lesser” faculty. An example: it was before I gained tenure, and I was teaching a graduate level class with eight students in it, half of which were studying under Very Important Internationally Famous Academician. Just as I was about to walk down the hall from my office to the seminar room, the phone rang. It was VIProf’s secretary. “Dr. So-And-So’s weekly lab meeting is running long today, and he will not permit anyone to leave because the material being discussed is very important. He instructs you to delay the start of your class today by an hour.”

  4. We had one of #1 in grad school! All from China, most didn’t speak much English… It was bad.

    I propose a circle of hell for Chairs who refuse to deal with department issues because it would be inconvenient.

  5. Professors who work at research-intensive, PhD-granting institutions, who cannot be bothered to train undergraduate students. They can only work with grad students or postdocs because their work is “too complicated” (as opposed to everyone else’s simplistic work). The fact that somebody else had to train all those undergrad students, from basically zero level knowledge in about everything under the sun to the level at which they are ready to jump into training as professional PhD scientists, doesn’t seem to enter these people’s minds. There are research-intensive undergraduate schools out there as well.

  6. People at university academic departments who won’t teach classes because they are “too focused on their research”.

  7. People who only want to teach in their specialty and not teach core classes required for all specialties.

  8. Faculty who think their time is more valuable than yours and cannot be bothered to follow simple rules of decent human behavior (don’t show up for meetings they they scheduled themselves because something important came up, let their students shamelessly highjack shared equipment because they have a very important experiment, sit on co-authored manuscripts for months because they have more important manuscripts to do, etc).

    What Alex said about Strategic Plans and similar bullshit.

    Faculty who turn into administrators and lose touch with humanity, communicating only in Newspeak. Then they spearhead the change of the teaching schedule from semesters to quarters (because it’s better for the students) or from quarters to semesters (because it’s better for the students) and then, with that game-changing experience under their belt, move on to a higher administrative position at a different institution.

    I could go on and on.

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