The most obnoxious comment I have seen in a long time showed up in a review of a proposal for someone’s young investigator award. A colleague from a highfalutin institution (whose name shares 2/3 of its characters with the agency that James Bond works for) has written not once but twice in the same report that the candidate did well while in grad school and postdoc, but as independent faculty not so much. I am very glad the colleague pointed that out, because the applicant could have fooled me, with all the papers published and major grants received since becoming a tenure-track faculty member. The colleague also wrote (I can’t believe this) that the applicant is at a university that is “not very reknown [sic] as a major research institution” so “it may be challenging to recruit strong postdocs.” Way to rub it in and remind the applicant that they are no James Bond! We wouldn’t want them to get a big head! As if the applicant doesn’t already know, and much better than the reviewer, how hard it is to get good people at places that are “not very reknown” and is still able to do what seems to me like really cool work.
Repeat after me: There are excellent people at every school. There are excellent people at every school. There are excellent people at every school. Do not assume someone is feeble-minded or needs you to explain their situation to them because the US News and World Report doesn’t rank their school as having one of the top 5 grad programs.