Tuesday, March 5, 2013

From Dr. Amelia: And the winner for cojones of the year goes to...

You, my esteemed colleague.

To agree to work on a project so that your name is on our grant application was fine.

To then never "have the time" to contribute anything to the actual project was crafty.

But now we're having a high-profile event related to the project. I was promoting it in the College of Basketry and said in an e-mail that anyone who had questions could contact me or the other guy who put the event together. You wrote to me last night upset that I didn't include your name as someone who could answer questions. About something you have had nothing to do with.

That, my friend, is a giant pair of cojones the likes of which I have only heard of in whispered legend.

Much respect.
Dr. Amelia


  1. A while ago Dr. Hubs had the cojones to unilaterally remove the name of a guy who had contributed nothing to a joint project they'd supposedly done together. Minor scandal ensued.

    I'm so glad joint projects in the humanities are rare.

    1. "I'm so glad joint projects in the humanities are rare."


  2. Back in my previous career I worked for three years on a project developing a new software program.* I left to take a new job a bit under a month before launch (with my boss’s permission) I had finished 98% of the work and a coworker took over what little was left of my tasks. When the launch date came there was a party and the project-manager** handed out plaques. Guess who got the plaque for the work I did? Yep, my coworker. Even better, the coworker wasn’t there so they asked me to deliver it! I refused.

    * FWIW, I was requirements/testing/documentation, NOT programming.

    ** The PM was not my manager. She was a contractor while I was staff.

  3. My Ph. D. supervisor didn't do a whole lot while I was working on my thesis. He shamelessly told me, after I worked on it for several years, that he wasn't really interested in it. During a critical time, when my research was going nowhere, he heaped insult and abuse on me when I tried explaining to him what I thought was going on with my computer model. He griped and complained when he had to read my thesis draft and he was too lazy to make arrangements for my defence, which I ended up doing myself.

    His only real contributions were reading the manuscript and paying expenses incurred when I attended some conferences. Others than that, he didn't do zip.

    Yet, people asked questions when I didn't specifically thank him in my thesis acknowledgements. I figured why should I. I'm not in the habit of rewarding someone who's shiftless and work-shy.

    1. Nevertheless, I think it's traditional to thank one's advisor. You might get a pass if (s)he was actually convicted of, or at least indicted for, wrongdoing (especially wrongdoing directly against you) before the defense, but barring that, I think the traditional approach is to calibrate the degree of thanks if necessary, but to make sure that it's there, and, at least on the surface, impeccably correct (passive-aggressive statements parseable by others who have survived a particular program and/or advisor, however, are not unknown).

      Mind you, mine weren't much help, either (though there's room for shared blame there, with me, and with larger contextual/structural issues in my grad department and institution at the time I was writing the diss.). But they're mentioned, and relatively warmly, with specific mentions of qualities I appreciated (it helps if you take c. a decade to write the thing, since one can always cite patience as an appreciated quality). If one read closely, one might notice that undergrad teachers and grad school friends are mentioned far more warmly, but the difference isn't so apparent as to be undiplomatic.

      On the other hand, I left out any mention of a family member who came darn close to deliberately sabotaging my progress (it may have been accidental instead). I suspect I'm still in trouble for that, though (and I might have been wiser to say something bland and appreciative even in that quarter).

      So I'd say that, tempting as it is (especially when sleep-deprived and frustrated at the end of the process) to leave people out of the acknowledgments, it is best to err on the side of charity, humility, and inclusiveness.

    2. I did thank him in a roundabout open-ended fashion. I expressed my gratitude to all who "made it possible", or some such thing.

      However, it didn't seem to matter to him if I did because he signed it. Maybe he did it just to get rid of me.

  4. Very impressive cojones. It's a miracle this person can walk straight.