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April 15, 2005




I suppose another rational conclusion would be that the male colleague thought "You know, I'm not here to teach you how to apply for a grant. You're a grown up professor. Shouldn't you know how to apply for an $8 million grant without having to ask someone else how to do it? Do your own legwork."

I frequently get questions from colleagues about how to do routine functions that anyone of their age, intellectual capacity and job experience should already know how to do.

And I frequently tell them that I'm not familiar with that aspect of their job; for no other reason than I think that the best way to feed someone is to put them next to a pond, hand them a pole and let them figure out how to get the fish out; rather than give them directions to Long John Silvers.


When you say "Old Deans never die, they just lose their faculties," I assume you're talking about Howard?


In my law school professional responsibility classes, we spent a large chunk of time on gender discrimination. At no time did the professor (who is also our dean) suggest that it was possible that the reason the men in our hypotheticals didn't like the women was that the women weren't very nice as people. It's no surprise that everyone's first reaction is "oh, he's a sexist." No, I just don't like YOU.

And I've made a deal with my wife to never have a lunch or dinner alone with a woman, for fidelity's sake. So, how I am supposed to interview a female law clerk in the same way I do a male? I guess the only solution is to not be alone with anyone, ever, for fairness.


I think slim999 is being too polite. I think many colleagues ask for assistance because they are lazy and want the easy way out--your help. Feigning unfamiliarity with the task seems the appropriate "teaching moment" response, especially when it is something they should know how to do, or have the capability to figure out on their own. There is nothing remotely sexist or discriminatory about that--except that someone might call it "old school" and we all know that means it's part of the old boy network.


Plus (she interjects) the datum that Prof. Hopkins had already created a name for herself at - I think it was MIT? - similar to the one she's rapidly developing at Harvard. If I may be so bold: prickly, easily offended, likely to jump on the discrimination train when offered a personal or professional perceived slight, and - the biggie - hysterical, in the exact sense that old-time male docs meant it. She could be the most brilliant researcher of her age and I suspect she'd still be avoided by some who would rather not deal with the potential for a lawsuit at every turn.

My husband has an aunt who fits this description: she's brilliant, ambitious, in her case very attractive (I've never seen pix of Prof. Hopkins), and has sued for sexual discrimination so many times now that (a) nobody who knows of her wants to hire her, and (b) anyone who knows of her wonders, during her employed periods, whether she got there on her own merits or through the Dogbert loud-dog method of threatening to sue if she doesn't get what she wants. Men and women alike ought to be cautious of getting this kind of rep...

Pop psychology alert: concerning the aunt, I've often wondered if she's such a slough of self-doubt that she herself can't quite believe she makes it to the top of her employment ladder on her own merits, each time; hence the lawsuits.

Michael A. Vickers

"The NY Times had a story a few weeks back making the vaguely amusing point that a person's name is sometime their destiny"

Makes you wonder if Tom DeLay is batting for the wrong team.

American Daughter

"The company gave her $8 million, which allowed her to expand her cancer research and led to the discovery of a pair of cancer genes."

Moving quickly to the bottom line, the competitive business world looked past the narrow window of her dean's view, saw the potential commercial benefit of her proven talent, and funded her appropriately. And she rewarded them with breakthrough research.

It is hard to choose between sexist myopia and academic morbidity in defining the problem at Harvard. But in either case, the way to cut through it is to use one's talent to make an end run to the capitalist imperative.

As my dad used to say, when explaining the mistakes of those in high places, "Ignorance is not rationed." And clearly Summers has his fair share. He should be falling down grateful to have her research under his purview, and it is a shame that he offended her. But hey, that's life in the shark pool.

As for asking for information and support from colleagues, men do it all the time. It is called "networking" when they do it. But throw a lot of money on the table, and their competitive natures come out. Men compete, women collaborate. So no doubt they were jealous and unhelpful. Most women breaking new professional territory understand that they will have to know twice as much and work twice as hard to stay even.

Given the nature of the competition, not too difficult.


"Men compete, women collaborate. So no doubt they were jealous and unhelpful. Most women breaking new professional territory understand that they will have to know twice as much and work twice as hard to stay even."

You believe that?

Men do compete. And they compete against each other as much as against women. And everything I have ever in my life heard about academia is that back-biting jealousy is standard. Give a brilliant presentation at a symposium and *someone* is going to come up afterward and dis you. Count on it.

Do women really have to work twice as hard or is it *possible* that guys have to work that hard, too?

My sister has a masters in Physics and she *did* get a mysogynic old dinosaur as an advisor (the other physics profs quietly let her know they'd take her on, all she had to do was ask). What *he* felt was a normal expression of dedication was a marriage to the lab, a total and absolute death of self. Any of his students who didn't worship at that alter was not worthy and it was his holy calling to test them. That he was sexist *as well* was just a bonus.


I've never understood why anyone who was a) worried about the law relating to sexual and racial equality and b) sane would think that it made a whole lot of sense to commit an actual, illegal act of discrimination right now, so as to reduce the risk of a hypothetical, ill-founded accusation of discrimination at some unspecified date in the future. Anyone who regards that as sensible risk management, please stay away from me.

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