Saturday, February 13, 2010

Tenure is not usually a blood sport

“ACADEMIC politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” -H. Kissinger
University politics can be nasty, but not usually in the assault/battery/fatalities kind of way -- more the pointed remark at the senior faculty luncheon or taking the last chocolate chip cookie at the midweek seminar. Really, they don't even throw punches.

Denial of tenure for this biology professor, however, went south in a bad way.

I don't know what the standing of U. Alabama-Huntsville is in the biology world. Apparently it has a good engineering rep, but I suspect it isn't in the top 10 for biology research. I also am not certain what flipped Dr. Amy Bishop's kill-bit, but I have my suspicions.

A) She had not published any papers since 2006.
B) She was tenure-track
C) Her degree was from Harvard.

Taken all together, something isn't right. A tenure-track professor is a paper-writing MACHINE, since, guess what, one of the important considerations for granting tenure is how many papers are written and how often they are cited. Also, as I have mentioned previously, huge swaths of research (that get processed into papers) are usually done by graduate students. I would really like to know if Dr. Bishop had any grad students, and if not, why not. Could be a propensity to fling equipment, could be an inability to get grants that would pay for them, either way bad sign.

Another dirty secret of academia is shoving a hapless candidate through a thesis committee and getting them a PhD just to get them out of your hair (and your lab). Usually these folks are just smart enough to *really* get in trouble, but not dumb enough to expel. The only way to get rid of them is to graduate them, where they become Someone Else's Problem. Plus the expectation of those with Harvard degrees is often that they have finished with the hard part and all they have to do is coast (and bask in the admiration of those unfortunates who earned their degrees from lesser, mortal institutions.)

My suspicion is that Dr. Bishop resented that the only position she could find with her Harvard doctorate was at U. Alabama-Huntsville, persuaded herself that they should at *least* give her tenure for the Harvard degree even though her research had tapered off, and when it was made clear that no, she would be judged by the same standards everybody else was, her carefully constructed rationalization of why people didn't admire her blew up in a big way.


Blogger Justthisguy said...

Oh, not to mention "accidentally" murdering her brother, and mailing those pipe bombs...

5:24 PM, February 14, 2010  
Blogger Justthisguy said...

Dang, am I the only guy who ever comments here these days? I mean, I like to read your stuff, it's not just that I feel a duty to check in with my brain-regeneration specialist from time to time.

6:18 PM, February 15, 2010  
Blogger MissC said...

No, you aren't the only one, but I don't comment because I tend to read more than comment.

Were the pipe bombs ever tied to her? It seems like she was seriously disturbed, had never been accountable for anything and had everything go her way.

My sympathies to the families of the slain, and as to the professor, I believe there is a God.

8:17 AM, February 16, 2010  
Blogger Justthisguy said...

I've just read that she's been fired. Lessee, She murdered three people and put three others in the hospital, and they're just now getting around to firing her?

11:53 PM, March 13, 2010  

Post a Comment

<< Home