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Comment Re:Academia is willing to protect total dicks (Score 1) 345

First, thank you for your time and reasonable responses, Zero_Kelvin. I appreciate your candor and insights.

"Her work was in theoretical mathematics, on a thesis for which (as she explained to me) this adviser was her only option, at her school. If the work was generic or potentially transferable research, it might make sense that she should be able to simply find another adviser."

Or another school

I noted the "at her school" for this reason. Yes, finding another school was technically an option. However, the difference between "technically" and "practically" is significant. I was never a graduate student, but I know enough about the process to understand that [Boromir] one does not simply pick up and find another school [/Boromir]. The degree of harassment was relevant--it was not a black-and-white matter of violent, physical abuse. This was a real world situation, with all the fuzziness, complexity, and difficult decision-making that goes along with that. It was undoubtedly* harassment, but obviously it was not intolerable for her. I'm sure it crept into their interpersonal dynamic in an insidious fashion, over time, like a slow boil. This is part of the reason that sexual harassment is such a problem, for both the accused and the accusers.

* Undoubtedly to me, based on my familiarity with her as a friend, and on how her story was revealed in bits and pieces, over months/years of our casual conversations. Of course, it would be impractical and difficult to convey this in words, online. My trust in my friend's honesty would never get imparted to a stranger, just as it would be very hard for me to put myself in someone else's shoes in a similar manner.

"Couldn't the university claim that the adviser's offense is not the university's offense?"


IANAL, though I suspect you're probably correct. The question was rhetorical, intended to illustrate some of the uncertainty we faced. It's easy to simply say "No", but that is not the same as seeking answers from a qualified lawyer or legal advocate. That takes time and energy. For a graduate student who is already lacking both, being further drained by such a negative dynamic, I think it's understandable for them to avoid the stress as much as possible. We may be the kind of proactive people who focus on this kind of problem until it gets solved, but I know others (including my two math friends) sometimes opt to avoid the stress of dealing with confrontation or emotional situations.

" Covert recordings are usually illegal/inadmissable as evidence without a warrant

Sexual harassment is illegal where I am from. I don't know about where you live. If it is indeed illegal there she should talk to a lawyer, who can involve the police and secure a warrant for the recording.

Seeking a warrant to gather evidence is a good idea, if that's actually an option. We didn't think of that, probably because of our unfamiliarity with legal process, and because of the time/energy that would take. However, this is part of why I posted about this, so that others facing a similar situation might have the benefit of such suggestions. Thanks!

Comment Re:Power dynamics in graduate academia (Score 1) 345

I agree that I wish my friends had been endowed with the personality traits and logistical means to champion their own causes. But they weren't, and I can't blame them for that. Not everyone has the character, energy, time, or desire to be an activist. As their friend, there wasn't much I could do for them, other than to offer my support. If I tried taking matters into my own hands, I would have likely been ineffective (since I'm not even a student there), and I could have inadvertently caused major problems for them. It wasn't my decision to make for them.

Taking the time to tell this story is part of my way of trying to bring it to light, in a public forum. Perhaps someone can suggest some specific, helpful ways this type of problem could be addressed in the future, so that others can do something about it, if they find themselves in a similar situation. My friends and I gave this considerable thought, and we didn't think or or find anything that would let them handle the situation without potentially causing major problems for them.

Comment Re:Academia is willing to protect total dicks (Score 1) 345

Her work was in theoretical mathematics, on a thesis for which (as she explained to me) this adviser was her only option, at her school. If the work was generic or potentially transferable research, it might make sense that she should be able to simply find another adviser. It's something both of my friends would have certainly done, if that were an option. I think once one gets to that level of material, though, specialization is the rule, and one typically selects an adviser based (in part) on their specialization. You're kind of locked in, then, and become more so with time.

I'm not sure your statement "no university would try to collect on tuition from a student [who] could prove they were being sexually harassed" is viable. Couldn't the university claim that the adviser's offense is not the university's offense? Also, "proving" sexual harassment is easier said than done. Covert recordings are usually illegal/inadmissable as evidence, and overt recording would simply result in the adviser censoring themselves, or not allowing the recording. Even assuming one could obtain legal, indisputable evidence...would you want to put your academic and professional career on pause, in order to take it to court? I know I probably would, but just because I would doesn't mean others would.

What surprises me here is all the vitriol and hostility being directed against my account of my friend's difficult situation. I don't get the point of it. Why would she make this stuff up, and why would I? Rhetorical questions, of course...I'm fully aware of what Internet anonymity does to discourse.

Comment Re: Academia is willing to protect total dicks (Score 1) 345

I commented about this lower in the thread. Basically, recording covertly isn't really an option (legally), and recording openly would have likely been too confrontational for her and/or too easy for him to raise a fuss about. While undoubtedly an asshole, the adviser is a theoretical mathematician. Literally a smart, calculating villain.

Comment Re:Disappointing choice (Score 2) 345

I thought of this too, which led me to consider/suggest the more reasonable, less dramatic approach of simply doing it the opposite way: give her a voice recorder to use in plain sight, for its traditional purpose of recording notes for later review. The intention was to get him (the adviser) to stop his bad behavior, not to get him in trouble. Once he knew things were being recorded, he would be smart enough to discontinue the unprofessionalism. But realistically, this probably wouldn't work, and she knew it. He'd simply refuse to let her use it in his office or something, and then she'd have to deal with the fallout from the resulting situation.

Comment Re: Power dynamics in graduate academia (Score 1) 345

Agreed--it seems like there are obvious ways this could be fixed. Whenever I've discussed these issues with my graduate school friends, though, they seem to clearly understand and explain why these issues won't get fixed. Complicated situations involving politics, grants/funding, tenure, etc.

Comment Re:Academia is willing to protect total dicks (Score 2) 345

My friend is lesbian. Apparently, her faculty adviser found this fascinating. During their regular meetings, instead of keeping to the purpose of their meetings (ie. her research), he would do things like ask whether she found particular women attractive or not. He also repeatedly commented that she would be more attractive it she wore more feminine clothing, or wore her hair differently (ie. past her shoulders). According to her, these kinds of inappropriate digressions happened regularly. She not only felt objectified and creeped out by his behavior, but the digressions took substantial time away from making progress with her research. Sometimes, she could not proceed further in her work without his input, and he would spend their whole meeting on stuff like that. Keep in mind, she's a student, racking up loans while getting her degree, so these kinds of frequent delays were costing her money as well as time, aside from the whole issue of harassment.

I don't know why she would make this stuff up. She's not an attention seeker, and obviously doesn't intend to seek retribution or punishment against the guy. She's quiet, introverted, and non-confrontational.

Furthermore, I have a male friend who had the same faculty adviser. The adviser was a total asshole to him. He regularly implied or directly called my male friend an idiot. Again, my male friend is quiet, introverted, and non-confrontational, so he got walked on. I'm not sure how much of a difference it would have made if he weren't, though, due to the power dynamic. I attended his defense, and actually met the adviser. There were five professors at his defense, including his adviser. Among these, only his adviser interrupted his defense to criticize his presentation. Frequently, and usually for something completely trivial. Several times, he insisted that my friend change the phrasing of a statement, to the point where he would literally tell him exactly what to say, then have him repeat it out loud, word for word. It was embarrassingly obvious to everyone in the room that this adviser just loved the power, and loved to exercise it in ways that would trivialize or demean others. It was absurd to watch, even if it weren't my friend taking the brunt of the abuse.

Comment Re:Academia is willing to protect total dicks (Score 3, Interesting) 345

I offered to pay for a recording device for my friend, who was regularly sexually harassed by her faculty adviser. She decided against it, mainly because she felt trapped in her situation. Getting another adviser (either by seeking one or reporting the abuse of hers) would mean abandoning years of work (and racking up more debt), which could not simply be resumed with another adviser.

Comment Power dynamics in graduate academia (Score 5, Informative) 345

Two of my friends were trapped with a faculty adviser who was incredibly abusive (verbally) toward one, and regularly sexually harassed the other. On a daily basis, for years. They tolerated his abuse for so long because they felt they had no choice. Getting a different adviser would mean abandoning their work (in theoretical mathematics), setting them back a ton of money (in academic loans) and years of work/research. Reporting the adviser's abuse would result in the same penalties for them.

It was a messed up power dynamic of which their adviser was likely fully aware and certainly took full advantage. Even after obtaining their PhD's, my friends can't do much about it. They still need the adviser's support as a reference, for getting published, and they just want to put it all behind them.

Comment Hooked too... (Score 2) 110

Loved Snow Crash, liked Crypto and Reamde, but the Baroque Cycle was a bit too dense for me, and I bought Anathema without ever opening it. I hadn't planned on getting into Seveneves unless the reviews were glowing, but the first 26 pages were a quick and compelling tease, enough to sell me. I'll get this on Audible, too. Smart move, making the first hit free, Neal!

Comment It's mathematically impossible. (Score 4, Informative) 736

See http://scribblethink.org/Work/kcsest.pdf and http://scribblethink.org/Work/Softestim/softestim.html

(No, I'm not being serious. The topic just reminded me of when I once jokingly justified a poorly estimated ETA on a "simple" development project by referencing the above paper.)

Comment Re:Really? (Score 1) 733

Forcing breeders out of the city and making it inconvenient to buy pets locally will also encourage people to consider the reasons that is being done. I am not familiar with any other significantly effective way at educating the masses about the pros and cons of shelters vs. breeders. It's not a black and white issue. Many shelter animals are not problem-free, and many pet owners and breeders are responsible pet caregivers. Without actually working in an animal shelter and personally euthanizing scores of otherwise-adoptable animals, I don't know how the "average" person could be convinced that shelter animals are often just as loving and healthy (if not healthier) than animals bred for purchase.

Feed Instruments To Dig Deep In Space (sciencedaily.com)

Scientists will develop a probe for future planetary rovers that will help astronomers study the history of the solar system by examining the properties of layers of material beneath the surface of the moon, Mars, comets and other planetary bodies.

Those who claim the dead never return to life haven't ever been around here at quitting time.