Take the Money and Run

In a recent episode of "Ask Dr. Isis", the domestic and laboratory goddess fielded a question from a person underrepresented in her field of endeavor:

I'm a black female graduate student ... I've been very careful in choosing schools and advisors that seem to value my ideas and potential, not just the diversity I can bring to a brochure photo. At the same time, I recognize that there are doors open to me that are unavailable to the vast majority of people in my field- fellowships that seem tailor-made for my circumstances. I'm not one to turn down free money, but at the same time it makes me feel as if I'm something of a novelty item, a token, or in the worstcase, a fraud who's only there because of her skin color and reproductive system. It can be hard to tell if this stems from my own insecurities, or if this is something I should be genuinely concerned about.

I absolutely hate it that people are made to feel this way. Unsurprisingly, as with most academic one-upsmanship and tear-downsmanship it is based on the underconfidence and personal failings of the one doing the tearing, not the limitations of the one being dismissed. Nevertheless, I hear questions related to grant/fellowship seeking and I perk right up.


Sciencewoman nails the answer in a comment:

Take the money and run; you are going to need every ounce and dollar of advantage you can get as you try to navigate science. You may not even know yet what you are missing out on by being female and black, but the people who made those fellowships know...so take advantage of them.

Hell yes! Do not for an instant think of not applying for or not taking fellowships, grants or jobs that are "set aside" for one of your class and characteristics. This business is far too hard for any individual to fail to take advantage of any opportunity. The only caveat I would suggest is that, as always, when there are multiple things you can be doing you need to do some head's-up thinking about your chances of success versus the payoff (smaller, more limited grant funding may not be the best opportunity even if it appears slightly harder to obtain a larger award, for example).
Are some people going to look down on you for taking advantage of applicant-selective programs? Yeah. But here's the thing...those are the exact same individuals who are going to carp about you no matter what you do. Because their reflexive orientation is that of bigotry. So screw 'em. Why would you shape your life around idiots and their stupid opinions? The opinions are silly, pernicious and wrong so why would you credit them? Don't.
It is far, far better to take the money and publish more good science (because you don't have to take that second TA-ship thanks to a "minority" graduate fellowship, for example). Lemme tell ya...whenever I've heard someone being reviewed on the basis of his/her papers I've never, ever heard someone say "Yeah, well she only got that Cell paper as a junior faculty member thanks to an affirmative action graduate fellowship so it doesn't count!". Ha. The point is that ultimately the papers are going to be the thing. And there it is very difficult for someone to carp on about how you got there with respect to admission to graduate school, fellowships along the way and even "the Dean's hire" faculty positions.
Back to larger points, DearReader, it is imperative for you to combat this corrosive nonsense if it is ever raised in your presence. Now, I do know we have some unreconstructed trilobyte readers so I'm not talking to them. For the rest of us, it comes down to first and foremost recognizing the affirmative action set-aside programs for members in the majority. Here in the US that is generally English-speaking white male heteronormatives but I imagine the principles generalize to most in/out groupings of interest. Plenty of majority group scientists perform poorer than expected and flail out of grad school. More have dismal, unproductive post-docs and have to take the sneered-upon "couldn't hack it" jobs. Many struggle to acquire grants and publish papers and succeed. How many of these do we chalk up to their whiteness, maleness, etc? Don't make me barf.
I think it is an old Bella Abzug quote that reminds us that success is when the lower performing member of the out group can have just as good a success as the low-normals of the majority in group. That is what we need focus on. Not that there are not brilliant minority and underrepresented scientists. There are and we should honor them. But for encouraging a change in which all scientists of any skin hue or dangly bits can just...exist. Without worrying about stupid perceptions we need to fully embrace the notion that the performance of the whole distribution is the acceptable target.

58 responses so far

  • Bitter and Underappreciated says:

    "ScienceWoman nails it"? Not Dr. Isis whose advice was:
    "Funding is tight enough as it is; take advantage of every opportunity you can without apology. Then, take everything and accent it with the brilliant science I have no doubt you are capable of doing."
    I'm glad ScienceWoman was around to keep her eye on the prize.

  • JD says:

    Full agreement. Funding is really tough and it is surprising how small things can really add up over time to result in unexpected successes!!

  • White dudes have been giving each other affirmative action reacharounds since fucking infinity. Now it's other people's turn.

  • Markk says:

    Speaking as one of those heteronormous white males, who saw all sorts of opportunities for minorities and women I couldn't get when I went to grad school, it never bothered me. I was focused on what I could get, and I would have taken anything targeted to me in a second if I thought it was worth it. I mean if it was the American National Socialists I would balk, but you want to be in the field, then you grasp everything to get in the field.
    Guess what? other people are NOT going to have opportunities simply because you are there. You have to learn to live with that, it is unavoidable, and you are worth it. Sight unseen.

  • Alex says:

    Actually, there is explicit affirmative action in scholarships for certain groups of white people. The ones I've heard of are for Italian-Americans, but I'm sure there are others:
    http://www.osia.org/public/scholarships/grants.asp
    And Asian-Americans, although well-represented in science, have various scholarship funds. I suspect that various Middle Eastern groups, also well-represented in science (and considered Caucasian on NSF paperwork), have similar organizations and scholarships.
    So if the well-represented groups have their own scholarship funds, why not the under-represented groups too?

  • There are a ton of scholarships available for "Family of Big Ass U Alumni" and "Direct Descendants of World War I Veterans" that, by their very nature, are narrow and exclusive and students are being admitted every day to institutions based on who their parents are/were, how much money they have or whose ass they kissed up to. DM is right - take the money, hold it tight in your hot little hand and run quickly. When you've graduated and nearing the end of your postdoc, search committees are going to focus on the shitload of papers in top-notch journals you've got and how well you fit into their department, not whether you received a minority scholarship or not.

  • When you've graduated and nearing the end of your postdoc, search committees are going to focus on the shitload of papers in top-notch journals you've got and how well you fit into their department, not whether you received a minority scholarship or not.

    And if you do receive a minority fellowship--such as a minority NIH NRSA--it will be perceived as a positive--"this person successfully competed for a fellowship"--and not a negative.

  • ScienceWoman says:

    Thanks DM. I think Isis's good answer got buried in the other stuff of the post.
    But, please don't disparage beloved Paleozoic creatures, when you really must mean Troglodytes.

  • juniorprof says:

    Mrs Juniorprof is currently on a minority specific fellowship/scholarship. She once indicated to me that she wasn't sure if she deserved it. I then asked her if she deserved all those years of terrible treatment at our Southern Border. Its a terrible analogy, I know, but she was quite happy to take the money and run after a little consideration of how hard she had to fight just to get where she is today. And, DM, you got it just right. The powers that be tried like hell to instill her with just enough self-doubt to give up her dream and go home.
    The really awesome thing is that now that she has overcome all the hurdles to get the foot in the door there are so many programs open to her that nothing can stop her from achieving her goals now. The terrible thing is that there are too many people just like her that don't know these programs exist. Hopefully your consistent highlighting of these issues and programs will open the door for some readers that didn't know a door was there.

  • anonphilosopher says:

    I'm a grad student in a humanities department at a major state university. For our last two hires we were strongly encouraged by the Deans, some of whom are female, not to bring any white males in for interviews. I believe that there has been sexism and racism in my discipline and that there is a place for preferences that reverse that. At the same time, the hiring market is absolutely brutal in my discipline and it's very hard not to be resentful and bitter when the female Deans basically threaten us with not getting any lines unless we "play ball". Academia is evidently not so sexist that there are no female Deans.
    I share this because I disagree that anyone who is resentful of people that take advantage of preferences is also a person that would have sexist or racist attitudes anyway. As I indicated, I observe in myself a tendency to be resentful because of the personal implications for my future job prospects, even though I support preferences in principle to correct past bigotry. It's stressful to think about going on the job market and it's easy for to channel that stress into resentment. The time will come, hopefully sooner than later, when there will no longer be a need for preferences. Then we can do away with the fears of inadequacy or judgment felt by beneficiaries as well as the feelings of resentment and bitterness felt by non-beneficiaries.

  • jc says:

    "Then we can do away with the fears of inadequacy or judgment felt by beneficiaries as well as the feelings of resentment and bitterness felt by non-beneficiaries" from anonphilosopher
    yup. After a zillion years of affirmative action for white d00ds, this is why the "don't be angry" trope from the majority pisses minorities off. I say w00t! for your female deans throwing down the gauntlet.

  • anonphilosopher says:

    I had been under the impression that the purpose of preferences was to prevent discrimination and reverse the lingering effects of past discrimination, not to institute discrimination against majorities as some kind of punishment. . . Well, I suppose I'll humbly submit to being punished for the sins of my intellectual fathers. How very biblical! I just wish that someone had told me I'll have to wait a zillion years before the cosmic scales are back in balance. w00t!

  • S. Rivlin says:

    anonphilosopher, I think that your deans are bigots, hiding behind the mask of affirmative action.

  • At the same time, the hiring market is absolutely brutal in my discipline and it's very hard not to be resentful and bitter when the female Deans basically threaten us with not getting any lines unless we "play ball".

    I'd like to offer to play the violin for the poor oppressed white guy who is concerned that he might be able to find a job because of who he is. I could also knit him something or bake him something.

    Academia is evidently not so sexist that there are no female Deans.

    You are so right!!!11!! Academia is positively littered with female deans and there are so many female university presidents that they are considering forming a quilting circle. Also, I hear they are paid exactly the same as their male counterparts.

  • Dr. Isis says:

    Rivlington swoops in for the kill!!!!!
    Drug, that comment was a formatting mess. Sorry 'bout that, brother.

  • rogue medic says:

    Whatever hoops there are to jump through to get the job, to please human resources people, or even just to get an interview, have nothing to do with what happens after you have the job.
    If you think the job will be one you want (pay/location/benefits/access to those leading the development of new ideas/excellent equipment/. . . ) then you should be thinking about the job, not some job requirement that is not performance related.
    The opportunity allows you to show that you can do excellent work. The excellent work you do, allows you move on to other jobs, based on your abilities.
    There will always be requirements that are unrelated to the job performance, the more time you spend thinking about them (politics), the less time you spend thinking about the job (science).
    Is this really different from a chance to meet an influential person in your field, cultivate a relationship (Platonic relationship), and ask for a reference from that influential person?
    If you do not do good work, people will make up rumors about how you got the job. If you do great work, some will resent you and make up rumors about how you got the job. People are petty.
    The job is to be an excellent scientist. The rest does not matter, unless you worry about it.

  • Stephanie Z says:

    anonphilosopher, what you are experiencing is the cost of all the freebies you (yes, you personally) have been given. That you can't figure out what those freebies are is your own fault. Likewise the bitterness. If you want to focus on the pony you didn't get and not enjoy the toys under the tree, you can do that, but people will laugh at you.

  • jc says:

    What preference? white d00ds just seem to hire white d00ds! I mean shit, they ARE the most qualified. duh.
    I can just imagine the poor neglected white d00ds leaving the "pipeline" to go have babies... oh, now wait...

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    it is imperative for you to combat this corrosive nonsense if it is ever raised in your presence.

    Damn straight -- but, as always, it's critical to demolish the notion itself with as little collateral damage as possible to the speaker.
    Not because the speaker is an asshole; after all, assholiness is a universal field. No, because it's a distraction. If you attack the speaker, you at best make an enemy -- but you leave the pernicious meme in circulation. Attacking the meme not only reduces the grounds for revenge and self-inflicted PR damage, it might even reduce the chances of someone else picking it up and running with it.
    "So I take it, Dr. White, that the only fault you can find with Dr. Foo's paper is her African ancestry? That's high praise indeed."

    Now, I do know we have some unreconstructed trilobyte readers so I'm not talking to them.

    I resemble that remark.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    "Rivlington swoops in for the kill!!!!!"
    Isis dear, how about deans telling their search committees to bring into interviews the most qualified candidates regardless of color or gender?
    I hope you did not recommend to your black female graduate student to wear a pink suit for the interview. šŸ˜‰

  • Comrade PhysioProf would like to take this opportunity to remind the readers of DrugMonkey that Rivlin is not here to engage in honest discourse, but rather to disrupt and interfere. Engaging him only furthers his dishonest ends.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    CPP,
    Aren't you tired of your BS warnings? Just post your comments and I'll post mine. If you don't like mine, ignore them. If you disagree with my opinion, explain why, but stop playing this childish shit of yours everytime my comments arouse Isis or raise your BP.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Comrade PhysioProf would like to take this opportunity to remind the readers of DrugMonkey that Rivlin is not here to engage in honest discourse, but rather to disrupt and interfere. Engaging him only furthers his dishonest ends.

    Sol must really have nailed it on that one, since you couldn't find anything wrong with what he wrote and had to attack him just for breathing instead.

  • phagenista says:

    A high school friend (mixed race male) and I (white female) chose to go to the same college. It bothered him at the time that I got the named college fellowship... he got the minority college fellowship. While I got the National Merit Scholarship... he got the National Achievement Scholarship. However, we were equally funded, and somehow these differently named fellowships don't affect him now that he's a Harvard MD/PhD. DM is right... it's your work, your end products that matter for your future, and get there with whatever funding you can obtain.

  • Alex says:

    phagenista-
    I agree that funding is funding, but if one had a choice between 2 fellowships or scholarships or grants of whatever, and the amount of money and terms were comparable, I'd agree with your friend that it's slightly more prestigious to have the one that isn't explicitly tied to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. Yes, yes, white males are implicitly advantaged in all sorts of awards, but that just makes it all the more prestigious for somebody who isn't a white male to beat the good old boys at their own game.
    Besides, I have heard people say disparagingly "So-and-so got [pick one: A job, grant, fellowship, prize] because he/she is a [circle all that apply: female, ethnic minority, person with a disability]." Now, most of the people posting here can offer good arguments for why showing such a preference in hiring or awards would be justified and wise. Be that as it may, for some people there is a stigma associated with such practices, and the practice of affirmative action is often alleged as a slur against somebody (who may not have even been a beneficiary of affirmative action!). So I can see why your friend might prefer to get the same award as you rather than the minority award.
    Clearly, getting minority scholarships didn't hinder his academic progress, but he only knows this in hindsight. At the time, his concern was valid.
    Still, despite that concern, funding is funding.

  • BikeMonkey says:

    Phagenista, your story reminds that financial aid offices are in a scramble to help every prospect they want. So even if your friend might've been good for the more general scholarship, you didn't qualify for the one he received. So the general scholarship ends up being reserved, in a sense, for the people who are in the majority.
    Alex, concerns over stigma are only valid if you credit the idiocy. If you do not, the valid concern is not about stigma but about bigots. Is it a valid concern to worry about the "stigma" of being black?

  • Besides, I have heard people say disparagingly "So-and-so got [pick one: A job, grant, fellowship, prize] because he/she is a [circle all that apply: female, ethnic minority, person with a disability]."

    I've heard people say lots of idiot things. It doesn't mean they are valid and it doesn't mean they don't deserve to be told to go fuck themselves.
    Personally, I prefer slurs like "grant," "award," and "fellowship" to some of the other things I've been called. None of those slurs came with money attached.

  • Alex says:

    I'll grant that stigmas will primarily be in the minds of bigots. However, phagenista's friend felt that the award set aside for minorities was less prestigious. On that score, his concern is plausible: Winning the award that isn't set aside for a minority group means beating the majority at its own game. Isn't that going to be a bit more prestigious than the award designated for minorities?
    In the end, funding is funding, but her friend expressed a preference for one scholarship over the other, and I think his preference was understandable.

  • Alex says:

    Clarification:
    A stigma is negative. A lesser degree of prestige is positive. I'll grant that I erred in giving any significance to the stigma, as it only matters in the mind of bigots. However, the differing degree of prestige is a concern that existed in the mind of phagenista's friend (who presumably is not bigoted against blacks, what with him being black and all).
    So, two different issues, one of which is valid while the other isn't.

  • Alex says:

    Aarrgghh! That last comment was not as clear as it should have been. Too tired to be commenting. OK, one more try:
    A stigma is negative.
    A lesser degree of prestige is still positive, but not as positive as something with a higher degree of prestige. I can understand why a reasonable person might perceive greater prestige in winning an award in a competition open to everyone as opposed to an award for which only certain groups compete.
    I'm not opposed to awards limited to various groups--I'm the one who mentioned above that various white ethnic groups actually have their own scholarships. I'm just observing that there are rational reasons why a person might prefer an award won in a competition open to all groups.
    Would an award for "Best Norwegian-American Biomedical Researcher of the Year" be more prestigious or less prestigious than an annual award that biomedical researchers of any ethnicity could compete for? Would a hypothetical person who won both awards be justified in being prouder of the award that wasn't restricted to Norwegians?

  • Dave says:

    I think it's interesting that lawyers -- highly trained to argue stuff like this -- really have never achieved any more than what's already represented in these comments.
    Many may remember that [African American] supreme court justice Clarence Thomas is famous for criticizing affirmative action, and has received criticism himself for it (c.f. http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202421827466)
    There are lots of reasons for affirmative action, and lots of reasons to criticize it. But ultimately, departments and deans can hire whomever the hell they want, for whatever reason they want. There is no single 'right' way to build a faculty. Arguing that there is will just send us in circles or (more likely) end up in a little ego party where we all agree to feel good about ourselves.
    So I propose that people begin their comments with: "If I were dean, this is the type of person I would hire to faculty and why..." (Alternatively, it can be "If I were graduate admissions committee member [and several of us are], this is the type of person I would admit and why...")
    I know it sounds like a 5th grade essay contest, but it'll at least raise the level of CPP and Sol's comments by about 4 grade levels.

  • Dave says:

    The closing parenthesis goofs up the link in my comment above. Delete it to make it work. Sorry.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Dave, just to remind you that CPP blamed you of trolling for disagreeing with his stance, just as he blamed me.
    Let me try your idea, but instead of "if I were a dean..." allow me to:
    If CPP or Isis were deans, based on the over-representation of certain groups in academia, they would instruct their faculty search committees not to interview:
    1. Males
    2. Whites
    3. Atheists
    4. Jews
    5. Liberals
    and soon to be added to the list,
    6. Asians

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    If CPP or Isis were deans, based on the over-representation of certain groups in academia, they would instruct their faculty search committees not to interview:

    Damn it, Sol, that's just dishonest. Disagree with Isis and CPP if you will, but setting up straw men is about as lame as it gets.
    Are you in a race with CPP for the bottom of the rhetorical scale or what?

  • Dave says:

    Sol: If CPP and Isis were deans, they could hire whomever the hell they wanted. You don't have to agree with their decisions. However, it would help the discussion if you said precisely why you think theirs might be a bad strategy.
    p.s. I am well aware of the fact that CPP may think I am an annoying moron. I am not about to cry about the fact that some anonymous foul-mouthed blogger doesn't want to be my friend. You shouldn't either.
    Let's get on with the discussion...

  • S. Rivlin says:

    D.C., anonphilosopher (#9) told us that "For our last two hires we were strongly encouraged by the Deans, some of whom are female, not to bring any white males in for interviews."
    I responded (#12) to it "anonphilosopher, I think that your deans are bigots, hiding behind the mask of affirmative action."
    Isis (#14) responded to my comment "Rivlington swoops in for the kill!!!!!" to which I asked her (#19) "Isis dear, how about deans telling their search committees to bring into interviews the most qualified candidates regardless of color or gender?"
    For that CPP chimed in (#20) "Comrade PhysioProf would like to take this opportunity to remind the readers of DrugMonkey that Rivlin is not here to engage in honest discourse, but rather to disrupt and interfere. Engaging him only furthers his dishonest ends."
    Hence, I concluded that these two, Isis and CPP approve anonphilosopher's deans' instructions about faculty hirings. So far, none of these two have indicated otherwise.
    Beyond that, I strongly believe that, at times, affirmative action is interpreted with a very wide brush strokes that lead to responses such as the one by Stephanie Z (#16). The tenor in such responses is that today's generation of "privileged" white males must bear quietly the consequences of their fathers misdeeds and accept the reveres discrimination that comes their way.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Dave, to the best of my knowledge, in most academic institutions, search committees are the entities that select the most qualified candidates for a given position, not the deans. My department, for instance, is presently going through a search for a new chair where the whole process runs by a search committee selected by the faculty members of the department and which includes a representitive from the administration selected by the dean. The selected candidate for the position must be approved by the faculty members of the department. The dean is just a rubber stamp.

  • Dave says:

    Sol (in ref to #37): You're right. I originally referred (in #31) to "departments and deans". But then I started simply saying 'deans', which I agree is generally misleading.
    That said, I once had a job offer that was driven mainly by the dean, but it was obvious the department head was not really on board. I've also had a department that wanted me but the dean was working to destroy the department, so that also was a no-go. Many deans are laissez faire delegators, but deans definitely have lots of power to 'shape' their college (and the departments therein) as they see fit. As I described in another comment thread on this blog, the most recent tenure track faculty position offer in my department came about this way:
    1) Economy tanked. Dean said no new faculty searches.
    2) Dept head said: 'But we have all these retirements and we really need a person with this particular expertise'
    3) Dean (who is a racial and sexual preference minority not shy about his 'agenda') said: 'How about this person?' Said person is an African American female.
    4) Dept head (wisely) said: 'She looks great! We'll have her visit and see what the faculty think'
    5) She came, is clearly talented, and would make a great colleague.
    6) Candidate got an offer.
    And keep in mind we are not too bad when it comes to demographics, relatively speaking. Females in our department hold 13 (about 40%) of our tenure track faculty positions, and though there are currently no African Americans, we have a couple hispanics. So it's not like we are an old white boy pharmacology department in desperate need of reform.

  • whimple says:

    The selected candidate for the position must be approved by the faculty members of the department. The dean is just a rubber stamp.
    This used to be true, but isn't anymore.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Dave, of course I am aware of the power deans possess and how, at times, they use it to advance their own agenda, which is not always the best one for the school. You can actually read in my book ( http://www.brownwalker.com/book.php?book=1581124228&method=ISBN ) about two such deans and their shenanigans. Nevertheless, deans, just like any other faculty member, should remember that their careers, at one point or another, is also in the hands of the faculty members who voted them in and can vote them out. The dean agenda should be an open book for all the faculty to see and understand.

  • Damn it, Sol, that's just dishonest.

    Of course it's dishonest. Rivlin is a petty vandal whose only purpose is to disrupt discussion and drive away those readers and commenters at DrugMonkey who want to engage in honest discourse.
    DrugMonkey has up to now been a comfortable space for all sorts of different scientists at all sorts of different institutions and career stages and from all sorts of personal backgrounds to get together and discuss issues of mutual interest. Rivlin's nasty inane gibberish--with the participation of a few other assholes--has already driven away a number of our most interesting and engaged commenters. Soon enough, the only people left here are gonna be dumbfuck white dude assholes like Rivlin and the few other onanistic shitheads that persist in engaging him. That is a fucking shame.

  • Charlie says:

    Rivlin, I really see no point in seeing your point as it were if you try to plug something so shamelessly and with utter failure to connect to the free pages there. Seriously, there're lows, and then there's your rather myopic comments combined with shameless plugging. You're not helping your case one bit.
    As an undergrad engineer, believe me, even at this level in academia you get stupid comments like 'So and so only got this place because he's part of this program and he's from the working classes *harrumph*'.
    Your attitude, Rivlin, in regards to your position on funding and 'Them damn uppity women and workers and races', filters down and it isn't appreciated. šŸ™‚
    /

  • juniorprof says:

    Rivlin's nasty inane gibberish--with the participation of a few other assholes--has already driven away a number of our most interesting and engaged commenters.
    This has become very obvious over the past two weeks. I think I know at least two commenters to whom you refer, CPP, and it is a shame that they have gone noticeably silent or just left altogether.
    To the matter at hand, I like the NFL's Rooney rule:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rooney_Rule
    Essentially it means that a minority candidate must be interviewed for any head coaching job. While it only exists by rule for head coaching jobs, rumor is that it followed for other jobs as well in the coaching ranks. It has led, perhaps, to a number of surprising hires that (like Mike Tomlin -- the Steelers masterful coach) that turned out to be pure genius. The fact is that no one well ever know if a particular coach was hired due to the rule and after the first year I don't think anyone really pays attention unless the rule is violated.
    College Football obvious need such a rule (look at Auburn -- Chuck got it right, as usual) and I think universities should consider implementing a similar interviewing plan for minority and women candidates. Such a rule would shift the focus to making sure that opportunities are always provided to deserving but underrepresented candidates. While it might be difficult to enforce, I think it could establish a system under which we would all win.

  • Have you seen how many crap applications come in...from ALL candidates? (Rooney means you have to interview all, right...?)
    Many schools already have a modified rule in place, but I'm not sure that that is really doing the trick, either. The hiring guidelines often explicitly state that *qualified* minority candidates must be brought in for interview. In the sciences, this goes for women as well. Hmm....it's not like this is greatly improving the numbers of minority faculty each year, so maybe Rooney is the way to go?

  • SC says:

    I've only skimmed the thread, but I'll offer this (with apologies if it's already been said here or on Dr. Isis' blog, and also if it doesn't apply in your field):
    There was a study a few years ago - I think it was discussed in the Chronicle - examining the factors that led people either to complete the PhD or to drop out of graduate school. Of course, it looked at differences among groups. The authors found, IIRC, that one of the most important factors, if not the most important, in getting to the PhD was a good mentor, and that white men were more likely to find mentors than were women or minorities. One of the issues the authors discussed was that the availability of grants and fellowships for graduate work to people in underrespresented groups can have negative aspects, an important one being that you're often not put in close contact with potential mentors.
    I (white woman) received a large fellowship that covered me for several years of graduate study without requiring me to do a TA- or RAship. At the time, this seemed great, as I was able to pursue my own scholarship, but it didn't tie me in to the life of my department, and as a woman I was already at a disadvantage in terms of finding a mentor. I did finish and was lucky to have a committee who gave me freedom and support, but I never did establish a relationship with a mentor, which has had consequences beyond grad school. My personality undoubtedly played a role (I wouldn't wish myself as a mentee on anyone), but not being pushed into interactions with faculty for so long didn't help.
    Again, I have no idea whether this has any relevance in the natural sciences (and can't remember which disciplines were included in the study). It's also, needless to say, no reason to reject a great aid package. But I think it should be kept in mind, and the approach should be "take the money and also keep looking/fighting for social support."
    Best of luck!

  • Richard Eis says:

    - I can just imagine the poor neglected white d00ds leaving the "pipeline" to go have babies... oh, now wait... -
    No babies...no white doods...or is that too simple a concept for you to grasp.
    WE ARE HUMAN, AND ALL THAT GOES WITH THAT...or have you forgotten about the "having a life" thing...

  • juniorprof says:

    (Rooney means you have to interview all, right...?)
    Most certainly not, the rule only stipulates that you must interview a minority candidate among your pool of interviewees. If you have a search committee, and all they bring is white guys for interviews, are they really doing any "searching"?

  • Hmm...then I suppose that is basically what is in place now at many schools. Not working, at least overall.

  • SC says:

    Here it is - the Ph.D. Completion Project:
    http://www.phdcompletion.org/news/index.asp
    (Perhaps it's been discussed here - I haven't been readig the blog for long.)

  • juniorprof says:

    Hmm...then I suppose that is basically what is in place now at many schools. Not working, at least overall.
    I'm not so sure about that (being in place at most schools, that is). Maybe its an unwritten rule but unwritten rules are often not followed. On the other hand, I do agree that whatever is being used now is not working as well as it should and more needs to be done.

  • Jill says:

    Regarding PhD completion rates among men vs women: I've read that married men tend to have a higher completion rate than single men. Whereas married women tend to have lower completion rates than single women. This was attributed to the fact that in most married households the woman still carries the majority of the burden for housekeeping and/or childrearing even if also employed full time in a career. So while married men pursuing their PhDs have the support of their wives at home, married women pursuing their PhDs have to do the supporting of their families when they get home from work.
    I saw this too. When I was in grad school (in physics) many of my colleagues were men whose wives were stay-at-home or had part-time jobs or were not employed in a full-time 'career'. These men were free to devote all their time and energy to completing their degrees because they were relieved of any domestic duties as their wives did all the cooking and cleaning and childrearing and supported them 100%. As for me, once I got home from a long day in the lab, I then had to do the cooking and clean up after my husband on top of that...
    So because of 'traditional gender role' crap like this, I think that fellowships set aside for women in sciences are totally reasonable!!! šŸ™‚ or to be more specific, special fellowships for married women in sciences... šŸ™‚
    I've not actually tried for any of those fellowships though, as I didn't know they existed until after I was done with my degree...oh well.
    I've also read that in physics at least, about half of female physicists are married to men who are also scientists. However, only something like 10% of all male physicists have wives who are also scientists (counting all sciences not just physics). I'm not sure what the percentages are of male scientists whose wives are in other demanding professions like medicine or law etc.

  • Alex says:

    Another dimension to marriage and grad students:
    Some male grad students from foreign countries are married to women who simply aren't allowed to work because they don't have the proper visa status for a job, and they aren't interested in becoming students. (And why should they? Grad school isn't something you can or should do just because you're bored.) Some of those guys benefit from having a housewife at home, but others would probably have happier marriages if it weren't illegal for their wives to get jobs. Indeed, if they had the financial security of a second income, some of them might even interact with their PIs on different terms....
    I personally know one couple that would be more fulfilled, more financially secure, and less stressed if the wife could get a work visa. Her English isn't great, but she has a lot of professional experience, and in a city with a large Chinatown she'd probably be able to find some sort of decent job. Finally she decided to go to grad school, and this greatly complicated his search for a postdoc position. Yes, the 2-body problem is a common one, and I don't expect anybody to cry a river for him, but she'd really rather work than get an MA (it's just that she'd rather get an MA than stay at home). Both of them would be happier at home and at work if she could get a job.

  • Jill says:

    @#52: I should clarify, the married male grad students I was talking about, were all white americans and so were their wives. So for these particular people I knew, it wasn't that the wife wasn't allowed to work. It's just that they, as married couples, chose to have it this way where the wife is stay-at-home or else has a non-career-job and completely supports the husband's career.
    ironically the male foreign grad students I knew, tended to have wives or girlfriends who were also foreign grad students.
    In my postdoc I saw the same trend. The majority of the white american male scientists I knew tended to marry white american women who were stay-at-home or had non-career-jobs so the husband's career is the clear priority. I only know a few white american male scientists whose wives are also in career-type positions, but maybe that is just my limited experience. However among the male foreign scientists I know, most of them are married to women who are also scientists or pursuing some other professional career. maybe it's because they all met each other in grad school or postdoc here in the states, meaning that the wife was already pursuing a graduate degree or professional career anyway. But I dont' know why this situation doesn't carry over in the same proportions to the white male american scientists too, at least not in my circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances.
    and come to think of it, I don't know any female scientists (whether white, american or foreign) who are married to men who are stay-at-home or who have non-career-type jobs whereby the wife's career is the priority. This is probably not limited to scientific professions.

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    Couple of points about minority fellowships and grants:
    1) I think that minority grants are fabulous and you should take em if you can get em.
    2) I will take exception though with minority institution grants. I serve on an advisory board for a minority institution (historically black medical college) that has a SNRP grant from NINDS. They get a million bucks a year and have squandered it severely over the past 9 years. It was renewed even though they had crap performance and had poor productivity.
    Conclusion?
    Minority candidates should get every consideration to ensure diversity in the science gene pool. However, you know who receives the benefits of institutional minority grants? Mostly white guys that work at a minority institution. You dont have to be underrepresented to get those, just work at a historically underserved minority population school. Therefore, the NIH should stop throwing cash at minority serving institutions unless the faculty are underrepresented. Stick with investigators not institutions.
    My two cents....huzzah!
    Doc F.
    The ultra liberal whitey jew guy.

  • gnuma says:

    Nice post DM!

  • leigh says:

    wherever you go, people talk about other people. gossip is awful in our department. everyone knows everyone's business. and the now-graduated student in our lab who got an amazing award got lots of it. it just so happened she's black, and there were lowball shots from jealous white students who did not get the award. (as a result, we had several conversations about her experiences as a black female in science, which was a very eye-opening thing to me as a white person from a place largely populated with white people.)
    1) the talk is petty jealousy, meant to make others feel better about themselves in comparison. it is only talk, and those who are too busy talking smack to get any work done are going to have weaker phd's anyway... funny how that works. i look forward to seeing my friend excel over her detractors because she focused on her work.
    2) like white (and/or male) students need more helping hands up the ladder than black (and/or female) students. geez.

  • whimple says:

    Jill: As for me, once I got home from a long day in the lab, I then had to do the cooking and clean up after my husband on top of that...
    What do you mean, you HAD to? You were forced to? By what? Cultural expectations? Destiny? Fear of retaliation?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    "ScienceWoman nails it"? Not Dr. Isis ?
    Yeah, I blew that one BaU. Sorry. Dr. Isis in fact made many fine points in her post including the passage you reference. I am a sucker for pithy comments like "take the money and run", I fear.
    In other news, GirlPostDoc has a post up that follows the racial part of the original "Ask Dr. Isis" question. It is well worth a read since a good bit of the sprawling conversation has focused more on gender than on race.

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