Academic used GDPR request to reveal they'd been secretly blacklisted

Originally published at:


Even if she was at some point “difficult to work with” that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be perpetually true. Circumstances change and often times who you’re working with/for makes a huge difference. I’ve worked with some pretty unpleasant people but i certainly would not go out of my way to ruin their career, at that point it’s not a professional issue but a personal one. Additionally she deserves to be judged based on her credentials and interview, not off-the-record conversations.


Gee, academics can be as catty and backbiting as middle school girls. Color me oh so not surprised. Even granting the possibility that she is difficult to work with, it would be the duty of the advisor to tell her that, not join into a whispering campaign behind her back.


It’s interesting working in an environment of academia. You begin to notice “lifers”, people who have been in education in some form or another their entire lives, and haven’t grown out of social and relationship patterns established in school.


Well put, she should’ve been told directly about things she could be doing to make a better impression rather than gossip behind her back.


I remember coming the the realization in high school that one of my teachers chose the profession because he wanted to stay in high school forever.


I think I’ve mentioned it here before, but I used to work at Berkeley Nuclear Laboratories (no not THAT Berkeley; THIS Berkeley ), and there were incredibly intelligent people working there who had gone from secondary school, to university, to the laboratories with no break in between.

On the flip-side, there were people who worked in the shielded area wearing film badges to monitor radiation exposure who weren’t above asking reception to put out a site-wide announcement for Mike Hunt on the tannoy system.


I legitimately went to school with a guy with that exact name :joy:

1 Like

I am the parent of two daughters, one in middle school, and the other now in high school. They are not and have never been catty and back-biting.

Edit: sp


Given my experience in that particular institution, I feel like that is a way more accurate name.

1 Like

The only dirty joke Red Skelton ever told: He stopped his bit on stage when someone handed him a note. He read it and said, “Ladies, I’ve been asked to say that someone has lost a purse. It’s been found by a lady named Helen Hunt. She’s holding it until the owner shows up. So if your handbag is missing, you can go to Helen Hunt for it.”


I’ve a number of thoughts on this, none of which come to a coherent position. First, this is not blacklisting. It sucks, but it’s not blacklisting. I say this because my research has led me to people who have been blacklisted, and I’m worried that we may be headed toward, if we haven’t already arrived at, actual blacklisting.

Second, I think backchannel, personal observations about colleagues are useful and even valuable. I have worked with people about whom there were unclear mutterings, and the reasons later became all too apparent. In the case of the people I’m thinking about, two were sociopathic toward their students and one was a serial liar and plagiarist. OTOH, I saw two colleagues try to unjustly ruin a third with similar talk. I’ve also seen male colleagues (and one female colleague) get away with being serial abusers because they couldn’t be pinned down, and the quiet, veiled warnings weren’t enough to deter advisees. I think a large part of the problem is that the official record can’t or doesn’t include information you need when hiring someone. That opens up a “need” for backchannel communication which can be really unfair.

I just deleted a “thirdly” about a colleague who is a challenge to work with because they are not neurotypical and because they are a right wing reactionary Christian. I gave more information than I really should, given that person’s position. The point was that people can be really challenging, and I can see how people can give nasty, unfair comments in a well-intentioned way, and it’s super easy to see how nasty people can be nasty about people who present such challenges.

I really feel for Dora B. It must feel really horrible to have it right there in front of you on paper, and horrible to find that the people maligning you are too cowardly to talk to you about their “concerns.” At least you do find out that you’re not crazy…

EDIT: I wanted to come back and make clear that my “OTOH” was mean to be part of a larger “Backchannel talk can be useful, but, but, BUT…”


Well, you know how wimmen are, tho… /s


The current job crisis in academia doesn’t help, because it means that pettiness is going to be amped up to the nth degree when jobs are on the line.

Did they have trouble getting a job? Because (and this might be more dependent on the field, I don’t know) that people with sociopathic tendencies are probably in a position for manipulating a job committee when it comes to interview time.

I can imagine. And the reality is, much like other situations where bullying happens, people who tend to be targeted tend to be the most vulnerable.


This seems less than clear to me.

What’s illegal in the UK is blacklisting because you are a union organizer, or because you have made safety complaints. Blacklisting because you are stupid and difficult to work with is not actually illegal; and it’s questionable as to whether it actually is blacklisting. Just sayin’.

I have worked with some pretty unpleasant people. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to ruin their career, I would certainly go out of my way to not give them a reference. If a colleague of mine asks for an opinion through back channels, though… surely one has a duty to say something if somebody is stupid and difficult to work with.


That’s not a dirty joke; it’s tap-water-strength blasphemy.


I know you put a /s on it. I bet you’ll agree with everything I am about to say. But I want to say it anyway in case there are college aged people or people who haven’t had my experiences so they get one more data point saying what I think is important to say:

There is a stereotype that professional women are catty and bitch back and forth and are generally horrible employees. It is complete and utter rubbish.

Roughly half of my co-workers are women. Half of my managers, directors, and vice presidents have been women. Of the three companies that I have worked for, one was lead by a woman, one was lead by a two-person team which consisted of a man and a woman, and one was lead by a man. (The one lead by a man has been the least successful.) Of the people who have mentored me over the years, most of the people whom have helped me shape my career, professional skills, and life over the last 25 years have been women. And I hope that I have passed on that gift, as well.

In my experience at fortune-500 corporate style work place environments, the vast majority of women who I have worked with have been professional, wonderful people. The few who I have had problems with had absolutely nothing to do with their gender, by any means - and I have had problems with men, too.

I just want to say this because the stereotype is so strong in our communities that I want people to know it is a complete load of horse manure and there is no truth to it at all. I don’t want young girls to shy away from training in STEM for IT, HR, or Finance type jobs because they have heard the stereotypes or are afraid that they’ll be the only women in the department or because they feel they will have to fight every day because of their gender or because their professors are full of nonsense regarding that. I feel that this is one of the ways that I can help, to tell people that this is absolute crap.

(And no, I’m not saying that female professionals don’t get unfairly burdened with additional problems; they do. I think overall people are trying to fix that, and I’m doing what I can to help.)

My experience in Academia has been less positive, although not gender biased. I have seen this type of negative behavior in both men and women.



I’d say there is plenty of gender bias in academia, often more covert, though. I’ll also say that given the “corporatization” of academia in the past decade, it’s unsurprising that the people who are succeeding are starting to act more like people in other professions. What I’ve seen is women taking on more service work then men, and then being punished more for not hitting their marks for tenure. One guy was able to have all of his courses in one semester, and do very little service work, while women in the department got loaded down with service work, and had a harder time getting tenure because of that. I’ve also had colleagues working on their PhDs be told that “having a family is a bad idea.” This is of course, anecdotal, but still. On top of that is the feminization of academia, where more women and people of color and LBGQT+ people are becoming part of the academy, and hence how our society views it changes - it’s seen as less valuable, less important, because it’s not longer a masculine space.

So, yeah, I agree with most of what you’re saying here, and it’s worth repeating. But gender bias in academia is a real thing, and our overall societal contempt of academia (not meaning you, but some comments here are most certainly reflecting that) is also about the increase in people who are not white, straight, middle, or upper class men in the academy.


This is why you need to ask for specifics during reference checks and refuse to use vague hand waving about “difficult to get along with” to determine hiring.

Weinstein similarly said actresses were difficult.

I personally have been labeled difficult, which is odd since my previous employers had all thought I was an inclusive, hard working, collegial person. Having that happen was a very disastrous thing I only recently recovered from.


Phone calls still work as a private back channel. At this point, institutional email is only private insofar as the fact that, usually, no one is looking.

I have a colleague with clear undiagnosed Asberger’s syndrome, who has a tendency to go on long one-sided rants. Now, she’s a friend, and I’m used to people being a bit out of the ordinary, so I’m fairly sanguine about unexpectedly having an hour of my day taken up. But as you say, challenging people are challenging and you need not even be nasty to not like the experience.