Susumu Tonegawa=Susemu Tonegawemu

UPDATE: we provide the file

Ok kids, Globe has all the e-mails between Dr. Karpova and MIT. Thanks to Mike D. in comments for the heads up and to Margaret Soltan). Remember MIT has a hiring fracas going on. There are claims of a gender situation, we think it is only de facto about gender, but really about scientific ego and power. We have been covering this story- go here for background. Long story short, he totally ratf***ed her. I realize this does not seem like a scientific term, the Globe however has a downloadable file with the transcribed e-mails between the two, and Dr. T really turns on the ooze [file is here: MITmail2.doc ]. I shall quote from them here, note the subject line is “Subject: CONFIDENTIAL”:

Tongawemu: “I do have a strong reservation about having you as a faculty colleague in the same building here at MIT at this time because of a serious overlap in research interest and approach: reward-driven learning and decision-making studied using genetically engineered rodents (and possibly primates in the future). We briefly discussed the possibility of arranging a collaboration. But this is complex because others (postdocs and students) are involved and your lab and my lab’s expertise are not really complimentary. Furthermore, for career development (tenure evaluation), it is disadvantageous for a junior faculty (you) to have a collaborative arrangement with a senior faculty member (me).”

Seems somewhat reasonable, right? But he’s making the call on how similar their research is. She has a technique in hand using an approach she spent years developing. He does not have this technique but a desire to study these HUGE, FUNDAMENTAL problems in brain function. Does he get these problems for himself, or is this actually an unreasonable demand? His statement of concern for students and post-docs is most likely about theoretical ones with hypothetical projects at this point. It seems that the competition of which he speaks is in the future. Next, he suggests that he controls key resources for her work:

“Also, my postdocs and graduate students and your counterparts will be very reluctant to be open to each other about their current status of research. Management of these people and the research projects will become very difficult for both of us. What accentuates this difficulty is the still uneasy atmosphere between McGovern and Picower which you may have noticed.

An additional drawback in logistics is about the shared resources and facilities. When this building complex was designed, the McGovern Institute did not show much interest in the facilities needed for rodent research, focusing more on primate research. Consequently, I, as Director of the Picower Institute, took the major role in securing and designing rodent holding, behavior and transgenic facilities. For instance, there is a communal rodent behavior facility but it is designed primarily for the Picower Institute users, and is furnished with Picower’s equipment. I am afraid that accommodating your lab would be difficult.”

This can only be read by an intelligent person as threatening. Although nicely creative in its attempts to sound reasonable. What he is saying here is that he won’t lift a finger to help her {added} beyond his patronizing e-mail, but implying that other fingers of other people will remain unlifted as well.

I will not quote more, you simply have to read the e-mails in their entirety. They are masterworks of subtle and overt intimidation and also, an incredible ego. I feel almost physically ill reading them. If you read between the lines you almost get the feeling that the entire situation- stemming from competition between two neuroscience inst. at MIT comes from one man’s ego. It is clear he is adept at fanning the flames of this “rivalry.”

89 Responses to “Susumu Tonegawa=Susemu Tonegawemu”


  • The Uncanny Canadian

    Holy bull! Reading those emails sent shivers up and down my spine. That is so supremely evil and smarmy and self-serving meglomania i need to puke. My favourite part is where Sosemu describes how the McGovern hiring committee is just totally misguided and only he and Alla have sufficient in-depth knowledge of the field to know how impossible it would be to work together. BUT, he only seems to have a problem working together in the absence of geographical distance. I don’t know of any clearer way to define a turf war. So/so emu is running serious interference here and i don’t know any other way this can be interpreted. I also don’t see any possible way that Alla could take a position at MIT given the explicit and implicit threats made.

    As for the gender issues we discussed earlier, I don’t feel I have the expertise to dissect his language usage and make a claim either way. I do know that when he describes her as being ‘charming’ it made me feel a little queasy. What I can’t tell is to what degree Susemu would be willing to be collegial and collaborative if it were a male faculty candidate the McGovern were considering.

    It does appear that it is impossible for people at the McGovern and Picower to work together and the blame for that is directly because of Susemu. The benefactors and overseers of these institutes need to be acutely aware of this problem and do something immediately.

  • Hocking needs to come down like a ton of bricks. The institutes need to be merged in all but name, and ST needs to be marginilized from administration duties. He essentially is saying that he informed his entire lab and the Picower Inst. that they should not collaborate with her- in between the lines of his addressing their concerns- of course there was no attempt by him to alleviate any of those concerns. He is more than happy to merely communicate these difficult truths. Tonegawa’s tone was that of threats, but in his mind they aren’t threats, they are truths and he probably thinks he is being the GOOD GUY by merely informing her of the fait accompli.

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    Oh yeah, Alla’s letter back is fantastic. It is perfectly worded and toned. Where she talked about being at MIT as a dream that almost came true for her, I actually got a little teary. It’s f*cking bullsh*t how she got treated by Susemu.

  • She was practically begging him to say the word. Offering to accomodate him in lots of ways. He does not have a leg to stand on. He basically wants to destroy the McGovern- I mean even non-competitors of his, why would someone want to risk their career and take a job there?

    What a total cobag.

  • Those e-mails were so terrible, why was it that only the female profs stood up about this? I know others are working behind the scenes, but this is so ridiculous.

  • i think the only gender issue is that a man would have probably answered “Bring it on!”

  • YIKES. I like the reminder that as “a senior member of the neuroscience community” he urges her not to take the position– after stating in the previous email that “I am most happy to support you if you and I are going to work with some distance between us.” That’s what I would call a threat, all right.

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    That’s incredibly sexist, Maria.

  • His largest crime is using the term “compoundednesses”.

    He is an emu’s cobag, but I will grudgingly admit, he has an incredibly nuanced approach to intimidation and bullying. Smiling all the while he is sticking his knife into her back. Prediction is they won’t have anything they can really nail him with and he will get away with it (again).

  • Where do you think those Emails came from. Ratfucked indeed.

  • Dear Eli,

    My presumption is that the e-mails we forwarded from Dr. Karpova to her recruitment committee in order to explain why she was not accepting her dream offer, but of course dispersal from there is unknown. Of course, she may have also forwarded them to other parties outraged by her description of events. I don’t know, but it seems like when you are on the short end of the stick you might need to prove to people that what you are saying is true. For example, the MIT Dean of Science tried to claim this was all a misunderstanding and Tonegawa and Sibley (if I recall correctly) denied that Tonegawa threatened to impede Dr. K’s used of the animal facility, and of course the e-mails prove them to be mistaken or dishonest. I would suggest that these e-mails are so over the line that there really is no presumption of confidentiality. I’m sure Dr. T was using his MIT e-mail account to sabotage another entity’s hiring process.

    Since nothing of consequence will happen to Dr. T, we cannot imagine that he has truly been ratf***ed. It’s his business, you know, he knows how to play.

  • on the basis of the quotes above, I can’t see the problem.

    It is a problem if you have two people working on the same issue in the same institution. If you have people “competing” from two ends of the country; that’s okay, and you will get funding for that. Two people “competing” in the same building on the same project; no way that will get funding.

    If he collaborates, it is bad for the junior. If there are deficiencies in rodent facilities, it is a problem for new staff.

    If they are in competition, yet working on the same problem with the same techniques, it doesn’t take an einstein to see that this is going to have all sorts of problems associated with it.

    It is up to the academics involved to make the judgement call if the work is too similar. Tonegawa thinks so.

    If the new hire was a male, would we be seeing all this noise if tonegawa had said exactly the same things ? Or is this just rabid sexism ?

    yours
    per

  • Hi, Per,

    I am not going to be rude to you. Thank you for your comment here. Leaving aside your reputation as an internet contrarian, for you to say what you have said in light of the extensive feedback on these issues from actual scientists, and people familiar with such situations you will have learned that this may not be a sexist situation, and that if Tonegawa had torpedoed a male applicant, the ridiculousness of his comments would have been the same. It is probably impossible of me to convince you of this. Dr. Tonegawa essentially stated that the field of learning and memory was off limits to Dr. Karpova. This is a huge field. He then, in an incredibly non-professional manner, interfered with another dept’s hire. Nothing about this situation is excusable. You just have to understand how competitive yet collegial science works. IT DOESN’T WORK THIS WAY. This is why so many people are outraged. It may not fit your pre-existing ideas about science, which are already quite low, nor presumably your contrarian ideas about reverse-sexism, but there it is. Thank you again for commenting.

  • no offence intended; I hope I wasn’t rude to you. Bear in mind that all i have read is the text above, including your comment that there are claims this is a gender situation.

    I think that part of this is the issue of whether the two protagonists areas are too close, and I have no knowledge to resolve this; given that, I would have to either accept Tonegawa’s view, or be able to form a view that Tonegawa’s position is ridiculous. You certainly haven’t provided information here to enable me to refute T’s view that they are working in essentially the same area using the same methods.

    Once you have accepted a view that the areas are too close, an awful lot of things follow, some of which I have indicated. If you can apply the same novel insights or ideas in multiple experimental systems (ie T’s and K’s), then you will then be facing the possibility that one team could leak their idea to the other team, who are then able to publish first. And that is just the beginnings of the possible problems.

    You assert that [hiring decisions] “doesn’t work this way”. Yes ? All I can say is that I wonder where you obtain that utter certainty. You may have been involved in hiring decisions where two people were hired to work on the same problem with the same tools in the same department; such things do happen, but it is normally the case that the junior appointee is explicitly hired as the dogsbody for the senior scientist.

    I note your comments about my “pre-existing views about science, which are already quite low”. I suspect you know as much about my views as I do about yours.

    yours
    per

  • per,

    we have two other posts about this situation, one of which we link above. MIT has problems with hiring and retaining women faculty- which is why this is a de facto gender issue for them, even though the specifics of the case are gender neutral (we presume).

    As for competition, there are hundreds of labs working on certain problems that can be defined as similar or not, depending on how territorial you want to be. It must be understood that the field of learning and memory is huge. If Dr. T felt this way, even after Dr. Karpova repeatedly trying to allay his concerns on their “competition”, then he can pass his concerns to the hiring committee. It was inappropriate for him to give pressure directly, even if the other institute chose to hire her against his wishes. Additionally his role as overseer of the Picower and its facilities are distinct from his role in steering his lab, and it is improper of him to manipulate those things against what could have been a colleague. It was improper of him to align his faculty against her. Even in the worst case scenario where the labs choose to work on very similar things, there are ways to ethically keep projects from being totally on top of one another by keeping communication open. Tonegawa refused all of these things, and he refused even to give it a try in good faith. He torpedoed her candidacy completely. The entire situation stinks. At some level, there will be competition even between colleagues, this does not render the situation unworkable. Both Tonegawa and Karpova are developing cutting edge technologies. Karpova is developing ways to target specific functions in the brain, perhaps Tonegawa is as well. karpova comes from a lab that has pushed the cutting edge of imaging techniques for brain function. Tonegawa’s lab is also pushing such techniques. These are techniques and their true value will be when they are applied to different problems in the brain. Their applications can be unlimited, and for Toengawa to state that he does not feel comfortable with a Jr. Faculty member working on such huge problems strikes one as exceptionally odd. Tonegawa has taken the selfish view- he is pissing a circle around huge unsolved problems in brain function, and this is unscientific. It doesn’t do science justice. The best view of him could be that he is looking out for his students- this is laughable given his reputation as a cutthroat egotist. And as for our understanding of each other’s views in science, I apologize for the remark. I only know that you are a global warming contrarian, and I noted here that you are taking the skeptical/contrarian view.

    PP

  • I agree that how close your projects are may be in the eye of the beholder, and may even be an entirely subjective call. Nonetheless, you have presented no coherent case to say that their subject areas are substantively different, and such information as is in your last post argues that they would be very close subject areas with very similar methodologies.

    Once this is accepted, there are serious difficulties that arise. I think you have to stand back and consider this; even if (as you suggest) some of these problems can be mitigated, this is by no means a given, and it not certain that all problems could be avoided.

    Given that T has the larger group and greater clout, the difficulties will almost always have an adverse effect on K. If both groups have the same idea, T’s will publish first (due to greater resources, and greater clout). This could be a serious adverse effect, and to be clear, nothing to do with sexism.

    I look at US departments, and I do not see many examples of people who have directly overlapping research areas using the same techniques in the same department. I cannot recall any such examples in the UK either (without an explicit arrangement that the junior works for the senior). Perhaps you could give me some examples ?

    Given that K has been able to get an equivalent job elsewhere where such difficulties will not arise, I think that T has done her a favour. I don’t see anything that he has done that is over the line, even if I wouldn’t follow the same line myself.

    Up till the point that K leaked confidential emails, played the sexism card, and called in the newspapers, she was doing well.

    yours
    per

  • per,

    You don’t know who leaked the e-mails, which were entirely inappropriate to begin with, and as such I’m sure you know there is no such thing as a confidential e-mail. She never claimed sexism. Find a quote where she said so, you won’t. MIT female professors claimed that the entirely inappropriate behavior of Tonegawa represented a massive hurdle for the hiring of female faculty, something MIT has major problems with.

    How proper is it to meddle with another department’s hiring process? There are no scientific monopolies, scientists are free agents. When competition arises, you can either mitigate it by collegial behavior (co-submission of results, the synergy of slightly different approaches to the same problem).

    Everything you suggest about biology departments is naive and incorrect. I will allow you to win this argument because I just am so sick about this whole completely BS situation, I am weary of talking about it. In addition per of the internet has never lost an argument, whether it be Lancet paper or Global Warming. I cannot but think that since you assume the “liberal” side of this equation to be Dr. K’s, so you have just taken the reactionary approach and raised up Dr. T’s.

    I’ll leave off the 5-6 paragraphs of hyperbolic invective. Go get some sun, get out on the weekend, enjoy yourself, take a day off from needling us.

  • I’ll say per’s a contrarian. Not a bad thing, per se, but it appears from the exchange that you are typing twice as much as you’re reading about the topic.

    The sort of exchange described here, between the scientists, is totally uncool. There are channels for these sentiments to be expressed through, and the avoidance of these channels, and the use of direct pressure and veiled threats, are unprofessional in the extreme.

    Monkeys can be so funny when threatened. Usually they just throw poo, as we see here.

  • hmmm… confidential email from T to K. Did T leak the email ? I doubt it. Did K leak the email ? ah, it was a mystery hacker who just happened to crack the email. Sheesh.

    Yes, i am sure that K has not made any charge of sexism per se. Strange how Ben Barres learnt all about this in an interview, and how he feels it is quite all right to blab about a process which is normally confidential; clearly, he couldn’t have got her permission to cover this stuff, no way.

    11 female faculty were somehow briefed well enough to know about T’s role. But again, this couldn’t possibly have arisen through the leaking of a confidential email.

    Everything you suggest about biology departments is naive and incorrect.
    i asked you simple questions. can you convince us that their fields really are significantly different ? Can you convince me that US Biology departments hire faculty with directly competing research interests ?

    You don’t answer, and come out with the flat assertion that i am naive and incorrect. By and large, i tend to be careful about making statements when I don’t know what I am talking about; it is a practice i commend. You tell me that academics shouldn’t piss around their territory, shouldn’t interfere with hiring decisions, and shouldn’t get involved in neighbouring departments fights; any second now, and I expect you to tell me what bears shouldn’t do in the woods.

    I’ll leave off the 5-6 paragraphs of hyperbolic invective.
    indeed. I can’t quite understand why this is such a story, when K has got a plum position at HHMI. Is it because you know K ? Is it because you believe that “de facto”, all males at MIT are male chauvinist pigs / a gender issue ?

    mdhatter says this is about throwing poo; strangely enough, I agree. When you throw it, it tends to stick to whatever it touches, no matter how pristine (or otherwise) they were in the first place. But the bad news is, your hands get covered as well.

    yours
    per

  • per,

    you need to read all of our posts on the topic. T has a very, very bad reputation. We’re not trafficking in rumors, so we’re not gonna reprint all the stories in gory detail. In addition, because we know the individuals involved on almost every side, we smelled a rat and it wasn’t K. The full text of the e-mails indicated to us strongly that we were correct in smelling a rat. In addition, we feel that the wording of the e-mails is so crystal clear, and in general this has been the consensus of every single person in science whom we have asked, and at every level, we think saying that T was out of line is akin to describing the color of the sky as blue. Given that you do not agree with this situation, we are at a loss to convince you. Interpretations of the wording in the e-mail that are obvious to us on their face are not obvious to you. We have reached a dead end in this argument. We will type a little more and then we will not respond anymore. Your comments are still welcome until the cows come home.

    Imagine this situation:

    [begin Three B playhouse]

    HIRING COMMITTEE: Dr. Karpova we’d really like to hire you.

    K: I’d really like to be hired by you.

    HC: Why not come here?

    K: Well, I don’t feel like I will be supported.

    HC: Of course you will be supported, all our faculty is on board.

    K: Well, I don’t feel supported by T. because he said he would basically try to thwart my career based on his unilateral decision that we are competitors. He also has stated that he is aligning certain faculty against me and he has made me unwelcome in no uncertain terms, and has threatened to block my use of facilities.

    HC: Uh, what? Do you have proof of this EXCESSIVELY UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR?

    K: Yes.

    per, T in no uncertain terms essentially said he would do everything in his power to rape and murder her career in an e-mail, which he unilaterally labeled “CONFIDENTIAL.” Given that he behaved unethically, I don’t think there is any assumption of confidentiality. What else could have have put in the e-mail to make it OK to pass on? What if he harassed her in some other way? Would she still be bound by this agreement? I do not know who leaked the e-mails to the press, however K was well within her rights to pass on the e-mail to anyone she wished, but certainly she was within her rights to pass the e-mails to the Search Committee at the McGovern.

    Let us imagine another conversation:

    Ben Barres, Stanford Hiring Committee: “So where else are you looking for a position?”

    K: MIT

    Ben Barres: Is this your first choice?

    K: Well, I thought it was a good fit, but I have been intimidated out of taking the job by a senior faculty member?

    BB: Intimidated, that is a strong word. What could possibly intimidate an ambitious and aggressive and confident scientists such as yourself?

    K: Blatantaly unethical conduct.

    BB: I find this shocking. Please describe the conduct.

    [Here ends Three B! playhouse]

    per, you still don’t understand what I mean by de facto. I mean that in this instance MIT had a problem hiring a specific candidate who happened to be female. Therefore this problem gets filed with the rest of MITs genderproblems, even if this instance was unrelated to gender. I have said this about 6 different times. Please indicate whether you understand this or not.

    Is it because you believe that “de facto”, all males at MIT are male chauvinist pigs / a gender issue ?

    If you think this is what I think reading everything that I have said, you are being deliberately provocative and not arguing in good faith. Try not to be a chundermuffin.

  • per, I CLEARLY meant that the MIT honcho science dude was throwing poo. not anyone here.

    What you and I think is irrelevant. I’m a working field scientist, living far from academia. I have no dog in this fight, nor do you, i assume.

    What future MIT post-grad prospects think is much much more important.

    and If I were one, I’d think there is a territorial pedantic monkey in charge of the MIT department in question, and not a reasoned board of academics (as is presented by MIT).

    Also, that there is someone there who may put my entire career in jeapordy to protect his banana tree.

    This is a power play, a bonobo knife fight, if you will.

    ‘Confidentiality’ does not un-ring a bell, even if confidentiality does apply (and it doesn’t, in my opinion, with all that public money floating around between those thinly veiled threats).

    In a private enterprise, sure, have at the throat. But if you cannot get past the petty infighting, you have no place on the path of progress.

    This is a story because when the collaboration ‘rule’ changes among researchers, so does the institution’s reputation, and dominance in these sciences.. and MIT has taken several hits of late.

    In their favor, they may have nuclear weapons, so no-one will really screw with them.

    MIT came out short on this one, and rightly so. It may not be sexism, (it’s not racism or religionism or classism either) but it is of the same continuum of Totally Unacceptable Behavior, as far as the academic sciences go.

    Saying no is one thing. Saying yes BUT A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and your career… is another altogether

  • …to rape and murder her career…
    i think you need to take a deep breath. Rape ? murder ? I think we are using a bit of emotional hyperbole here.

    Given that he behaved unethically,…

    so far you are relying on hearsay evidence of what T did on other occasions, which you are not telling me about. I have asked you directly about whether their science is directly competitive, and you haven’t answered. You haven’t answered either to whether it is general practice to have faculty at the same department on the same problem.

    Your premise that T has behaved unethically seems unconnected to the evidence that you adduce, but I guess if it is guilty until proven innocent, then fine.

    Therefore this problem gets filed with the rest of MITs genderproblems, …
    this tells me something as well.

    mdhatter, the case I was making is that Karpova has thrown mud by her actions. It is now well established that she has been directly associated with a “genderproblem” accusation, got newspaper publicity, and confidential emails to her become public. I am sure all her new colleagues will welcome these facts. It may also be that she has seriously alienated one of her likely academic grant referees, who just happens to be a nobel prize winner of impeccable reputation.
    stunning work

    yours
    per

  • Wait, I am unable to claim that T has a completely impeachable record, but you are able to claim it is impeccable?

    Yes, “rape and murder” was meant to be hyperbolic, the point being are there any conditions where she would have been able to share the unethical correspondence? At what point would her concerns be grave enough for it to be OK for her to share? Everyone I know at similar institutions as MIT in similar positions tells me they think T’s e-mails were blatantly over the line. What more can I say?

    When you start your lab at the highest levels in science you talk about wanting to approach the biggest problems. In neuroscience, brain connectivity, behavior, learning and memory are the BIGGEST and most important targets. So if wanting to learn about some of the biggest problems in neuroscience can be considered “doing the same thing” then yes, they do the same thing. Given that these problems will take years to decades to solve in all of their complexity, it is up to the open-minded reader to determine whether of no there is room at MIT for two such people. Let me put it this way, if Dr. T had room in HIS lab for 5 to 10 more people working on these problems, MIT would have room for her. It is as simple as that. This question is entirely beside the point. The real question is whether Dr. T. behaved ethically in response to the possible hire, regardless of possible competition, which she repeatedly tried to down play. I think the general opinion will be that he did not, and I find his own words completely compelling on this issue, regardless of any circumstances you would claim as mitigating. This goes beyond hiring someone that works on the same protein or small molecule or the exact same problem, which would be questionable, yet still not an excuse for bad behavior. You either agree with what I think is a reasonable approximation of what these scientists are trying to accomplish- meaning they both work on the same BIG PICTURE or you don’t. Dr. T seems like he was trying to claim the entire big picture for himself, using dishonest means to do so. This is the problem at hand as I see it. You are free to disagree.

  • The e-mails are enough to convict him in the court of Three Bulls. He is guilty on those alone.

    For example would the animal facility be able to accomadate some other researchers mice, perhaps someone working on Alzheimers, or ALS? I would go out on a limb to say yes.

    I will add the e-mails couldn’t possibly be confidential. He is discussing allocation of MIT resources. Besides the fact that we are being antagonistic to each other here, can you see this point?

  • Uh, punko, e-mail me tfish at the site whoomps.com soonish please gotta talk to you about somethin’ re: this post & can’t find an e-mail for you.

  • but you are able to claim it is impeccable?
    i speak only of his scientific track record; I know nothing of his interpersonal skills or any other rumours about his lab.

    Pinko, I only discuss on the basis of what you provide me with, and I am not arguing that you are a problem. You have argued that neuroscience is big; fine, no problem there. But it seems to me that the specific issue argued is that their interest and methodology is too close. I have made clear that i have no knowledge in this area, and I have asked you for your specific take on whether their work would be directly competitive; you have dodged the question on three occasions.

    I do think it would be bad to employ two faculty who work on exactly the same problem with the same techniques. I accept that there might be some subjectivity in identifying what might be too close; but you haven’t engaged in this argument at all.

    So far, T is not “ethical”; he is using “dishonest means”; and you have accused him of “rape and murder” of K’s career. All I can see is that you are very upset. Your blunderbuss accusations around “gender issues” also fail to convince me of your careful consideration.

    I notice your view on confidential communications; it is clearly quite all right to leak something so long as you are in the right. However, one day, there may come a time when you say something in confidence; maybe then you will have a different view ?

    yours
    per

  • per

    “… who just happens to be a nobel prize winner of impeccable reputation.”

    threatening her career over a turf war because he didn’t get the final word in hiring her or not, well, that looks like a ‘pecc’ on his reputation to me. Being brilliant AND being a dick is common, but the Nobel does not shield one from deserved criticism.

    he is in a position of power and was way out of line and wrong, she was powerless, and arguably out of line, but right.

    His mistake was not doing it in person.

    —-

    “All I can see is that you are very upset. Your blunderbuss accusations around “gender issues” also fail to convince me of your careful consideration.”

    ahh yes, when an honest argument gets patronizing. awwwwww, poor widdle pinko, all tired and crabby. Pity him. Per, If i were in anyone elses house I would swear at you for such a lame lame lame tactic.

    He said it was hyperbolic, and I didn’t miss that on MY first reading. But i was reading for comprehension, and not for ammunition.

    So, pinko, is your blood sugar okay You better check tut suit, and post the results, and a pic of the test strip as proof…. or you will definitely come across as a little testy… and everyone knows that makes you utterly incapable of being entirely right.

    man, per, you aren’t even arging that he was right or wrong anymore, just that you aren’t wrong, and in so doing, you are devolving (and rapidly) into pure semantics. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Fortunately, my time isn’t.

  • if i ever threaten the career of a potential colleague in an e-mail, well, I certanly hope it DOES come out,

    and that I get my come-uppance.

    If this were a legal proceeding, the e-mail MIGHT be thrown out. But this isn’t a legal proceeding, this is a public lynching (per, warning, that was hyperbole). What he said is nasty and unprofessional and has no place in a publicly funded top-level research project.

    per, you can apparently feel betrayed on his behalf, but why not on her behalf?

    He shafted her on a decision that wasn’t his to make, for selfish reasons.

    He should work for John Silber.

  • per,

    It depends on what is in confidence. There was absolutely no way for her to be honest with the MIT search committee with which she was negotiating without discussing the outside interference from T. Threats concerning the use of resources and strongly inhibiting someone’s research career do not fall under one person’s unilateral declaration of “confidentiality.” Of course I could be burned by telling someone my honest opinion in confidence, however that is not relevant to the threats issued by T.

    I have not dodged any issues relating to the possible competition between T and K. Her lab doesn’t even exist yet and her experimental approach (you can PubMed it- MIST technology) is applicable to many aspects or brain function. Given that we have a situation where T considers the research too close and K to go out of her way to convince T that this was indeed not the case can it possibly matter whether we establish them as close or not. Neither of our opinions could possibly be as close as either of these two. They disagree. So we are at a standstill regarding the reality of the competition issue. I claim that unless the circumstances are extreme almost any type of competition in a field such as this could be mitigated by collegial behavior, end of story. HOWEVER, this is simply not relevant to T’s actions. It may be relevant to his motivation, but that doesn’t excuse his behavior. If he has a problem with the hire he goes to the McGovern, not K. He has a problem with the hire in regards to his own labs work, then it governs how he interacts with her on a scientific level as the head of his lab, not in his position as head of the Picower. It is totally useless to argue about the motivations, I’m arguing about the behavior. You have been provided with Boston Globe transcripts of three e-mails and a description of other correspondence between the two. I don’t feel I have to offer anything more to you. You can read the rest of the e-mails. I have not quoted them in their entirety. If you make the decision otherwise, we have to agree to disagree.

    You can continue to claim I have no argument. You will be in the minority. This is fine. I have attempted to be logical even within the bounds of my emotion, which I would suggest you are deliberately pricking. I do not think you even really care about this situation. I think you care about taking the piss out of people. Every single thing I have said here has been in good faith based on my experience, knowledge, intuition and reading of the presented facts. If you choose to say that T’s e-mails say up when they say down, so be it. We cannot argue further about it.

  • Apologies to everyone my blood sugar was indeed low. I had two exorbitantly priced Reese’s and feel better.

    Thanks, md.

    My serious pants were getting in a WAD.

  • Punko you should check out that word doc and make sure that any identifying information, such as real names and/or MIT logins, has been removed from it.

  • Tweety, that is the document we got from the Globe- they had it available for everyone to download, but checking now-

  • I couldn’t see anything revealing in the document upon another perusal. What I did not check is whether these are distributable by me or solely the Globe’s possession. I think it must be OK because the Globe was freely distributing the document.

  • “I think you care about taking the piss out of people”

    mmm, yeah. That’s certainly why I’m still here. I just wanna know if he ever concedes anything, ever.

    as Athenae at FirstDraft said (better than i ever could): Pissing off the sanctimonious is the Ice Cream Sundae of my life.

  • this is a public lynching
    yes, I am getting that.

    What he said is nasty and unprofessional …
    Given T’s very careful wording, I think this is hyperbole. When you talk about “nasty and unprofessional”, I look at the smear tactics, unsubstantiated gossip, and trial by innuendo that I have seen deployed against T on this site, and wonder just who deserves these adjectives.

    per, you can apparently feel betrayed on his behalf, but why not on her behalf?
    If you accept that they are too close in research area, I think T is right; it would be bad for K to try and get a faculty appointment there.

    you aren’t even arging that he was right or wrong anymore, just that you aren’t wrong,…
    so far, I haven’t felt the need to call anyone a murderer, rapist, sexist, rapist, dishonest, nasty, unethical, etc., and I don’t understand why all these words have to come out when I can’t see sufficient justification.

    I note your comment that I was patronising; I thought I was polite. So far, PP has called me several names, and made several comments about my knowledge of science and biology, etc, for which PP has no factual basis.
    ah, well

    yours
    per

  • “this is a public lynching
    yes, I am getting that.”

    Again with missing the the hyperbole. I have no dog in the fight. I’m just here trying to figure YOU out per. Not lynch you, or him, or anyone.

    “nasty and unprofessional”

    again, you resort to the semantics, and dodge the point. What he said, if you have passed a 10th grade reading comprehension class, was

    A) nasty – as in, do not take the job or I will set back your career; and

    B) unprofessional – as in, his place in the decision making process was insufficient for his ego.

    “I note your comment that I was patronising;”

    Well, thank you very much, Your second bout of patronizing is also duly noted in MY log.

    “I thought I was polite. ”

    No, wait a sec. Like the senior professor in question here, you think you SOUND polite, and that anyone would have to conclude you were BEING polite, but only insofar as you use no nasty or angry words. I don;t buy for a second that you think you are being polite, except for effect.

    To prove my point I would now have to play your semantic game. Not Interested.

    “so far, I haven’t felt the need to call anyone a murderer, rapist, sexist, rapist, dishonest, nasty, unethical, etc., and I don’t understand why all these words have to come out when I can’t see sufficient justification.”

    Well, good for you, that nets you zero points. Now, can you ACTUALLY not see it, or are you just not bothering to try to understand.

    I ask becasue the word “blunderbuss” has also come out… and that’s not a word often applied by those interested in honest discourse.

    one might even call it…. hyperbolic.

    GUILTY!

    nice speaking with you.

  • I know something of your biology experience, per, which is why I find your comments all the more perplexing, pun intended. I truly feel you are just trying to be a shit-disturber. This is not name calling, this is my honest assessment of your dishonest argumentation.

    About five or six or seven times we attempted to explain our take on this issue as a gender/not a gender one. Each time you deliberately ignore it to pursue a line of argument with an individual not currently in the argument. This individual is someone that is asserting that T is a male chauvinist. I simply cannot answer to this hypothetical individual.

    We can’t lie. We can’t say that T has a stellar reputation. We had to be honest in our appraisal for our readers. We would not say this about very many scientists. His reputation is singularly bad, which is why we were forced to admit it. Would you have us lie? The entire point of our original post was to emphasize that their were layers and layers missing from the Globe story. I fail to see how this adds up to a smear campaign on our part.

    Second, we cautioned you not to be a chundermuffin. I fail to see how this can be taken as serious name-calling. Since the names were supposedly plural, I wonder what other shocking things we said. For the life of us, we couldn’t find them in the above thread. Is contrarian an name, or an apt description of your stance.

    Third, you deliberately repeat twice the “rape and murder” comment outside of its original and secondarily explained context.

    A) Original context: what could possibly veiwed by per as a statement that could pass his exceedingly high bar for breaking “confidentiality.”

    B) Secondarily explained as hyperbole in support of above asserted intent.

    How can we view you as honest? You say we dodge things. We don’t think we are. You claim you are being polite, you know you are not. You came in here with much less knowledge of the situation, and then suggest that the burden of the argument is on us to convince you of something we already feel is self-evident from the presented e-mail conversation, which you only seem to have examined the short paragraphs we presented, rather than the entire correspondence. We have polled informally over a dozen accomplished scientists and their opinion of the e-mails is unanimous. We therefore have used this informal poll to bolster our ideas that you are being either dense, or dishonest. We have discussed the difference between motivation and action. You seem to think that both are justified. We do not. You can simply disagree. You lack of good faith is clear in your above statements. We never called T. a murderer and a rapist as in of a person.

    I can’t walk away from my own site, as much as I wish I could. Even while emotional, we have discussed this in good faith. You haven’t. And now the stupidest argument in the history of stupid once again has per as common denominator. I also note for the record than I have equal responsibility.

  • Threats concerning …
    there were no threats, save in your imagination. Hyperbole.

    Of course I could be burned by telling someone my honest opinion in confidence, …
    you post anonymously, and you seem singularly close to the protagonists. I guess you might be less than happy if someone disclosed your identity to the institution/ protagonists; you might even see it as a breach of confidence. I could imagine that such a state of events could even see you fired, depending on where you work. Please don’t take this as a threat, I am just exploring your views on “confidentiality”.

    can it possibly matter whether we establish them as close or not?
    i think so, yes
    unless the circumstances are extreme almost any type of competition in a field such as this could be mitigated by collegial behavior…
    I disagree. i point out that the people who get burnt under these circumstances are the tenure-track people, who are discarded.

    I have to say I do not see T’s behaviour as a smoking gun, or even incriminating. T comes across as honest, and looking out for her best interests. I suspect T is correct about the effect of competition on junior faculty.

    I have attempted to be logical even within the bounds of my emotion, which I would suggest you are deliberately pricking.
    I have set out clearly the limits of my knowledge, and I have set out what I would like to know, and where I find difficulties with your argument. On the basis of what facts you convey to me, I cannot see your case is solid; we differ in our opinions. Yet I do not have to insult you.

    I am sure that you think you act in good faith; but so far, you have been prepared to make some fairly offensive statements about people which are unsubstantiated or insulting. Do you think that ‘good faith’ excuses any behaviour ?

    yours
    per

  • “And now the stupidest argument in the history of stupid once again has per as common denominator. I also note for the record than I have equal responsibility.”

    HEY! what about me? I am ALL OVER the stupidberry juice.

  • What he said, if you have passed a 10th grade reading comprehension class, was
    A) nasty – as in, do not take the job or I will set back your career

    if only the words and the sentence structure weren’t completely different, you would be right.

    blunderbuss
    “Even if this issue is not truly a gender issue, MIT’s record kind of makes it one by default”
    yours
    per

  • Three Bulls! insulting? Never in a million years.*

    *Mercury years.

    Yes, T is honest. Uh, no. He is singularly inflexible. I’m sorry I am so unconvincing. I didn’t need to “convince” anyone else with whom I have spoken about this. We all just magically agreed as part of our conspiracy.

    Per, you are more than welcome to assault my chosen anonymity. It can never be wise of a person to speak as I have about an incredibly powerful person’s reputation. I made the choice in order to enlighten the readers here, in a way that I view as honest, even if insulting. If I have to face the impolitic consequences for acting as my own confidential source, then I’ll have to deal with that. To each his or her own conscience for keeping.

    You get one more comment in this thread and then I am closing it to our argument, there is no more ground that can be covered by us. You are neither banned nor will the thread be closed, I only request that you sum up and then clam up on this topic. You are more than welcome to engage others if they choose to engage you here. I am asking that our personal engagement come to a close.

  • PP
    what a barrage of abuse !

    You know that six faculty wrote a letter of support for T. It may be shocking, but it turns out that people can hold a different opinion than yours without being dishonest.

    T’s emails are forward. You can interpret them to mean something bad; but that is all that is, an interpretation. The straightforward reading of these emails is T giving his honest advice for the best welfare of K.

    K has leaked confidential emails, invoked a media storm, played the sexism card and antagonised numerous people working at MIT. I am sure it will make her feel good for a short time to see her righteous indignation calling down the media frenzy; however, I am not sure that has benefited her in any way.

    However, I feel I should leave the last word to PP. Hypocrisy and homophobia: don’t they go well together ?
    I truly feel you are just trying to be a shit-disturber. This is not name calling, this is my honest assessment of your dishonest argumentation.

    yours
    per

  • per,

    in America, “shit disturber” means “one who stirs up shit” as in poking a bee’s nest or some similar analogy. It has absolutely no homophobic connotation. None. Zero. Nada. It is now obvious that we hold each other with equally high disdain, and that the argument has become personal, perhaps on both sides. I resent your accusation, and you’ve overstepped your bounds. Perhaps it is due to some other unknown definition of the phrase “shit disturber.” You can retract the accusation or not. Given that I would guess the majority of the readers here know what is meant by shit-disturber i.e. “one who stirs up shit, therefore causing a stink” they will be biased against anything you have to say.

    We could go on forever about how the 6 faculty members supporting T are all members of the Picower and were presumably honest but biased in his favor, given that they know what side their bread is buttered, yada yada.

    Remeber, per, as Ice Cube once said:
    “You’ve got to be freak of the week, if you want the top gun to hit you with the bop gun.”

    Indeed.

  • mdhatter:

    1) I CLEARLY meant that the MIT honcho science dude was throwing poo. not anyone here.

    Actually, no, this was not entirely clear. It was not how I read it the first time. Though on balance your intended meaning is more likely, the final paragraph break in that comment and the fact that your stance toward per is as antagonist makes the meaning ambiguous.

    2) If this were a legal proceeding, the e-mail MIGHT be thrown out.

    If this were a legal proceeding the letter is probably the main thing that would not be thrown out. If K were indeed the victim of a prosecutable crime and T were the defendant, correspondence from the defendant to the victim provided to the prosecution by the victim herself is, by my guess, probably about as secure as evidence gets. IANAL, but my impression is that evidence mostly gets thrown out when it is acquired unlawfully by the police.

    Pinko:

    3) per seems to have been asking specifically what is relevant in determining whether T ‘s and K’s approaches are extremely close. Here’s my impression from what you’ve written:

    K uses a technique (MIST) that is her own invention and which T does not use (indeed, his letter indicates he considers it dubious, or at least insufficiently proved). From a scientific perspective, it seems to me that having two labs working closely on somewhat similar problems using different techniques would be a good way to refine both those techniques. I don’t know how common such an arrangement might be, but if K’s technique is considered promising by the overall neuroscience community then T’s personal conviction about it is not the best gauge as to whether it should be pursued, and if he would view vindication of her technique as threat to his standing then he cares more about his ego than field.

    However, I don’t know these people, and I don’t know accurate my account above is. There is a reasonable question here as to what is relevant in assessing the situation. per seems convinced that their questions and techniques are close enough to be a source of possible conflict (though I don’t recall him providing evidence for this beyond T’s own assertion), and is looking for some specifics as to why you (or others) are asserting this might not be the case.

    mdhatter and Pinko:

    4) You are both treating per as if he is arguing dishonestly. I suspect that he is not. Yes, it is possible to read what he is saying as being purposefully tendentious and provocative, and yes, there certainly are people who argue that way and who would say very similar things to what per is saying for those reasons. Thus far, however, it is also possible to read per’s statements as being by someone who simply reads and writes very literally, and argues very narrowly. Given the evidence in this thread, my impression is that his remarks are more consistent and make more sense when read that way. This is not an easy thing to judge, and you may have prior experience with per to back up your perspective, but if your prior experience with per is in contexts that had already reached the same conclusion you are expressing here, and in which he adopted conclusions you disagreed with, that may have influenced your perception.

    You might perhaps reread his comments a) as if there is little or nothing said “in between the lines” (either in his comments or, from his perception, in T’s email) and b) with an outsider’s conception of T as a respected figure and yourselves as random bystanders. I don’t expect that this will lead to agreement between you about the nature of the situation, but it may make the course of the discussion more understandable and clarify per’s real questions.

    per:

    5) You may want to take T’s emails entirely at face value, however, my question for you is then: why are they labelled “confidential”? If, in fact, the content of the letters is to be treated as his exact sentiments and not a veiled description of another agenda, what exactly is confidential about them? The content consists of things that are public knowledge, things T claims to have discussed with other people in his lab, and pleasantries. If he were truly solicitous and collegial – and intended the email to convey that – why label it “confidential”? What’s confidential about it? To me the label “confidential” appears as a power play, and possibly an admission that the content would be viewed as out of line by those in the scientific community if it became public.

    You can not honestly expect that no one in his lab would discuss these things with outside people, can you? Whether or not T really is a tyrant, he is powerful, and therefore it is a fairly safe assumption that some of those who work under him will resent him.

    6) I do not recall you answering whether you think it reasonable to for K to share the emails with her hiring committee, given their justifiable curiosity as to why she might refuse their offer, and their probable desire to allay her concerns. And while you may not read the emails as being duplicitous, if, in fact, that is the obvious reading for those within the circles T and K travel, as Pinko suggests, then is it not nearly incumbent upon K to report T’s abuse of his position?

    7) You have given no indication that you understand the difference between conscious discrimination, unconscious discrimination, and institutional discrimination (in the current case in the form of sexism). Or, at least, that if you do understand, that you care.

    No one has claimed there is enough evidence to show conscious sexist bigotry on the part of T (or any other individual at MIT) as regards this particular case. It is not difficult to interpret T’s emails as being a bit patronising and condescending. In fact, the existence of the emails at all – with those odd “confidential” labels – could even be evidence that he thinks a “mere” woman would never dare fight a man in his position. However, without particular evidence of T’s history and character, this is just speculation.

    What is not speculation is that MIT as an institution has had a pattern of discrimination, and while it appears the university has recently been sincerely working to correct this, I have heard no one suggest that they have completely succeeded. Thus, the kind of situation that has occurred between T and K raises red flags as something to look into. However, the specifics of the situation need to be ascertained before any concrete determination can be made as to blame attaching to any individual, administrative body, organizational principle in the institution, or procedural aspect of the hiring process – presuming sexism were, in fact, found to be a contributing factor in this particular case.

  • plover

    1) okay. totally. I’ll be more clear.

    2) okay, totally.

    It’s just hard to believe the degree of obtuseness displayed here wasn’t calculated, as i said above, for effect. And was an honest misunderstanding.

    also, you kick ass. I just get into this argument because I dislike unneccesary power plays, and per was all but begging for a takedown.

    also, blunderbuss.

  • God love plover and anoint he/she/it/bird with bounteous pork or other specified items up to and including the magic donut of he/she/it/bird’s choice.

    plover,

    some of the contention revolves around whether the contact between T and K constitutes unethical behavior regardless of the motivation behing the contact. I cleary consider it an abuse, specifically relating to resources under T’s control, including the animal facility and sway with the faculty of his own institute, which I do not view as neutral. per seems to be arguing mostly as to the motivation behind T’s actions as being legitimate. I think this is irrelevant. If a crazy scientist were to clone T and McGovern attempted to hire Clone of T to compete with Original T, this would need to be dealt with above board and through open channels, not through back channel communication. Thus, I think the reading of T’s remarks as friendly caution or as blatant intimidation does not necessarily matter. I would say that a reasonable person would need be concerned of receiving such communications given, and I am being generous, their different possible readings.

    It is in this mind that I view arguments about how related the scientific foci are to be specious. All decisions concerning the relatedness of the research were unilateral and with no attempt at defusing the situation. T went for the full court press, and even if you claim all of the implications were ethical in nature and not an abuse of his position as head of the Picower, it certainly is not collegial, and definitely bears scrutiny as it is the sole reason this hire was not able to be completed. If such competition is so strong it leads to these situations you might argue that there needs to be institutional remedies such that positions are not offered to certain candidates.

    Thus, given the absolute most charitable view of T’s behavior, MIT still is to blame for the situation to begin with and scrutiny should be brought to bear anyway, this his actions are deserving of a microscope and there is no claim whatsoever to confidentiality. Having a candidate in the middle of a turn war is inappropriate, and again, if T were completely blameless and the victim of a McGovern powerplay it is not up to him to remedy it himself through vigilante action against the candidate in question.

    Is this any clearer?

  • in America, “shit disturber” means “one who stirs up shit”…
    I accept what you say. In the UK, it would be clearly homophobic.
    If I made the implication of homophobia, I retract.

    I have to say that I am slightly bemused that you are offended, because I point out that a phrase you use has a homophobic meaning. So far, you have felt little compunction in using a whole battery of rather nasty phrases, and you don’t seem to care very much if you offend people on the receiving end of your abuse.
    yours
    per

  • plover

    why are they labelled “confidential”?
    You are asking me to speculate on motivation; however, I think the answer is obvious that such emails could be misused. For me, an issue is that they were labelled confidential.

    I do not recall you answering whether you think it reasonable to for K to share the emails with her hiring committee,…
    I think it is unwise. If you want to take part in a media firestorm and cause maximum collateral damage, it is entirely reasonable to follow her course of action. I seem to recall K was quite happy to take part in a confidential discussion, and even thanked T for his honesty and candour.

    then is it not nearly incumbent upon K to report T’s abuse of his position
    Once you start accepting that the “hidden meanings” in a letter are true, you can justify anything

    You have given no indication that you understand the difference between conscious discrimination, unconscious discrimination, and institutional discrimination
    you didn’t ask.

    You obviously do, and you are quite content to speculate that T is guilty of sexist bigotry. I point out that it is very easy to throw very hurtful accusations around, but it isn’t a very nice thing to do when such claims are unfounded.

    What is not speculation is that MIT as an institution has had a pattern of discrimination, and while it appears the university has recently been sincerely working to correct this, I have heard no one suggest that they have completely succeeded.
    that is the great thing about “institutional discrimination”; anyone can use this smear on the flimsiest of evidence, and you can even ask for absolute proof it doesn’t exist ! It may be that you make hiring and firing decisions; I don’t know. But if you are in a position of responsibility, I am sure you will appreciate just how unpleasant it is to be smeared with a completely unjustified charge of discrimination.

    yours
    per

  • even if you claim all of the implications were ethical in nature and not an abuse of his position as head of the Picower, it certainly is not collegial, and definitely bears scrutiny…
    let me just point out that MIT, like all universities, is not responsible for the way that the funding system works. The funding system requires cut-throat short-term competition, and awards zero points for “collegial”-ity.

    The point I am making is that it is entirely reasonable to look at T’s email, and (given the premise that their subject areas are too close), that it would have not been in K’s best interests to be appointed there, and that T’s comments were ethical.

    You may think that this is a bizarre point of view; but I did ask you if you could give examples of scientists who are directly competing, and are in the same department. I put it to you that the rarity of such examples is pretty good evidence that a large number of faculty hold the view that you cannot have two people in the same department in direct competition.

    yours
    per

  • Per you are a genius of disingenuousness. How am I sopposed to know that “shit disturber” has homophobic connotations. You merely accused me of homophobia. I had to guess “maybe it was shit disturber” that he means. You assumed I was being homophobic, I had no Idea I could even be considered to be- you can imagine it is like two different species talking past one another.

    I could give countless examples of people working in very similar areas, but they would just be a list of names and it is an irrelevant point.

    plover- you have your answer.

  • per, I think everyone can agree that it massively sucks big time to be accused and or smeared inappropriately. this is why evidence need be weighed carefully, but it doesn’t mean that given written evidence people need to look the other way.

    I’m totally climbing out of these restrictive serious pants.

    Where is my tophat? Bring me my pork snorkler, at once I say! We must prepare for the arrival of the Uncanny One!

  • It’s amazing we communicate at all.

  • You are asking me to speculate on motivation; however, I think the answer is obvious that such emails could be misused. For me, an issue is that they were labelled confidential.

    What, it’s not an issue for everyone else here?

    It looks like you’re begging the question. Why is it obvious? And the answer, “well, just look at what’s happened” doesn’t fly as it’s post hoc.

    I at least conjectured (in my earlier post) as to what the “confidential” labels might mean; Pinko has offered more substantial answers; you are merely appealing to what is (to you) “obvious”.

    Given your reading (not anyone else’s) of the emails as “honest advice for the best welfare of K”, why would anyone at the time they were written label them “confidential”?

    I think it is unwise. If you want to take part in a media firestorm and cause maximum collateral damage, it is entirely reasonable to follow her course of action. I seem to recall K was quite happy to take part in a confidential discussion, and even thanked T for his honesty and candour.

    And what was her “course of action” exactly? How do you know?

    As far as I am aware, the evidence that exists as to what K thinks about where this affair has gone is that she does not welcome the media attention. (I’m almost sure the reference is on one of the other threads around here, maybe Pinko remembers where.) Are you going to take her statement on this at face value?

    Also: if K shared the emails with the hiring committee, and whether or not that may have been “unwise” for K personally, why, under your face value reading of the emails, should sharing them inevitably set in motion a “media firestorm and cause maximum collateral damage”?

    Once you start accepting that the “hidden meanings” in a letter are true, you can justify anything

    You’re evading the question. I reiterate:

    While you may not read the emails as being duplicitous, if, in fact, that is the obvious reading for those within the circles T and K travel, as Pinko suggests, then is it not nearly incumbent upon K to report T’s abuse of his position?

    If it is the “obvious” reading in that context, then it is not a “hidden meaning” (a term I never used) in that context, whether or not it is one in yours.

    And going back to my previous point, if it is the obvious reading in that context, why would T, if he has good intentions, not have written in a way that would avoid such implications? And, if it is not the obvious reading, why would sharing the emails with the hiring committee (if that happened) lead in any predictable fashion to the current controversy?

    “You have given no indication that you understand the difference between conscious discrimination, unconscious discrimination, and institutional discrimination”

    you didn’t ask.

    No, but the implication is that people on this site, as a rule, regard this framework as useful, so if you want to engage them on related issues you will have to address it. (Remember, you chose to have this discussion here.) So far you have communicated scorn for this framework without communicating enough knowledge of it to argue effectively with it, or (at least to me) reflecting back the points others are making in a way that indicates you understood them.

    This is not your turf. In the absence of any other rule, the ground rules for debate are set by the site regulars. If you choose to ignore those rules rather than engage them, how do you expect to be treated?

    No one here is required to figure out what you’re trying to say. And to the degree that your stance appears not just to disagree with (which is fine), but actively to disrespect, the views of the regulars, it is likely no one will want to figure it out either. Merely refraining from epithets and impolite language is not enough. Politesse is not the same thing as respect.

    You obviously do, and you are quite content to speculate that T is guilty of sexist bigotry. I point out that it is very easy to throw very hurtful accusations around, but it isn’t a very nice thing to do when such claims are unfounded.

    Perhaps I was unclear. There is no meaningful evidence of concious sexist bigotry on the part of T. I pointed out a few details that would be suggestive of unconscious sexism in many – though not all – situations, and which, even if these suggestions do hold, may or may not be relevant. The purpose of this is not to smear T, but rather to point out that some prima facie evidence does indeed exist, even within the limited set of details available in the discussion on this site. If you want to argue against this, you will have to address the framework in which that evidence is conceived. Simply stating you do not see it, or ridiculing others’ framework will not impress anyone.

    Now, despite the fact that such prima facie evidence does exist, no one here (that I know of) necessarily thinks it is very strong. The surface consensus has generally been that T would likely have treated an equivalent male prospective hire similarly to K. The chief issue is abuse of power.

    However, the other surface consensus has been that not enough details are available to form any secure conclusion, at least for the context of this discussion. And discussion of different possible interpretations of evidence made publicly available or which is fairly common knowledge among American biologists can hardly be considered out of bounds.

    The chief reason that sentiment favors K rather than T on this site is that several people here have personal knowledge of their characters and personal reputations. No one, in my recollection, has stated that those details make anything conclusive though. In fact, there are a number of other possible villains in this (e.g. the hiring committee) – a fact which has been obscured in this conversation by the narrow focus on T and K.

    Now, my impression is that for various reasons – including not wanting to smear T – some of the details people know are not suitable to be published in this forum. So, you can either choose to trust the reports that people give here or not. If you do not trust them, and have no concrete knowledge with which to counter them, what are you doing here? You are unlikely to persuade those who do have personal knowledge, nor those who have reason to trust those people’s judgement, to your opinion, which was formed without that knowledge.

    Often, above, you have made statements along the lines of, “if you accept premises A, B, C then conclusion D follows”. There is little, if any, dispute over the logic of your conditionals. What is under contention is the validity of the premises, and, by your own admission, you have less knowledge of the underlying details, and thus the truth of your premises, than others here. Why argue from a stance of ignorance?

    Your inquiries do not come across as aimed at learning why people here hold the views they do (whether you would agree with them or not), but rather as an attempt to denounce people’s views on this issue because you think they are derived from a framework of ideas you dislike – and this despite your own admitted ignorance of the underlying facts of the situation.

    that is the great thing about “institutional discrimination”; anyone can use this smear on the flimsiest of evidence, and you can even ask for absolute proof it doesn’t exist !

    See above re: “scorn” and “reflecting back others’ views”.

    It may be that you make hiring and firing decisions; I don’t know. But if you are in a position of responsibility, I am sure you will appreciate just how unpleasant it is to be smeared with a completely unjustified charge of discrimination.

    Yes, I am aware of this. And if T has not engaged in discrimination, then I hope those actually involved in sorting through the details of this determine that. He should not be made to answer for things he has not done. However, whether or not this situation has anything to do with discrimination per se, the prima facie case for abuse of power is much stronger, and T’s reputation is apparently such that few would consider it out of character for him. Again, however, purveying a conclusion is for those in MIT’s governance who are actually responsible for determining the facts.

    And if we were to accept your contention that the opinions expressed here on this topic constitute an out-of-line contribution to the overall discussion, then what should be made of your own intimations that K may have orchestrated this situation, which have an even thinner foundation?

  • Plover
    it is a pleasure
    Given your reading (not anyone else’s) of the emails as “honest advice for the best welfare of K”, why would anyone at the time they were written label them “confidential”?
    as T points out, MIT was keen to hire her, but he expressed the view that this was not really looking after her best interest and invited her to consider this. If he is publically seen to contradict other MIT staff, that causes bad feeling. This would be a sufficient reason IMO for using “confidential”.

    what was her “course of action” exactly?
    who did leak these emails ? The tooth fairy ? Santa Claus ?
    In case you didn’t notice, the “briefing” that Ben Barres received, and the fact that he is able to come away from a confidential interview and write public letters makes pretty plain who the leaker is.

    As far as I am aware, the evidence that exists as to what K thinks about where this affair has gone is that she does not welcome the media attention. … Are you going to take her statement on this at face value?
    This is a world-class scientist, of great intelligence. She has leaked confidential and embarrassing emails from a nobel laureate, she has briefed a media-connected sexism activist, and as PP tells us, MIT is “de facto” sexist anyway. Now she is saying she doesn’t like media attention…

    if K shared the emails with the hiring committee, and whether or not that may have been “unwise” for K personally, why, under your face value reading of the emails, should sharing them inevitably set in motion a “media firestorm and cause maximum collateral damage”?
    you have a very different understanding of “confidential” to me. She also briefed Ben Barres at least, and it seems obvious that passing the email to the hiring committee would be likely to trigger (at minimum) a public row.

    While you may not read the emails as being duplicitous, if, in fact, that is the obvious reading for those within the circles T and K travel, as Pinko suggests, then is it not nearly incumbent upon K to report T’s abuse of his position?
    the duplicity is not relevant. The issue is, as PP suggests, that this email contains threats to K. I simply reject the contention that there is any overt threat in the letter; that is a ludicrous thing to say. What you contend is “obvious” is not explicit; it is implicit, or a hidden meaning.

    If anyone were to write a letter threatening, or blackmailing, K, she would be entirely justified in going to her employer or the police.

    So far you have communicated scorn for this framework…
    teaching and nursing in the UK are overwhelming female. No-one goes around insisting that every individual nurse or teacher must be consciously sexist, or if not, unconsciously sexist, or if not, part of an institutionally sexist organisation and deserving of individual scrutiny just in case. Why should I accept such an intellectually flabby proposition here?

    I pointed out a few details that would be suggestive of unconscious sexism in many – though not all – situations
    It seems that your standard for suggesting unconscious sexism are so low as to be meaningless. I am not sure that you understand the legal use of a prima facie case, and equally, I am unaware of a crime or misdemeanour called “abuse of power”.

    The chief reason that sentiment favors K rather than T on this site is that several people here have personal knowledge of their characters and personal reputations.
    that may be so, but no-one has made that case. The case that I have followed is that written at the top; that by virtue of the emails, T has directly threatened K, and from the intro, that this part of a gender issue.

    I am plain that I operate on the evidence I am given; and the emails do not seem to me to justify the charges made. Specifically, I have set out why I think that T’s concerns for K do seem to be consistent with what I know about US academic practice, and could well be construed as both reasonable and helpful. I have said that I think T’s case would collapse if his premise of direct competition was shown to be wrong; and accordingly, I asked for guidance on this. I have not been enlightened.

    I have made no secret of what I do and don’t know, and I have asked for information. If people start with the premise that T is the anti-christ, and use the emails to “prove” this, it seems entirely reasonable for me to point out that they do not prove anything of the sort.

    Finally, I haven’t argued that your contributions here are out-of-line; I have merely questioned individual lines of logic. I accept you are correct in that I am speculating that K leaked the confidential emails. Given her briefing of Ben Barres, I doubt I am out on a limb here, but you are absolutely right that I have intimated a certainty I do not have.
    yours
    per

  • She had every right to discuss the content of the e-mails with whomever she wished, as she and the rest of the world subtract approxinately 20 individuals viewed the correspondence as improper or at the minumum suspect.

    Casa closete!

  • Dear Pinko
    K thanked T for his honesty, and encouraged him to continue in a confidential discussion. She then leaked the contents of that confidential discussion.

    You think this is perfectly okay, because you appear to be happy to trash T. The end justifies the means.

    However, under many circumstances, you rely on confidence. You have indicated that you would be prepared to take the consequences if someone leaked your identity to your employer/ colleagues; well you wouldn’t have any choice. A much more interesting question is what you would think of the person who betrayed your confidence.

    I guess the position might be that your rely on people keeping what you want confidential, but it is perfectly fair game to release any confidence that T makes to the whole world, particularly if it is embarrassing.

    hmmm

    yours
    per

  • Per,

    This has nothing to do with me. How else is K supposed to react, I would suggest she was in shock at the e-mails and was still trying to make the situation workable via diplomacy, as he was the de facto power in place concerning the success of her candidacy, even though he was not on the search committee nor a member of the institute that hired her. In your world her only choice would have been to return unsolicited e-mails, unread so that she could not be tainted with some communication for which she has no say in the governing rules? He specifically discussed control of MIT resources that could have been at odds with her offer letter. How could she possibly come to terms on this issue without revealing the communication. In this case the fair thing to do would be to reveal the entire communication. Then someone else probably leaked it, and given that every one on earth minus you and maybe three others considers the communication intimidating, what choice did people have when the communication was referred to by all parties, including T, Sibley, and others both pro- and con.

    I’m not arguing with you any more. It can only be characterized as talking to an unpleasant and unreasoning stone.

    Best,

    PP

  • How else is K supposed to react
    K says thank you for your openness, and encourages T to continue a purportedly confidential discussion- which she then leaks to cause maximum embarrassment. According to PP, K was FORCED into saying these things and continuing this discussion. According to you, K isn’t even responsible for the words she wrote.

    According to me, K is an adult, and she uses the words she chooses and means. Encouraging someone to continue a confidential conversation, thanking someone for their honesty and the frankness of their views, and then revealing that confidential discussion ? Now how would you describe that behaviour ? Was it you who used the “duplicity” charge before ?

    It can only be characterized as talking to an unpleasant and unreasoning stone.
    i think your only difficulty is that you have barely engaged in any form of reasoning at all. You simply assert that T has threatened K, on the basis of your divine insight on a hidden meaning. You are not prepared to examine whether this is so, see whether what T has said is reasonable, or examine K’s behaviour in any critical way. Indeed, you have been quite clear to point out that you start from the premise that T is not a nice person, and you have been adamant that you will not reveal the nature of your relationships with the protagonists.

    I thank you for reducing your invective level.

    yours
    per

  • In your world per, there is no such thing as connotation only denotation. In my world, a jury of T’s peers views his actions as suspect. You claim I am unreasonable, I claim you think the blue sky is green. My reasoning is not faulty based on almsot every word out of your mouth. You act like you are allowed hidden insight, while anyone else here is only reading tea leaves. I await your tour de force textual criticism class. It will never meet and it would be hard to imagine what the assignments would be.

    Invective would be “take a hike, bozewad.” You don’t have a leg to stand on (I apologize if you are a multiple amputee). Even if I descended into an unseemly and disgusting orgy of hyperbolic invective this would change nothing about the facts of the case, so I wouldn’t rest your case on those laurels.

    Have a nice weekend, have fun on the internets squelching joy, I look forward to your treatise on the flat earth or some such ridiculousness. I apologize to everyone else here for my unreason and antagonism (not sarcastic).

    I apologize to per that we couldn’t even have a disagreement without acrimony (not sarcastic).

    This website has reached its limit of munchwagon particles, I’m afraid we’re all full up!

  • when did this place turn into calpundit/washington monthly??

  • I know, we have our very own Al. Wonderfullio!

  • By its nature, the blunderbuss is not a very precise weapon. Although it was sometimes used in a military setting, it was more effective when the goal was not to hit a specific target, but rather any one of multiple targets, such as for crowd control. During combat, the blunderbuss was a very unpredictable weapon; it could hit an entire group of enemy soldiers or miss all of them. The blunderbuss thus became a byword for inaccurate marksmanship in any field.

    quite a common usage for the word, but obviously not at 3B!. Glad to see you have benefited from this exchange.

    yours
    per

  • Given your reading (not anyone else’s) of the emails as “honest advice for the best welfare of K”, why would anyone at the time they were written label them “confidential”?

    as T points out, MIT was keen to hire her, but he expressed the view that this was not really looking after her best interest and invited her to consider this. If he is publically seen to contradict other MIT staff, that causes bad feeling. This would be a sufficient reason IMO for using “confidential”.

    I’m not sure I completely buy this even under the premise that the relation between T and K was as you surmise. If the concern over discretion is so obvious, then the fact that these emails were private communications ought to be enough. If the concern over discretion is not obvious, then a statement by T in the message body that he has such a concern would be far more polite and make his meaning more exact. Unless professional communication between academic scientists is far different than what I assume, if I were in K’s position, and received the message she did, I suspect my reaction would be along the lines of ‘What kind of jerk writes “CONFIDENTIAL” all over the top of an email?’

    Overall, this is just a quibble though. Under your premises, I do not find your account implausible, as, for example, T could be well-intentioned but have a fairly severe or abrupt personality. (And there is certainly the possibility that there are customs in these situations that I am simply unaware of.)

    In any case, the real issue here is the premise that the emails constitute “honest advice for the best welfare of K”. While this premise might be tenable if the sole evidence available were the emails themselves, external evidence favors other theories. You have provided no such evidence, and have admitted to less knowledge of the particulars than those who have provided it.

    You have asserted that Pinko “start[s] from the premise that T is not a nice person”. Yes, for the sake of this discussion, that is a premise. However, it is a claim that he believes due to prior experience unconnected to this case. For my own reasons, I choose to accept his judgement on this. For his own reasons, he finds this an unacceptable forum to elaborate on his experience. And for your own reasons, you apparently do not accept his judgement. Thus, it is indeed one of the premises of this discussion, but the reasoning behind it is not part of the discussion. And hence you are not going to convince anyone that it is an unreasonable or unreasoned premise using only the evidence available here.

    You have presented an alternative view, which while plausible enough on its own terms does not correspond well to the perceptions of people here regarding the principal figures involved. And without your providing external evidence that those perceptions are mistaken or incomplete, evidence which you do not even claim to possess, why would you expect to be able to persuade anyone their perceptions are in error?

    what was her “course of action” exactly?

    who did leak these emails ? The tooth fairy ? Santa Claus ?
    In case you didn’t notice, the “briefing” that Ben Barres received, and the fact that he is able to come away from a confidential interview and write public letters makes pretty plain who the leaker is.

    Your use of the word “leak” is tendentious and implies a number of the contentions you seek to prove. It serves only to circumscribe the range of possible explanations of what happened, and there is no reason for me to accord it the status of an acceptable frame.

    First, while it is certainly the most likely explanation, we do not know for sure that K showed the emails to anyone. Depending on who knew of their existence at MIT, or who knew of the nature of the contact between T and K, and depending on how the MIT email servers work, it may not be impossible that someone from the McGovern, or a disloyal person at the Picower, might have been able to obtain them. While not entirely implausible, this hypothesis does entail lots of “ifs” and is not worth taking very seriously without a lot more evidence.

    Second, presuming, as is likely, that K did share the communications with someone, we do not know who – the hiring committee? friends at MIT? friends at other institutions? a prior mentor? – or why – sharing the travails of her job search? puzzlement over the messages T might be conveying? amusement that someone would be so pompous as to label them *CONFIDENTIAL*? In this conversation, discussion has thus far focused on your apparent contention that she wanted to produce a media circus, and my example (chosen to illustrate a different point, IIRC) that she may have found them so obviously out of line that she felt required to show them to the hiring committee. I don’t really think that last is the most likely explanation anyway; I am more inclined toward her having shared them first for some more explicitly personal reason, perhaps along the lines of those mentioned above. The personality that comes across in her email and other quotes and descriptions I’ve seen makes a personal rationale seem likely. This is, of course, just my assessment.

    Third, there is no evidence as to how K herself perceived the “confidential” label on the emails, and why she would or would not choose to ignore it. You appear to want to treat it in some kind of absolute fashion – one which Pinko and, apparently, other academics he’s discussed this with would not adopt. So, while you may choose to find her blameworthy based on what is already known, in my view, it is, at the least, entirely reasonable to withhold judgement until more evidence is available, and given the assessments provided by Pinko (and those he’s talked to, and UC and others at the top of this thread and in other threads here), likely that the label merely constitutes an obnoxious power play, and thus not a meaniningful guide for action.

    Fourth, without knowing who was originally told about the emails and why, there is no way to even speculate as to who else might or might not have learned about them and when. For example, we do not know what Barres knew before he met with K. In fact, we don’t even know when he met with her. There was a month and half between when the emails were written, and K’s formal rejection of the McGovern position.

    Your reading depends upon a rather narrow theory of how these events played out. It is not an impossible one, but is weakened by all available evidence on the characters of T and K not derived exclusively from the emails.

    Also, I do not understand why you contend that K was “[e]ncouraging [T] to continue a confidential conversation”. There is no explicit invitation (or rebuff, for that matter) to further communication in her email that I can see. Most of the implicit signals seem to indicate that she probably expected little or no further contact, though there is no indication that such would be unwelcome. Overall, I read the email as neutral, not encouraging, and am unsure why you would want to place any weight on what seems a rather arbitrary and arguable reading.

    None of my speculations here seem at all abstruse. You ought to have been able to come up with this stuff yourself. Why restrict yourself to arguing one account that seems to require the most charitable available reading of T’s character, and the most uncharitable available reading of K’s?

    teaching and nursing in the UK are overwhelming female. No-one goes around insisting that every individual nurse or teacher must be consciously sexist, or if not, unconsciously sexist, or if not, part of an institutionally sexist organisation and deserving of individual scrutiny just in case. Why should I accept such an intellectually flabby proposition here?

    Are you expecting me to take this seriously? This cartoonish straw man is the best you can come up with as a characterisation of those who disagree you on this issue? I wasn’t asking for some media sound bite that expresses your contempt for feminists (or whoever it is you think makes arguments like that). Rather, I was asking for some evidence that you actually understood what the perspective of those on this site might be on the subject (note: that you understood it, not that you agreed with it). The statement above does not give the impression of even making a meaningful attempt. It mostly inclines me to view you as entirely unserious on the subject.

    Anyway, I originally intended to respond directly to more of the points in your post, but I think the responses all reduce more or less to things covered above. The one detail that sticks out is that I do seem to have used the term prima facie incorrectly, though I hope the intended meaning was clear in context.

    To summarise:

    1) You don’t appear to accept the terms and premises under which this discussion was commenced.
    2) Your argument appears to be too narrow even given the premises you do accept.
    3) You appear to disdain, while not comprehending, the framework being used for some of the arguments here.

    You have put forth no meaningful basis for impeaching the premises used in the discussion. You have pointed out that there is insufficient evidence available in the documents you have seen to support some of those premises, and we have agreed – on particular points, mainly those concerning the characters of T and K, this is apparently not a good forum for that evidence, and thus one either trusts the people offering their judgement, or not. If you do not, that is fine. Why would anyone blame you for not automatically trusting those you do not know? However, you also tried to assert that those judgements were not arrived at reasonably (e.g. Pinko has “barely engaged in any form of reasoning at all” on the subject). Given the circumstances, you have no basis for such a claim at all. What should we view it as but an abuse of hospitality?

  • Is the blunderbuss the gun with the barrel that looks like a trumpet, like the pilgrims? I would love one of those that shot fake snakes. Or crumpets.

  • Dear Plover
    Thus, it is indeed one of the premises of this discussion, but the reasoning behind it is not part of the discussion. And hence you are not going to convince anyone that it is an unreasonable or unreasoned premise using only the evidence available here.
    you appear to mistake me; I have not said that PP’s perception of T is wrong, or that PP is wrong to have the perception that he has. Indeed, there may be overwhelming evidence of this (or not); I simply do not know, as i have not seen the evidence, I am not going to argue one way or the other.

    First, while it is certainly the most likely explanation, we do not know for sure that K showed the emails to anyone.
    for sure; but we do know that she briefed Barres pretty thoroughly.

    On the subject of communications headed “confidential”, I know that it is a common practice to use such exhortations, and it is a strong expectation that such a request will be honoured. However, there is no legal protection that comes with such a header, so people do occasionally breach a request for confidentiality. I am quite clear that academics require and maintain confidentiality as an important part of their work, and I am frankly surprised by your assertion that academics would not adopt such a request.

    If you have the view that there is no force in the declaration of confidentiality, or even that it is a “power play”/ bizarre, then I am still not convinced that it is entirely wholesome to engage in a lengthy personal correspondence and blab after the fact. As is, I have an entirely different view to you about the force of such a declaration of confidentiality, and I believe her breach of confidentiality to be wrong.

    Also, I do not understand why you contend that K was “[e]ncouraging [T] to continue a confidential conversation”.
    are you kidding ? This is Karpova;
    I really appreciate your kind words and your openness about the issue at hand…Once again, I tremendously value your openness on this subject.
    Do you want to reconsider ?

    Your reading depends upon a rather narrow theory of how these events played out.
    K did leak to Barres. You yourself said that K leaking the email is the most likely possibility. The use of the exhortation “CONFIDENTIAL” is a common practice. The characters of K and T have nothing to do with these bits and pieces.

    Why restrict yourself to arguing one account that seems to require the most charitable available reading of T’s character, and the most uncharitable available reading of K’s?
    I have made minimal assertions as to K’s character; you agree that it is most likely that she leaked these emails headed CONFIDENTIAL, and it is a matter of record she briefed Barres. I don’t really have a view on T’s character, though I have noted that his approach was more forward than i would have liked. I merely point out that what he says is, on its face, a perfectly reasonable thing to say, and that there is no requirement to take what he says as a threat.

    Rather, I was asking for some evidence that you actually understood what the perspective of those on this site might be on the subject
    Am I following this ? This is about a distinction I wasn’t asked about, and I then have to telepathise the unvoiced perspective of people on this site about a subject they haven’t mentioned ?

    The statement above does not give the impression of even making a meaningful attempt.
    on the contrary. From the intro, MIT has a gender imbalance, therefore it is institutionally sexist, therefore T needs to be scrutinised to ensure he isn’t a sexist pig.

    1) You don’t appear to accept the terms and premises under which this discussion was commenced.
    well I set out what they are, and you appear to agree on those. I don’t accept the argument made at the top of the page, which appears to rely on the premise that T is a bad guy. Even if this premise is true, it doesn’t follow that makes him guilty of everything.

    2) Your argument appears to be too narrow even given the premises you do accept.
    you have accepted the main parts of my argument, and that what i am saying is literal and reasonable. If I fail to start from the premise that T is evil, and attempt to evaluate your evidence in this case, does that make me too narrow ?
    3) You appear to disdain, while not comprehending, the framework being used for some of the arguments here.
    If you have frameworks which you don’t tell me about, it is little suprise I don’t comprehend what they are !

    yours
    per

    *Hi per, if you tell me where you want me to close tags I can do it- I’m not sure what happened in this comment, dost thou never sleep? Oh wait, that’s me, it’s a reasonable hour elsewhere on the planet. Anyhoo, will be out an’ about for the next week. I edited to remove the pasted trackback and other information that seemed to be messed up- none of your words*

  • sorry, some strange cutting and pasting and invisible text crept in; my bad.

    the bit from
    “Rather, I was asking for some evidence that you actually understood what the perspective of those on this site might be on the subject
    Am I following this ? This is about a distinction I wasn’t asked about, and I then have to telepathise the unvoiced perspective of people on this site about a subject they haven’t metntioned ?”

    to where it repeats that same text could be deleted.
    thanks
    per

  • per, I think that is better- I’m off to the airport, but have a big long comment- it will have to wait.

    PP

  • many thanks for your moderation, and enjoy your holiday/ flight.
    I am also off on hols, so have fun !
    Toodle-pip !
    per

  • per,

    I wrote another long dissection of your most recent response, but don’t really feel inclined to post it. I don’t really think most of the details are all that important at this point. Here’s more or less what appears to be going on:

    You’ve presented a theory of what’s happened. You refuse to accept, seemingly even for the sake of argument, the contentions that have been made about the characters of T and K. Your theory seems viable enough on its own merits, but does not seem to contain anything to make it preferable to other theories that can be constructed using your own set of premises, and is dramatically weakened if the contentions about the characters of T and K are accepted. You and Pinko have chewed the scenery a bit, and mostly succeeded in proving that your styles clash so badly that you could probably go around in circles indefinitely.

    So, it is not entirely clear what your purpose is in continuing here. If you wanted to prove that there are theories of what happened other than the one presented in the original post, well, I think that’s been beaten to death at this point, and besides, everyone here already knew that before you arrived.

    *

    A few details to clean up:

    1) confidentiality

    I do not think it is strange that scientists would request confidentiality. And I would expect such requests to be treated seriously. The form of T’s request for confidentiality looks strange to me, but that may be because I’m unfamiliar with how these things are done. None of this has ever been at issue. The question that has never been addressed is: under what circumstances does someone find it acceptable not to honor such a request? On the surface, it appears that there is no (probable) underlying explanation of the known events that you can think of which meets your standard, and there are such explanations for others here. However, to get from that to accusing people of holding others’ confidences lightly is quite a stretch.

    2) regarding K’s email being “encouraging”

    The sentences you quote denote appreciation for past communication. There is nothing in them that necessarily implies future communication. And overall, the email reads as if she is putting the episode behind her, especially near the end. So, if by “encouraging” you mean actively inviting further correspondence, then that’s not my preferred reading. If you mean simply “not discouraging” further correpsondence, that was already implied in my previous answer.

    3) regarding K’s meeting with Barres

    We don’t know what Barres (or others) knew before she met with him. Did she mostly confirm what he had already heard? Did she know that everything was about to become public anyway and felt it wise to tell her side before the inevitable media distortions cropped up? Without even a vague timeline and without evidence of exactly who was behind making this into a public controversy, I don’t see how much of anything can concluded from K’s meeting with B. (Are you taking her meeting with B as having been arranged specifically to discuss this situation? Given that Stanford was also considering hiring her, it seems likely that the meeting was simply part of that process. Again, not enough information.)

    *

    I did want to make a couple of points about the discussion in this thread of gender relations.

    First, as regards your statement: “If you have frameworks which you don’t tell me about, it is little suprise I don’t comprehend what they are !” In my efforts not to impose any particular reading on either your attitudes on this topic or how you characterize those that disagree with you, I have apparently been excessively oblique in my language, for which I apologise. I was not purposely confusing.

    Second, as regards Pinko’s statement in the original post:

    There are claims of a gender situation, we think it is only de facto about gender, but really about scientific ego and power.

    You have taken exception to this statement several times. I take the following to be your attempt at interpreting it (or at least the phrase “de facto about gender”):

    MIT has a gender imbalance, therefore it is institutionally sexist, therefore T needs to be scrutinised to ensure he isn’t a sexist pig.

    In the form you have given it, this is not an argument anyone I know would make; it is simply inane. Not even the premise makes sense. While it is true that “MIT has a gender imbalance”, no one has asserted it is sufficient ground to argue much of anything. By itself, it is not particularly meaningful. What has been stated is that MIT was found to have discriminatory hiring practices regarding women, and that that circumstance is still in the process of being remedied. If I’ve understood correctly then what is happening is that, because the current governance changes regard the hiring of women, and because K is a woman, the circumstances under which she turned down the McGovern’s offer will be scrutinized to determine if there is any relationship to the problems found previously. This has very little to do per se with whether T personally is considered a problem on that score. However, as I don’t know the specifics of either the hiring problems at MIT, how they are being addressed, or T’s reputation on this particular issue, I can’t provide any clearer picture of how they fit together in this particular case (or provide my own judgement as to whether the overall process has been conducted fairly).

    It is this circumstance – that K’s recruitment will be considered in the light of an ongoing process at MIT – that yields the description of the episode as being “de facto about gender” (and this phrase is descriptive, not evaluative). In the first part of his sentence “There are claims of a gender situation”, Pinko is noting that some people involved in the controversy at MIT have suggested that this is indeed a problem involving sexism on the part of T. Thus the overall meaning Pinko is conveying is that, while some have claimed K’s troubles to be a direct result of discrimination by T, “we” (denoting here, perhaps, the surface consensus reached in an earlier thread) expect such claims are overstated, and that though “we” recognise that the controversy will inevitably be considered under the ongoing governance process on discriminatory hiring at MIT (whether or not even that is strictly necessary), “we” consider it more likely that these events derive from issues of “scientific ego and power”.

    In other words, Pinko’s statement (to the extent they can be compared at all) means nearly the opposite of your “interpretation”. I have no idea why Pinko’s meaning on this might be so opaque to you. I also don’t know why you find it necessary to caricature that statement rather than inquire as to what he might be thinking, but so far, that appears to have been your mode of debate on this topic.

  • I would just put it this way: if you read T’s e-mail like I have, and most people I know in science have, everything after is consistent with that reading. Meaning K’s actions seem very consistent with someone trying flattering (or faltering) diplomacy in response to an unsolicited and unexpected communication, a communication outside the bounds of proper behavior. You can except this premise as true or not. This is the reading I would make. Given the power dynamic, just what are the officially recognized ways of responding to a pressuring e-mail from a powerful and implicitly unfriendly Nobel-prize winner. Even with the most positive reading of T’s e-mail, we are left hard-pressed to come up with a situation where K could keep the communication confidential if she still wished to work at MIT. T explicitly states that there would be difficulty accommodating K in the animal facility, something almost certainly at odds with the search committee’s offer of employment. Thus she is left with a confidential communication most likely accusing the people of offering her a job as liars, and in per’s world no way of even referring to this as evidence of anything. T labeled to communication “confidential” precisely to make its contents difficult to disclose and put K in an tenuous position. This is as clear as I can be at this late hour, and at this juncture of our discussion. I don’t think these assertions are irrational. You can just as rationally disagree with them, however, I counter that the above reading is closer to actual reality.

  • You can just as rationally disagree with them,…
    I couldn’t have put it better myself. While I find T’s comments to be rather forward, I just do not see the case that he has done something wrong to be proven. The point I am making is that the case that his email sets out is on the face of it reasonable. If you choose to read in implicit threats, well, i can’t disagree with your interpretation, but I can say it is surprising to say that an implicit interpretation has priority over what the words actually say.

    Even with the most positive reading of T’s e-mail, we are left hard-pressed to come up with a situation where K could keep the communication confidential if she still wished to work at MIT.
    I don’t follow this at all. Under any circumstances, it was always within her power to keep this confidential. She could have asked for reassurances about specific facilities- a practice which I point out is virtually expected. However, I accept that T has unequivocally informed her of the difficulties of collaborating, and she could clearly not expect to collaborate with T.
    yours
    per

  • Dear Plover
    from the background:
    Even if this issue is not truly a gender issue, MIT’s record kind of makes it one by default…
    If his behavior of being a prick, and creating an atmosphere where MIT was not able to hire this specific female, that becomes a gender issue.

    As you put it:
    In the form you have given it, this is not an argument anyone I know would make; it is simply inane.
    I couldn’t agree more.

    1) confidentiality.
    you reckon I cannot guess about who leaked what. PP’s story is that Barres became involved after a meeting with K. You invite me to believe that a little bird whispered in his ear, and that K never said a word to him. The little bird obviously knows how to work email, which the little bird has previously hacked from confidential email servers.

    Likewise, there is an implication that “sharing” an email with the hiring committee is somehow not a breach of confidentiality, or that somehow, all these emails got leaked by magic at the same time that K is briefing Barres, and is profoundly upset that she can’t come to work at MIT.

    I think you said that K leaking these confidential emails is the most likely possibility. I agree.

    2)K encouraging T
    I am gobsmacked. If i receive a confidential email, write back saying thank you for that, and I do appreciate what you said, I cannot see any possible other interpretation but that she is telling T that she appreciated his confidential email. If that isn’t encouragement, I do not know what is. If she further emails him (which I believe she did), then that is a direct request for further communication. I think you are on a sticky wicket with this one.

    3) meeting with Barres
    there seems to be an assumption that if you have an interview, you have to disclose all confidential information. Strangely enough, in K’s position, I would not have mentioned the email with T EITHER to MIT, OR to Barres. I cannot think but that this issue is more likely to be damaging to my chances of getting a job; but that is my opinion. I also fail to see how anyone else could find out about these confidential emails unless K told them.

    yours
    per

  • 85% of scientists interviewed in a recent poll (n = 20) agreed that Tonegawa’s emails were cagey threats. Karpova’s responses were similarly cagey attempts at reconciliation/harmonization — but not having $50 million, the Nobel prize, and an institute with a rodent facility, her responses were clearly

  • with less muscle backing them up. That’s the nature of the asymmetrical warfare going on here, and that’s why the outrage is so high.

  • I should point out that I’ve seen individual threats/intimidations happen many times over the last few years, at many universities. At MIT, though, the 18 faculty who already were at loggerheads were ready to explode, and this provided the opportunity. Karpova herself would not want to make a fuss, of course — it would only make her look like a whiner. But the legions ready to do battle took it upon themselves to appeal to the president and the media. Basically I regard individual fights like this as pervasive and destructive to neuroscience, and the fact that it set off the powder keg is good because it brings this to light.

  • Thanks, Mike S. – what you say was exactly my perception, that there was both wrongdoing but also existing tension caused by T, and K is somewhat of a pawn.

  • from the background:

    Even if this issue is not truly a gender issue, MIT’s record kind of makes it one by default…

    If his behavior of being a prick, and creating an atmosphere where MIT was not able to hire this specific female, that becomes a gender issue.

    As you put it:

    In the form you have given it, this is not an argument anyone I know would make; it is simply inane.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    The first quote is simply equivalent to the description I gave above of “de facto about gender”. As for the second quote, given that it is syntactically incoherent, it doesn’t seem like a good example for proving anything. I don’t really have a good guess as to the precise meaning intended. In any case, neither quote bears any more resemblance to the sort of statement of yours I discussed above than does the quote from the top of this thread also discussed there.

    About the only hypotheses that remain to me concerning your reactions on this topic are that you either have no insight into how those you disagree with think about gender issues, or that you refuse to respond to the discussion here in good faith. Also, if it’s the former case, you seem to have a fairly marked lack of curiosity as to others’ real views on these matters; rather, you seem content simply to caricature those views. If, as I would hope, neither of the preceding are true, then I imagine it would be easy enough for you to communicate that, but thus far you have not.

    And your use of my words is not terribly compelling. Obviously, you are aware of a person who would make those arguments: you are quoting him. Also, whereas my intention was to convey my experience that the argument you described (but would not yourself employ) was not a viable representation of what anyone here is thinking, your usage simply sets up a couple of quotes and then insults their author. And further, there is no evidence you even understood what that author was saying. What might be a good descriptor for such a mode of argument?

    *

    1) confidentiality

    I may have been slightly unclear here. In the phrase “accusing people of holding others’ confidences lightly”, “people” was not intended to refer to K, but rather to myself and others here. Though your willingness to impugn K’s standard for breaking confidence without evidence of how that choice was made seems cavalier also.

    If I’m following you, your interpretation of Pinko’s phrasing (“PP’s story is that…”), while plausible enough, is not supported by the original Globe story, which leaves the details rather hazy.

    As to the scenario you attribute to me, the number of outright inaccurate premises you’ve adopted is fairly startling.

    I have never said that revealing the emails to the hiring committee (or whoever) was “somehow not a breach of confidentiality”. I said that she might have had a sufficient reason for it, and that (under your premises anyway) not enough information is available to determine whether she did. To argue strongly (as you have) from the stance that she did not is uncharitable to an exceptionable degree.

    I have also noted that, in addition to having zero details on her reasons for doing so, we have zero details on who the initial person she showed it to was and how information about the situation circulated after that. By the time this episode got to the point of the letter by the faculty members to the MIT president, who was already aware? What was the timeline? Barres has a background at MIT – who is he in contact with there? It was a little over two weeks between the faculty letter, and the Globe story; we don’t even know whether K’s meeting with B was before the letter was sent. There is simply no way to make any meaningful assessment of that meeting without at least a timeline and preferably the email itself also.

    You have appeared only to pursue arguments which entail that 1) T is not at fault, and 2) the motivation for turning this into a public controversy was necessarily vengeance on K’s part. While you apparently will not accept the statement of those who actually know K that that would be quite out of character, the idea that there has been significant tension betweeen the Picower and McGovern institutes, and this prior rivalry motivated this overt conflict, does not require any assumptions about either T or K (a theory mentioned by Mike S. above, and by Jackie in another thread). You give the impression of wanting blame to fall on K in order to validate some pre-existing animus against feminists (or however you label your bête noire).

    2) K encouraging T

    If i receive a confidential email, write back saying thank you for that, and I do appreciate what you said, I cannot see any possible other interpretation but that she is telling T that she appreciated his confidential email.

    I already stated that what K said denoted appreciation.

    If that isn’t encouragement, I do not know what is.

    As I said, some of this depends on how active a sense you intend for the word “encouraging”. I still maintain that the most obvious surface meaning of the email as a whole is something like “Thank you for being open with me. It looks like this isn’t going to work. Much as it pains me, I guess I’ll have to put it behind me.” As she states she is already more or less in accord with his council, there is no implication that further input on his side is requested, but neither is there any sense that it would not be well received. As I said before, it seems neutral on that front. (And this is, of course, just a surface reading which ignores the points Pinko has been making.)

    I don’t find your reading untenable (under your premises), I just find it at best equivalently probable to my own. I am quite puzzled by your reactions on this. Why is this detail even important enough to make a fuss about?

    If she further emails him (which I believe she did), then that is a direct request for further communication.

    The Globe says she sent him three further emails, but this was spread out over more than a month, and there’s no indication of how soon her next email followed his second one, or what events might have happened in between. Again, no meaningful assessment is possible without a timeline.

    3) meeting with Barres

    there seems to be an assumption that if you have an interview, you have to disclose all confidential information.

    Where’d you get that from? It’s simply wrong. And even if you are misreading people here, it is hard to see how you could assert the above without appeal to a fairly invidious characterization of others in this discussion.

    *

    It remains true, as I said before that:

    Your theory seems viable enough on its own merits, but does not seem to contain anything to make it preferable to other theories that can be constructed using your own set of premises, and is dramatically weakened if the contentions about the characters of T and K are accepted.

    No doubt you will find loose threads in the wording of this comment to pick at, but at this point, it does not appear that any tiny adjustment of details that might result would change the summary quoted above. In addition, you have moved at this point in the direction of introducing unsupportable interpretations of my (and others’) positions that seem aimed at provocation rather than debate. If you are left with no means other than nitpicking and misrepresentation with which to advance your argument, there is little point in continuing.

    I have endeavored to lay out the various possible scenarios that seem supported by the available evidence, and to determine where the evidence seems too thin to provide a basis for judgement. And I have been willing to do this while arguing from your premises. On the other hand, you have not been willing, apparently even for the sake of argument, to countenance the premises of others here, and have pursued a fairly singular theory. Your motivation for focusing on that theory is obscure, though it often appears to arise from some sort of animus against those whose approach to gender discrimination issues differs from your own, a group into whose thinking you have evidenced little insight.

    I have, no doubt, misread you at times, but it is not my intention to caricature; I think my reasons for all the statements in the previous paragraph are documented, and have not been countered. If there is any illumination you would like to shed on your intentions, on what goal you may have been pursuing, or on what sort of endpoint you have conceived for this discussion, I am open to hearing it. And if you have some novel angle on the topic of the MIT controversy which has not yet been aired, I am open to hearing that also. Otherwise, I doubt I will have much further to add here.

  • Even if this issue is not truly a gender issue, MIT’s record kind of makes it one by default…
    you may not like it, but this quote says that MIT’s record makes this issue (T’s behaviour) a gender issue, which is code for sexism. That justifies my earlier paraphrase of this.

    you either have no insight into how those you disagree with think about gender issues…
    so far, you have resorted to telling me about hidden frameworks and definitions that other people might have, and castigated me for not being telepathic enough to realise this. I will just have to go on what people write.

    Though your willingness to impugn K’s standard for breaking confidence without evidence of how that choice was made seems cavalier also
    I don’t have to know how K made the choice to point out that she did breach confidence.

    I remain bemused about your approach to confidentiality. You appear to wish me to believe that K’s email was hacked causing the leak, or alternatively she “shared” the email with the hiring committee (which would not be a leak !) or she was justified (oh, how justified !) in leaking. You yourself said that K leaking was the most likely possibility, and i take any other possibility to be remote.

    You have appeared only to pursue arguments which entail that 1) T is not at fault, and 2) the motivation for turning this into a public controversy was necessarily vengeance on K’s part.
    hmm, is this a series of straw men ? I haven’t argued either of those.

    Though when K does leak a confidential email, it is fairly easy to make a guess on one reason as to why she might have done so.

    While you apparently will not accept the statement of those who actually know K that that would be quite out of character…
    oh yes, this is more information that I have to be telepathic to know about. Telepathy seems to be quite a common requirement, whereas the subjectivity that comes from knowing K may not be.

    You are asking me to believe that K didn’t leak the email, and that it was a random hacker. And you are asking me to believe that K didn’t brief Barres. You are asking me to believe that K wasn’t pissed off that she couldn’t take the job at MIT, and join her boyfried. It is funny how I find it difficult to reconcile this character reference of yours with what I know of the facts.

    The Globe says she sent him three further emails, but this was spread out over more than a month, and there’s no indication of how soon her next email followed his second one, or what events might have happened in between. Again, no meaningful assessment is possible without a timeline.
    this takes the biscuit. K tells T thank you so much for your email, and emails him three further times. According to you, it isn’t even possible to tell if K was wanting a reply…

    The fact is that K encouraged T to continue a confidential discussion, and then leaked the lot.

    3) meeting with Barres
    Barres sent a letter, after he met with K in an interview. According to you, Barres may have been fully informed before he met K; or alternatively, K was obliged to discuss her confidential emails in the interview.
    I merely point out that these premises are ludicrous. The most straightforward reading is that K briefed Barres, and asked him to agitate on her behalf. I find it inconceivable that he could have taken action without her permission, and without being directly informed by her of the facts of the matter.
    I think your twisting on this issue is again notable; you are prepared to accept the most odious interpretations possible against T, yet you are prepared to believe quite fantastic contortions of reality to exonerate K.

    Your theory seems viable enough on its own merits, but does not seem to contain anything to make it preferable to other theories that can be constructed using your own set of premises, and is dramatically weakened if the contentions about the characters of T and K are accepted.
    I think the most important thing is trying to judge if the charges presented by PP, at the top of this bog, are justified. I rely on what he sets out as facts.
    I am unpersuaded that there is enough evidence that T has behaved odiously; indeed, K thanks T for his honest and open advice. The straightforward reading of this emails is both possible, and consistent with an entirely honourable interpretation. Although I accept that you can interpret the evidence otherwise, this is principally by relying on hidden meanings in the emails and denying their obvious meaning.

    I take it as read that if you start off with K as an angel, and T wearing cloven hooves and a tail, yes, it is easy to find a bad interpretation for T. That is the great thing about lynch mobs; they always find the “right” victim, and they don’t have much due process or rights of appeal. I don’t like this approach of starting with the presumption of guilt, at least partly because it blinds you to the relevant facts. And yes, that strikes me as characterising much of the discussion here.

    yours
    per

  • per,

    The concluding section of my previous post still holds. The summary of the overall debate appears to remain accurate, and your most recent post, for the most part, spurs my misgivings about your approach to this discussion.

    I laid out some of those misgivings thus:

    No doubt you will find loose threads in the wording of this comment to pick at, but at this point, it does not appear that any tiny adjustment of details that might result would change the summary quoted above. In addition, you have moved at this point in the direction of introducing unsupportable interpretations of my (and others’) positions that seem aimed at provocation rather than debate.

    There are almost no paragraphs of your most recent comment that does not contain either a distortion of or a flatly incorrect interpretation of my position, often in the form of unsupported assertions; your comment does indeed proceed largely by nitpicking details in ways that do not change the nature of the debate (largely because they are based on those misinterpretations); and many of the points you advance (whether meaningful or not) have even been fairly explicitly answered already (and even in some cases agreed with) in earlier posts.

    I think the most important thing is trying to judge if the charges presented by PP, at the top of this bog, are justified. I rely on what he sets out as facts.
    I am unpersuaded that there is enough evidence that T has behaved odiously; indeed, K thanks T for his honest and open advice. The straightforward reading of this emails is both possible, and consistent with an entirely honourable interpretation. Although I accept that you can interpret the evidence otherwise, this is principally by relying on hidden meanings in the emails and denying their obvious meaning.

    Yes, this is all clear. And I have responded to it before (more than once). One example is the following:

    Under your premises, I do not find your account implausible, as, for example, T could be well-intentioned but have a fairly severe or abrupt personality. (And there is certainly the possibility that there are customs in these situations that I am simply unaware of.)

    In any case, the real issue here is the premise that the emails constitute “honest advice for the best welfare of K”. While this premise might be tenable if the sole evidence available were the emails themselves, external evidence favors other theories. You have provided no such evidence, and have admitted to less knowledge of the particulars than those who have provided it.

    You have asserted that Pinko “start[s] from the premise that T is not a nice person”. Yes, for the sake of this discussion, that is a premise. However, it is a claim that he believes due to prior experience unconnected to this case. For my own reasons, I choose to accept his judgement on this. For his own reasons, he finds this an unacceptable forum to elaborate on his experience. And for your own reasons, you apparently do not accept his judgement. Thus, it is indeed one of the premises of this discussion, but the reasoning behind it is not part of the discussion. And hence you are not going to convince anyone that it is an unreasonable or unreasoned premise using only the evidence available here.

    You have presented an alternative view, which while plausible enough on its own terms does not correspond well to the perceptions of people here regarding the principal figures involved. And without your providing external evidence that those perceptions are mistaken or incomplete, evidence which you do not even claim to possess, why would you expect to be able to persuade anyone their perceptions are in error?

    Note that this passage contains the assertions “I do not find your account implausible” and “[y]ou have presented an alternative view [that is] plausible enough on its own terms”, and that the paragraph of yours that I quoted above is in response to a sentence which includes the proposition “[y]our theory seems viable enough on its own merits”. If I’m meant to infer from your words that your account has not been given a fair hearing, then that seems a bit ridiculous given the number of times it has been acknowledged as being reasonable.

    I can even agree that the original post that started this thread, taken by itself, is not well argued. It assumes too much background from the other threads, and assumes too much specific knowledge of lab resource issues and academic hiring practice. It strays over the line from making a careful case into presenting more of a visceral reaction. This does not, of course, mean that there is no supporting argument for that reaction, and I think Pinko has backed up his thinking well in his comments. (And, in fact, I assume Pinko is quite aware of the flaws in his original post, though the course taken by the interaction between the two of you was, perhaps, not likely to reveal that.)

    I take it as read that if you start off with K as an angel, and T wearing cloven hooves and a tail, yes, it is easy to find a bad interpretation for T. That is the great thing about lynch mobs; they always find the “right” victim, and they don’t have much due process or rights of appeal. I don’t like this approach of starting with the presumption of guilt, at least partly because it blinds you to the relevant facts. And yes, that strikes me as characterising much of the discussion here.

    And, well, that is the problem, isn’t it? Indeed, that you had adopted some perspective like this has been my suspicion, but it is not the sort of premise I would want to assume. But I have attempted to identify where you have appeared to misunderstand the people in this discussion.

    So, if it is true that you have been reading this exchange through a lens that assumes people here are conducting a witch hunt, what are the chances you have been reading others’ contributions correctly? I’ve already demonstrated how wildly off track you were on what Pinko intended by the phrase “gender problem”. What other mistakes might you have made to arrive at the above characterisation of this discussion?

    Your past couple of responses to me have evidenced a trend toward baroque misinterpretation of my position. Is this likely to lead me to take you more seriously? What do you expect to accomplish by it? Are you actually trying to convince me of anything? If your concerns are as straightforward as you indicate in the first paragraph of yours I quoted above, and given that I already accepted your account of things as a possibility a long time ago, and given that no one is demanding that you accept Pinko’s assertions about T that stem from his prior knowledge, what is your point?

    If Pinko’s rhetoric (or my own for that matter) hits some tripwire for you, then fine. But in the end, that’s not our problem. If you go to someone else’s site and toss accusations based on whatever one of your buttons they may have unknowingly pushed, and yet you don’t even successfully communicate a version of that person’s position that they can recognise, what kind of reaction do you expect?

    As I put it earlier (slightly edited for clarity, emphasis added):

    You have put forth no meaningful basis for impeaching the premises used in the discussion. You have pointed out that there is insufficient evidence available in the documents you have seen to support some of those premises, and we have agreed. On particular points, mainly those concerning the characters of T and K, this is apparently not a good forum for that evidence, and thus one either trusts the people offering their judgement, or not. If you do not, that is fine. Why would anyone blame you for not automatically trusting those you do not know? However, you also tried to assert that those judgements were not arrived at reasonably (e.g. Pinko has “barely engaged in any form of reasoning at all” on the subject). Given the circumstances, you have no basis for such a claim at all. What should we view it as but an abuse of hospitality?

    And how much more so your characterization that we’re a “lynch mob” and working from “presumption of guilt”?

  • Dear plover

    so far, I haven’t tried to ad hominate you, but I have noted that you do read closely. If you read closely, I did not say that you (or PP) are a lynch mob, or anything close. I merely set out a form of argument which I find difficult.

    We are agreed that some people here have presumptions which colour their interpretations, e.g. PP’s prior views on T (and perhaps K). Because I do not know what the evidence base is here, I cannot evaluate PP’s views on T (note that I am not trying to say that PP’s views are wrong, or unreasonable- again an issue where we are close). The disconnect for me is that there seems to be an over-reliance on the “visceral” reaction to T, and insufficient attention to the logic of the case against T. It seems that there is at least a hint of a form of argument which I find to be difficult.

    It seems we have much to agree on !

    I came to this site, partly because the good Dr FreeRide made an off-hand quip just casually suggesting T should be investigated to see if he was sexist. I thought there were one or two comments that seemed to make gratuitous smears of sexism/gender issue, but I accept that PP has said that he no longer feels this is an issue.

    We remain at an impasse about the evidence re: T & K. In many ways, I couldn’t care less; i am obviously far removed. My only issue has been what the evidence available showed, and it seems to me that we are perilously close on that one.

    yours
    per

  • Yes, the final line of my previous comment is poorly worded. Your use of the indicated phrases was more indirect than is implied. Yet, as presumably you know, in debate, innuendo is often as bad or worse a poison than direct accusation. It also falls easily within the category of provocations I was sketching.

    As regards the original topic of this thread, I agree we are at an impasse. Indeed, that has been more or less my point of view for some time. Without additional direct evidence, there seems to be little else to say.

    And while not in complete accord (which was likely an improbable outcome anyway), it also appears we have reached a meaningful degree of consensus with regard to what the original post does and does not accomplish on its own, and what its underlying presumptions are.

    All in all, this seems a fair stopping place – and with a more amicable outcome than many an internet donnybrook.

  • I think it complicated to debate T’s behavior as an ethical violation. Rather, I believe his behavior is a violation of MIT’s values and its expectations of a faculty member, as well as violations of expectations by the people who fund Tonegawa’s work, including the US taxpayer.

    1. MIT states that it is committed to hiring talented women faculty members. One might think that the faculty would lean over backwards to try to recruit a female superstar, putting aside competitive turf wars. Yet, T subverts that policy. Can you think what MIT’s reaction should be if T wrote to a very talented prospective female student and urged her to stay
    away from MIT?
    2. MIT surely expects its faculty to support it as an institution. When T tried to sabotage an offer from the Biology Department and McGovern Institute, he was essentially trying to sabotage MIT. He didn’t like the outcome of the vote from his colleagues, so he tried to undermine their wishes. Indeed, he obviously ran from the faculty meeting to send K the email, so that she would get it before being called with the offer. What company would tolerate an employee contacting someone the company was trying to recruit, urging them to stay away? He most likely labeled his emails confidential because he didn’t want to get caught – he must have known what the reaction would be if they became public. He took a great risk, and he got caught.
    3. MIT surely expects its leaders to serve as role models. T gets paid (extra) not only for being a scientist, but for being a leader of an MIT Institute. Such a leadership position requires the highest level of proper behavior and dedication to MIT. What example did T set for MIT’s faculty and students? If someone wants his own employer to fail, he should find another place to work, i.e. an employer who doesn’t care if its employees are disloyal.
    4. MIT asserts that it is a collaborative, cooperative environment, and it tries to teach its students the value of cooperation. If a senior leader disagrees with this philosophy, that person should find another place to work.
    5. The US taxpayer pays for much of T’s work, as well as the work of the McGovern Institute, which he harmed, because the public wants cures for diseases. Driving away a talented new person from the faculty she wants to work with is not what the public expects from the people it supports. Likewise, the Globe profile makes clear that T has a history of disregard for NIH policies regarding sharing with other scientists the genetically altered mice he created with NIH funds. If you don’t like the policies, then you shouldn’t take the money.

    I might also point out to those who take great stock in what T says, that the emails prove that T is a liar. His statement to the Globe that he simply turned down a request for collaboration because he was too busy is ludicrous in light of the actual emails that were published. Again, he acted this way presumably because he thought he wouldn’t get caught.

    The email reply from K also makes clear that she was offering to find a way to alter her specific research plans so that they would not compete with T. What more could a person ask for? One interpretation of his emails is that he was not only afraid of competition from K, but also from the McGovern Institute, where K would have worked at MIT. Although T did great work in immunology many years ago, his contributions to neuroscience have been modest, especially considering the many millions of dollars supporting his work every year. One gets the sad image of a scientist well past his prime years, spending his time trying to squash the next generation of scientists and stabbing his colleagues in the back, lest they have some of the success that eludes him.

  • Thanks, zippy,

    I appreciate your thoughts on this matter. I tend to agree with you. I also noted the seeming difference between T’s initial statement and his first e-mail. I also note the timing of the e-mail, directly after the vote of the offer. Imagine how crushing it might be- perhaps minutes between getting an offer and receiving the e-mail. Who knows, K could have received the e-mail first. How terrible. I think it is clear that the majority of the blame goes to T here.

  • Sorry to have been away. I have nothing constructive to add at the moment.*

    I have learned how to toggle and invert the colors on a Mac. Press “control option command 8″ at the same time. 3Bulls! turns into a delicious cream pudding with a milk chocolate coating and dabs or caramel whenever PP comments – yum!

    *since I have gone on to add something my second sentence would imply I am adding something destructive. My intent was to add something structive – without any value either way. Please judge me gently.

  • I would like to thank you for the time you took writing this article. This has been an inspiration for me. I have passed this on to a friend of mine.

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