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  1. Thank you for opening up for comments. I don’t want to write a blog about this but I was wondering if someone knows if there have been any proposal to change move ecolog to a website instead of a listserv, or is that what this website is supposed to be? Ecolog is good for job ads but what else?

    • I don’t think Rapid Ecology is intended to replace Ecolog, which I agree is mostly job ads, and this is decidedly NOT that. There used to be more discussions on Ecolog, but many of them were pretty frustrating and often infuriating (I think back on the woman who wanted backpack recommendations for taking her baby in to the field with her and was met with criticism for not being a better mother…oof). But if you’d like to start a discussion on a topic of interest, then yes, this IS a place for that!

  2. Re: Academia’s Accountability Problem
    I think Alissa Brown makes some good points about the realities of abusive mentors in grad school. However, I don’t believe that the article presents the full range of options a university Ombuds may offer. Ombuds are more than simply a referral service. They will listen holistically to a student’s problem in ways that other campus resources cannot or will not and then help clarify and priorities the student’s goals. In addition to simply making referrals, an Ombuds will be able to coach a student to adopt coping strategies and perhaps even address the concerns directly with the mentor. The Ombuds may be able to assist a student identify and move to a better mentor. If there are a significant number of similar complaints, an Ombuds may be able to surface concerns to administrators while protecting the identity of the individual complainants, thus helping the university learn about a problem that isn’t coming through formal channels. Moreover, an Ombuds would be available to coach a student to make a complaint after earning their diploma, when they are less vulnerable to retaliation.
    Despite the implication of the article, a visit to the Ombuds would not be a waste of a grad student’s time.

    • I’m so glad you responded with some examples of what an Ombuds office can offer grad students. I wish I had had more space to elaborate on my concerns.

      The purpose of my blog was to raise awareness that the power structure in academia makes it nearly impossible for those on the lower end of the power imbalance (grad students, post-docs, etc.) to have satisfactory resolutions when facing an abusive mentor. And as you mentioned, if multiple people bring complaints to the Ombuds about the same faculty member, the office might be able to bring that concern to admin – a promising step, but one that won’t help the individual people being affected by the abusive mentor. In fact, I’m really interested that you brought this up, and would love to talk further about it. At my institution, I’ve spoken with multiple grads who have met directly with administrators about abusive mentors, and every time, the admin would pass the buck on to someone else, claim that they don’t have the authority to do anything, or (in the best situation I have yet to hear of) do something very mildly helpful, and then shrug their shoulders when it doesn’t work.

      You also mentioned, “an Ombuds would be available to coach a student to make a complaint after earning their diploma, when they are less vulnerable to retaliation.” This supports the point I’m trying to make – that the power structure means that grads have their hands tied behind their backs. I often even hear about professors only coming forward with complaints about their former mentors after they make tenure, because they don’t want their complaints to have a negative effect on their career.

      I think I understand the overall point you’re trying to make, and I’m really glad you did so. I hope no one read my blog and felt like going to the Ombuds wouldn’t be helpful for them. Going to the Ombuds, or other campus resources, can be very helpful and necessary, as you articulated in your comment. My point was that even with multiple avenues of reporting or making a confidential complaint at an institution, grads will still almost certainly not find adequate resolution (given the definition I specified – going back to research quickly, feeling safe in the lab, no fear of retaliation, etc.).