Over the years, I've told colleagues and friends about things I have seen or experienced. Many times, people have said that I should write them down so that they won't be lost and forgotten, since some of them might be useful parts of our history. I've been writing them down, without being sure what I would do with them. I decided to gradually post them on this website, and see what reactions I get. I suggest reading from the bottom up (starting with the August 2017 post "The Meritocracy"). Thoughtful and kind feedback would be useful for me, and would help me to revise the exposition to make it as useful as possible. I hope that while you read my stories you will ask yourself "What can I learn from this?" I'm particularly interested in knowing what you see as the point of the story, or what you take away from it. Please send feedback to email@example.com. Thanks for taking the time to read and hopefully reflect on them!
I often run the stories past the people I mention, even when they are anonymized, to get their feedback and give them a chance to correct the record or ask for changes. When they tell me they're happy to be named, I sometimes do so. When I give letters as pseudonyms, there is no correlation between those letters and the names of the real people.
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
"The committee meeting was a total waste of time, though perhaps somewhat amusing. It consisted of B and C yelling at each other, and interrupting me whenever I tried to speak. I raised my hand for awhile and eventually gave up. When I was finally given an opportunity to speak, I said:(1) Robert's Rules of Order are there for a reason,(2) I think it would be helpful if one person (C, who was the committee chair) ran the meeting and were in charge, and called on people fairly and equitably, and everyone were given fair opportunities to speak and not be interrupted.
C said that she's not very good at running a meeting. I said I'd be happy to do it.W once told me that what helped her most as Chair of her department was being the mother of middle school boys---she dealt with her colleagues the way she dealt with her sons. I felt as if today's meeting was like a playground argument."
"Is there any more discussion on the motion ...,"
"... that hasn't already been said?"
Monday, October 30, 2023
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Conflicts of Interest --- Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don't change the rules of the game
Monday, October 9, 2023
Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Tuesday, September 26, 2023
She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it)—Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
Thursday, September 21, 2023
Saturday, August 12, 2023
Saturday, August 5, 2023
Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Logically, though, the conclusion should be the other way around. Your little kid self argued in terms of size, i.e., in physical terms, while my teenage self argued in symbolic, i.e., mathematical terms. And I didn't try to cheat you, which my present economist self finds surprising.
Monday, January 2, 2023
Sunday, December 11, 2022
Saturday, December 3, 2022
Thursday, December 1, 2022
Sunday, November 27, 2022
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
I didn't know how much I could trust the Boston transit system, so I played it safe and arrived at the hotel an hour and a half early. The instructions emphasized that the interviewers work on a very tight schedule, so get there early and phone the interviewer 5 to 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time. At 10:20 am I picked up the hotel phone and asked to be connected to the interviewer's hotel room.
He checked out yesterday, I was told.
That can't be. He's supposed to meet me now. Could you please connect me to his room?
No, someone else has already taken that room.
I began to panic. I was a 20-year-old college senior who had been nominated by Harvard for a graduate fellowship for people who wanted to become college educators. I had made it to the final round, which consisted of the interview. Even though I had arrived absurdly early, I was going to either miss the interview completely, or at best show up late and flustered.
Suddenly, I remembered that a friend had told me about his interview with the same interviewer a day or so earlier. He helpfully described the experience in detail, down to the actual four digit hotel room where his interview took place. It was an odd piece of data to include in his report. Even odder was that I remembered it.
Hoping my memory was correct, but strongly doubting it, I hopped on an elevator, took it the appropriate floor, knocked on the door of the hotel room, and held my breath as I waited for a response.
Eventually, a man opened the door. He was surprised to see me there. All the other interviewees had called on the hotel phone. I explained what had happened when I tried to phone, and how I knew his room number. He phoned the front desk, and learned that they had confused him with another guest who had checked out.
His hotel room was taken up by two large beds that were perhaps a foot apart. He sat down on one of them, and motioned for me to sit across from him on the other bed. Our knees were almost touching.
What I remember most about the interview, more than 40 years later, was the interviewer constantly rubbing his thighs up and down with his hands.
The only thing I remember about our discussion was that we had different ideas about the meaning of the ethical part of the fellowship criteria. Since it was a fellowship for future educators, I tried to steer the discussion to my views on ethics in pedagogy and education. My recollection is that the interviewer equated ethics with religion, and pressed me for my religious views. That's something I consider completely private, and not something I share with strangers. The New York City public schools had impressed on me the separation of church and state, which I had subconsciously extrapolated to a wall between religion on the one hand, and one's schooling and career on the other. The interviewer wanted to breach that wall. Further, I remembered my parents' belief that someone we knew didn't get into Harvard/Radcliffe because of her answer to a question her interviewer asked about her ancestry (my parents interpreted it as anti-semitism), so I was wary of interview questions about religion.
I didn't get the fellowship. We were told that no information would be given to us about the reasons, so I don't know which parts of the interview I failed. As best I can tell, the winners were all at least as well qualified as I was, so I don't have a complaint about the decision.
But whenever anyone says that a woman who goes to a man's hotel room, especially a stranger's, is "asking for it", I think of that interview.
I was glad to see that Harvard now tells alumni interviewers to meet prospective students in neutral places such as coffee shops, rather than in their homes (or on beds in hotel rooms).
After I got accepted to Ivory Tower (have they no standards?), I went to the party that was intended to convince accepted students to enroll. Another student (let's call her Jane) and I had great fun playing ping pong with Mr. Charming. Jane's interview with Charming had been at his office. She teased me about having had my interview at his home, and claimed he was flirting with me. That seemed like total nonsense. In any case, Charming was way too old to be interested in us. Only later did I wonder whether Charming did something at Jane's interview that led her to think he was interested in her.
Jane and I turned down Ivory Tower and went to Harvard. In our first week, Jane told me that Charming was now the boyfriend of someone in Jane's dorm, whom I'll call Snow White. I never found out whether they met at an interview or some other way. But Jane was right that Charming was interested in dating someone our age. Snow and Prince married right after she graduated, and lived happily ever after (according to her reports in the alumni news).
Monday, October 17, 2022
The below will appear in the Early Career section of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.