Amy Bishop

NYT2010021918401354Cx We were in a news bubble when away on vacation, so the first thing we did when we got home was devour the New York Times. Quel geeks. Their article on Amy Bishop was excellent. Some quick impressions…

This woman wasn't a borderline personality. She was a full fledged paranoid schizophrenic, who needed serious help. Her family, including her husband, clearly covered for her for a long time – shameful.

The cops let her off after two previous incidents. She shot her brother, and they let her go! Race, gender, class. 

Her colleagues had observed erratic behavior for a long time. Where was the dean and the administration on this one? Bishop needed counseling and medication. She needed observation by medical professionals. She needed mentorship by senior level faculty on improving her collegiality.

It's all terribly sad.

57 thoughts on “Amy Bishop

  1. I’m not really seeing the schizophrenia, myself, although that’s not my thing. My husband has an old friend who is schizophrenic and he’s entirely different critter–very sweet and compassionate and humble, despite the fact that he thinks that demons talk to him. I suppose schizophrenics vary a good deal (and interestingly, Tony Attwood says that some diagnosed schizophrenics are actually Aspies). MH?
    Wendy has a very good comment thread where kids and wives of (mostly undiagnosed) adult Aspies discuss the autistic features of Amy Bishop:
    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=10190789&postID=8875919777207848566
    They talk about the tendency of adult Aspies to have difficulty with problem solving and to have tunnel vision when there is something they want. Once they decide upon a solution (even if it’s a very bad ide), it’s very hard to budge them. (I’d add that this is true of good an generous acts, too–once they’ve decided on a course of action, they will be unwavering.) Nobody mentions it in those terms, but there’s also the problem of the adult temper tantrum.
    We haven’t seen much of Bishop’s husband, but I’m betting that he is cut from very similar cloth.

  2. She was a full fledged paranoid schizophrenic, who needed serious help.
    If that turns out to be the case, and I haven’t seen anybody except her defense lawyer make the claim, then her case is even stranger than before unless she was actually receiving some treatment somewhere. The number of people with schizophrenia who can finish a graduate degree and work for that long in a competitive environment is very small. By ‘competitive environment,’ I’m speaking very broadly of any type of job that isn’t specifically set-up for people with a severe mental disability. Same with the number of people with schizophrenia who get and stay in any kind of a spouse-like relationship. Usually, somebody with that degree of functioning and most of the other symptoms of schizophrenia would more likely to get a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder or something.

  3. Interesting story on the history of the schizophrenia diagnosis on “On The Media” about two weeks ago, in the context of the new version of the DSM coming out.
    Basically, it described how moved from a disease of passive white housewives in the 1950s to poor black men in the 1960s to a more egalitarian disease today.

  4. Can a blogger post troll-bait? What is it called when you provoke me then tell me I can post only two comments? LOL!
    Really though, I’m busy today/tomorrow, so I suggest you all read my 4 posts on Amy Bishop at my blog.🙂
    And yes, I just used up one of my two comments, so I’ll ask the implied question of my 4th post: why are the cases of Amy Bishop and Joe Stark (IRS attacker) so different? Joe Stark is remembered as a sweet apolitical guy. Bishop is remembered as a psycho in the making. But they both were mass murderers (Stark wanted to kill more people and was just unlucky).
    Interesting also that both Stark and Bishop were musically inclined. I’m reminded of a line from Leroi Jones’ Dutchman where Clay says “Bird would’ve played not a note of music if he just walked up to East Sixty-seventh Street and killed the first ten white people he saw. Not a note!”

  5. Can’t comment on the schizophrenia thing.
    What this reminds me of more than anything is Maj. Nadal Hasan at Fort Hood. In both cases you have a person behaving erratically within an institution for long periods of time, and the institution showing itself unable to respond constructively. Or put another way, the people within the institution are so massively incented to pass the buck that they decline to respond despite knowing something is wrong.
    I would like to know what the HR department (or whatever the equivalent is for an academic institution) had to say about handling Bishop. In my experience this is where things really fall apart in the States when dealing with crazy people in the office. Their manager refers it to HR, saying people are scared to work with this person, and HR says, “Well you can fire her (in which case you’re the face of the firing, good luck with that), but in the absence of that just make sure you document everything in case we’re sued.” Not helpful.

  6. why are the cases of Amy Bishop and Joe Stark (IRS attacker) so different? Joe Stark is remembered as a sweet apolitical guy. Bishop is remembered as a psycho in the making.
    That’s not a very hard question, at least when it comes to how friends and acquaintances remembered them. Stark largely kept his anger to himself, so people who knew him were not expecting this. Bishop did not hide her anger and smacked people in IHOPs.
    (And, I’m done.)

  7. My comment is about the structure of academia. First thing is that I strongly suspect that undergraduate students are more attuned than graduate students, who are more attuned than faculty members, to dangerous personality traits in faculty. And they have the most capacity to deal with that by exit rather than voice. The article talks of a trail of people moving through her lab. Some responsible adult who suspected Bishop was not fully sane might have done well to do some discreet exit interviews. I bet that several hundred former undergrads are much less surprised than the rest of us about what happened.
    Second is that it is striking how laissez faire the institution was toward her manifest problems. In response to Jen I wonder whether anyone even talked to HR. I guess they thought that they could use tenure denial to get rid of her. If so, that was cowardly and cruel. Of course, the point of jen’s comment still stands.

  8. Yes, for me, the most interesting question around the Bishop case is how Bishop’s problems were ignored or covered up for so many years. I bet you’re right, Harry. I’m sure that the undergrads had a very clear idea of what was going on. That must have shown up on student evals, no? Did anybody read the evals?
    Academics don’t operate within the same hierarchies as those in private industry. They’re more like independent contractors. They have a lot of freedom, but very little oversight and very little guidance. Steve’s firm watches every move he makes. All e-mail is read and Internet usage is monitored. If there is a problem, it is dealt with immediately.
    In December, Steve didn’t get the promotion that he had been expecting to receive. His boss gave him the heads up weeks in advance in a private conference room. He was explicitly told why not — not enough networking with upper level management, but his work was stellar. His boss promised to show him how to improve in that area and then gave him a fat raise to keep him in the firm. His boss’s needs Steve to work well and to be happy, so he has a direct interest in having Steve succeed.
    If there was a person who acted inappropriately even once, they would be walked to the elevator by a security guard. Fear of lawsuits have made private industry really no nonsense about this stuff.
    Sorry about the comment cap, but this is a very sensitive topic. A large number of readers here are academics/academic spouses, and some serve on tenure committees. While I believe that academic structure and practices may have been a contributing factor in this tragedy, those who were directly involved were blameless.

  9. At the risk of my second comment, I’m very dubious on the idea of “doing something” because a person is “behaving erratically.” Tons of employees act oddly or erratically, or are perceived as scary in the workplace without “Going Academic.”
    Unless you have an actual formal complaint of use of violence (or, better, a second incident after a formal warning was issued), I’d love to be the lawyer who had a client walk in and tell me she was fired for not conforming sufficiently to a feminine stereotype. (“She was gruff and scared her students? How many men work at your University who have those qualities? How many of them did you fire?”)
    It is also absolutely forbidden to fire someone just because they have a disability (like a mental illness) if they can still perform their job with a reasonable accommodation.
    Based on what I would have known before the shooting, I would have been very hesitant to permit her firing based only on “she makes us feel uncomfortable.” I would have advised, “What for her tenure to get denied. Then she’ll leave on her own.” It’s probably what I’d recommend next time too.
    Crazed shootings are extremely rare. People who want to fire people because they don’t conform to their ideal of a model employee are very common.

  10. I don’t think she’s a paranoid schizophrenic. I think she is a difficult woman with an inflated sense of her abilities, who is prone to rage when crossed. Sometimes, those rages are violent.
    She was ordered to anger management classes after the IHOP incident, but apparently didn’t compete that part of her probation.
    (http://www.examiner.com/x-38158-Cultural-Oddities-Examiner~y2010m2d20-No-splendor-in-Amy-Bishops-character-students-say-the-professor-is-volatile)
    A person who will attack a stranger over a booster seat is not predictable. Some of the news reports claimed she told police some neighborhood disagreements in Ipswich “may come to blows.” (http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20100217neighbors_recall_amy_bishop_as_a_crank_i_thought_she_was_bizarre/)
    I wonder how the change of state may have affected her. Her parents live in Ipswich. In Alabama, her parents couldn’t provide childcare, and also couldn’t head off rages (presuming they were in a position to monitor her in Massachusetts.)
    Race, gender and class play huge roles in her history. Also, the deference paid to intelligence. There’s a halo effect for perceived high IQ.

  11. She was ordered to anger management classes after the IHOP incident, but apparently didn’t compete that part of her probation.
    But that’s not actually what the article says, which is either (a) bad clear writing on the part of the newspaper, or (b) bad misleading writing on the part of the newspaper.
    The article said, “In 2002, a prosecutor recommended Bishop attend anger management classes after she assaulted an individual at a restaurant. Bishop did not attend the classes.”
    Of course, defendants don’t have to do what “prosecutors recommend.” They have to do what judge’s order. It never says she was ordered to go. So either the newspaper mis-wrote what should have been a term of her judge-ordered probation, or else it’s trying to mislead you into thinking she violated parole.
    Other comments in the article were “Bishop was obsessed with her Harvard education and often held it over the heads of students and colleagues.” and “An unnamed source close to Bishop, said Bishop is famous for her passive-aggressive comments, referring to her as ‘the most self-righteous person I have ever met.'”
    Please don’t let this be the “intervene” side of the standard for official action for workplace behavior.

  12. Academics don’t operate within the same hierarchies as those in private industry. They’re more like independent contractors. They have a lot of freedom, but very little oversight and very little guidance.
    That certainly fits with my experience, especially if you added “very little pay” at the end. We have an annual evaluation that usually doesn’t even involve a single face-to-face meeting. Half of the people I work with seem to think I’m faculty and half think I’m administrative staff. It would be enormously stressful if I were more status conscious and if I wasn’t steadily adding publications to my CV*.
    * I guess I am status conscious, but not title conscious.

  13. So either the newspaper mis-wrote what should have been a term of her judge-ordered probation, or else it’s trying to mislead you into thinking she violated parole.
    In cases like this I usually assume that the reporter just doesn’t know enough about the subject to get the story right- doesn’t know the difference between a judge ordering something and a prosecutor recommending it, etc. Or, that they had a deadline, didn’t know what the answer was, and were not able to find out quickly and so just hedged between readings. Probably it’s a mixture of the two, rather than a more blameworthy attempt to mislead. (I find the reporting about legal issues is almost always like this- getting quite important points wrong in a way you’d expect from people who don’t really understand what their writing about.)

  14. Echoing what MH said about reporter ignorance, although vis-a-vis the tenure process. I really didn’t like the NYT article’s description of Bishop’s work and tenure bid. They seem to spend a great time denigrating her work and diminishing her scholarship, as assessed by Columbia professors, one of whom said something like, “at Columbia, she would not have been recommended for tenure.”
    Now Alabama-Huntsville is a PhD granting school, but the newspaper should have noted that tenure standards are different at every institution, as are teaching requirements.
    Can you tell I was up for tenure this semester? I don’t think, had I been at Columbia, I would have been recommended for tenure either. Of course, my teaching load is much higher than that of a Columbia prof.
    As to Bishop, I think it would be appropriate to wait for a diagnosis. Clearly she had anger management issues. At some point, one wonders how much to chalk up to individual crimes rather than institutional permissiveness. Much of Bishop’s past was not known to UA-Huntsville (brother death, IHOP booster seat attack, and bomb suspicion). And professors are not known for their social acumen. Undergraduate evaluations are notoriously flawed instruments.

  15. @Ragtime, I’m interested to hear your opinion about what to do about employees who seem like a threat before they become violent. You seem to be saying there’s nothing to be done about a co-worker with rage issues unless they’ve actually gotten violent.
    I do think that we as a society are currently reinventing our standards for what’s fire-able and what’s not. Old way: anything that makes the boss uncomfortable (including, say, refusing requests for sex). New way: nothing short of violence. Neither of these seem optimal to me.

  16. “I really didn’t like the NYT article’s description of Bishop’s work and tenure bid.”
    I’d like to see bj weigh in on Bishop’s research. How good was it, and was she just treading water after she came to UAH?

  17. Echoing what MH said about reporter ignorance,
    That was Matt, not me. I do have my own reporter ignorance question. The article says:
    …and though she was sentenced to probation in the IHOP incident, she was never officially found guilty.
    How can you be sentenced without being found guilty?

  18. @Ragtime, I’m interested to hear your opinion about what to do about employees who seem like a threat before they become violent. You seem to be saying there’s nothing to be done about a co-worker with rage issues unless they’ve actually gotten violent.
    As Julie said, there’s “everything that happened in her life,” and there’s “everything that happened during work hours at UA.” And there’s a huge gulf between the two. Was she threatening her colleagues with violence at work? That’s a no-no, but it’s not what I’m seeing, or at least not what’s getting reported.
    What I am reading is that she was haughty at the office, and violent during her personal time. I don’t think the model employee at the construction plant should be disciplined (at work) because he got into a bar fight on Friday night if he can show up on Monday at do the job.
    Threats of violence at work should absolutely be reported and dealt with immediately. Differing personalities should be given lots of leeway, so that what you see as ‘mean’ doesn’t get punished when what was intended was ‘intense.’
    I believe in clear policies that are strictly enforced. All I’m seeing about Bishop (looking only at work hours) is that She Was A Big Stinking Jerk. . . . Allow me to introduce you to 95% of every Female Corporate Law Partner that I know. I just don’t see how she behaved at work as “fireable.”
    I’ve been made nervous by lots of supervisors, managers, and people who were directly responsible for my job. There were close talkers and screamers, and nit-pickers, and braggarts, and idiots, and big-stinky-meanies. Sometimes I thought, “Wow, I wonder if he’s going to punch someone the way he’s yelling!” In all those times, I’ve never seen any physical violence at work. Which is why I don’t think there was really any appropriate intervention for Bishop based on her job performance.

  19. I believe in clear policies that are strictly enforced.
    Ugh. You’d think that would work, but all it ever leads to is another form from HR.

  20. Sorry, MH, didn’t mean to confuse. I, too, wonder how one is sentenced without being officially guilty. A plea bargain without admission of guilt for that offense, maybe?

  21. @Jen:
    I do think that we as a society are currently reinventing our standards for what’s fire-able and what’s not. Old way: anything that makes the boss uncomfortable (including, say, refusing requests for sex). New way: nothing short of violence.
    I agree with you – and these standards don’t just affect the workplace, either. I remember a very prominent case some ten years ago in SF – google “Diane Whipple dog mauling” – a woman was mauled to death by two dogs, and, as it turned out, there were all sorts of creepy connections to dogfighting rings run by white supremacist convicts.
    Anyhow, people had suspected that these dogs were out of control and a potential menace because their owners didn’t seem to care. When questioned as to why they didn’t call animal control, the response was unanimous: “We thought they couldn’t do anything” or “They said they couldn’t do anything.” After years of non-response/denial/hoping it would all just go away a tragedy happened.
    With the Bishop case, regardless of Amy’s psychiatric state (and internet diagnosis is always risky)- there seems to have been a previous pattern of coverup, denial, hoping-it-would-just-go-away (by denying her tenure, the administration at the university probably thought their “problem” would just go quietly away without their doing anything), people thinking nothing could be done, etc. etc.
    I think as a society and workplace we don’t have much faith in being able to protect ourselves or others, as Jen said most likely a reaction to being able to harm someone for refusing sex (or for being black, or any number of things). Now we have to hope that the potentially dangerous person just goes away, or wait until something really bad happens. There has to be something better than this.

  22. I have had neighbor’s call the cops on another neighbor’s dog. The cops did come. Even though the owners denied any problem, I haven’t seen the dog out without being on a leash since. (Which is still kind of scary because the dog outweights the woman walking it by a good 40 pounds.)

  23. No head-busting!
    But I guess what I’d say is this: if I had a colleague pre-tenure who was sometimes odd or a bit erratic, whose teaching reputation was mixed at best, and whose research was weak, you bet your ass I’d hope that the tenure process would get them out of my hair in the most indirect way possible.
    On the other hand, if I had an odd or erratic colleague who was nevertheless an exciting teacher who delivered a uniquely engaging, unusual sort of connection to students, or a colleague whose oddness was the precondition of really fascinating ideas, research, or writing, then I’d fight to keep them, even if there were some awkward moments now and again. There are more than a few people in academia who fit this bill, more I’m sure than in most private industry. There are folks I’ve known in my discipline who are rather like this and I have enormous affection as well as professional regard for them.
    I don’t know, is that harsh that I’d hope that a disturbed person who is a poor performer would just disappear as quietly as possible from my professional life? I’m not Mother Teresa. Maybe most of you really would or have reached out to lost souls to try and save them. I’m not that good a person.
    It’s not just selfish, though. I’m kind of uncomfortable with the possible consequences to saying that we have an obligation to closely surveil and diagnose our colleagues and call the thunderclouds of HR down upon those that we think are troubled. Related prescriptions in academia haven’t worked out that well. For example, when you institute overly broad commandments to watch for and report harassment or you construct speech codes, you tend to license some colleagues to misuse that invitation in various ways.
    What works in a hierarchical private business, where the discretion to counsel or diagnose or react rests in a clear chain of command that can derive from an organizational policy does not work in the decentralized, relatively autonomous environment, somewhat fractitious and competitive environment of academia. If we were all our brother’s (or sister’s) keepers, I think too much keeping would likely result.

  24. @Timothy (and MH) I won’t bust heads, I promise!🙂
    The dog-mauling case that I mentioned happened in San Francisco, which is, I think, a big city run a lot like academia seems to be (I am not an academic, though I do have a Master’s and have TA’d so I’ve seen a bit of how it works). San Francisco, bless it’s heart, has a way of Hoping It Will Just Go Away with regards to quality-of-life and safety issues and then Something Bad Happens.
    Both for San Francisco and academia, the issue seems to be that it’s okay to be different, it’s okay to be quirky, individuals have rights, etc. – and reconciling that with recognizing when “quirky” or “abrasive” turn into “dangerous,” as well as finding out where one person’s fist ends and another’s face begins.
    Also, that incident was a real wakeup for Animal Control and they weren’t nearly as passive after that, which I think is true in many areas now. Things have, thankfully, improved.
    I’m not saying it’s not difficult; I think it’s human to wish that a problem would just go away and want to take the easy way out. I wish there could be a way to know just which person was merely odd or not very people-skilled, and which had the potential to really be dangerous.

  25. Oh, and P.S. to all my comments: I think that being white, well-educated and middle-class enabled Bishop to fly under the radar for so long. It’s sort of the reverse of what happens to black male high-school dropouts – the latter, everyone believes the worst of, whereas with WWEMCF’s (white, well-educated middle-class females) – they are hardly *ever* suspected of potential violence. Our Kind of Wimmin Just Don’t Do That.

  26. The dog-mauling case that I mentioned happened in San Francisco, which is, I think, a big city run a lot like academia seems to be
    Except that dogs have more legal protections that graduate students.

  27. Still thinking about Ragtime’s comment:
    I don’t think the model employee at the construction plant should be disciplined (at work) because he got into a bar fight on Friday night if he can show up on Monday at do the job.
    I’ve never argued for someone being *disciplined* at work because of out-of-work violence. However if the outside violence is part of a pattern that also crops up at work, like for example extreme temper tantrums, then I do think it’s fair game.
    During the hiring process you can ask someone if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony, and you can choose to not hire them based upon the felony. Shouldn’t we be able to hear if such a felony occurs after that employee joins the company?

  28. During the hiring process you can ask someone if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony, and you can choose to not hire them based upon the felony.
    Nope. Released prisoners have paid their debt to society, and cannot be discriminated against anymore than your run-of-the-mill 64-year-old black lesbian paraplegic.
    At least in Pennsylvania. (With exceptions where a clean criminal record is otherwise required by law, such child care providers). And you are certainly allowed to fire someone if they can’t show up at work due to their current incarceration (even if they are later acquitted.)
    But you fire my college professor in PA because you learn of a past criminal conviction, I’ve got an open/shut case against you.

  29. I’m confused — why then are there questions on job applications about whether or not you’ve been convicted of a felony? If you can’t use that information why is it legal to ask it?
    No offense, Ragtime, and I understand there’s a difference between relating what the current law is, and saying it’s sensical, but the legal constraints being described here are precisely why workplaces never deal with problematic people, even to the extent of sometimes endangering others. We simply have not figured out how to respect privacy, protect individuality, and still weed out potentially dangerous folks.

  30. Felons get anti-discrimination protection and I can’t buy beer in the grocery store or have wine shipped to my house*. No wonder the state legislators had to pay staffers to do their campaigning.
    *If you are visiting Napa and shipping wine back to yourself in PA, the guys at the Napa UPS stores will tell you to claim you are shipping olive oil. I think that is what the legal types call ‘abetting.’

  31. I used to really like the flat structure of academia. Each professor has far more independence than workers in the private sphere. They make policies and are largely independent of each other. I used to think that was cool. But there are definite downsides. I have many friends who were able to get tenure without problems. But others really needed the support that comes from a more hierarchical structure. In some ways, private industry is more nurturing, because it provides guidance. It helps out those with personal or mental problems. It helps out those who need assistance in publishing, teaching, or getting along with others.
    Academics haven’t lawyered up enough when there have been problems. I’m thinking of one case where a person wasn’t granted tenure, simply because that person had a grating personality. His/her work was fine, but the rest of the faculty felt that he/she did not get along well with others. He/she had not been advised to improve on these matters before the final tenure review committee. No lawyer was ever brought in.
    Academics don’t lawyer up, because they need recommendations to get a job in the future. It’s also just not part of the culture.
    Being denied tenure sucks so royally right now, because the job market is horrific. Chances are that you’ll never get another academic job. It takes seven years to get tenure, so you might have bought a house and put your kids in schools. Also, your skills aren’t necessarily transferrable to other careers. At 45, you might have to go back to law school or education school. Yuckko.

  32. I used to really like the flat structure of academia.
    I’m not sure I’d really call it flat or non-hierarchical as much as it is multidimensional. (All people in academia are moving through a 12 dimensional cheese?)

  33. “It takes seven years to get tenure…”
    Isn’t six years fairly common, too? I’ve known at least one person to get tenure at the end of five years.
    “you might have bought a house”
    When are Americans going to get over the cultural belief that every time you relocate, you need to buy a house?

  34. When are Americans going to get over the cultural belief that every time you relocate, you need to buy a house?
    Last time I looked, it would have cost us about $400 a month more than our mortgage/tax/insurance payment to rent something of the same size and condition in our neighborhood.

  35. The Boston Globe has an article this morning about Amy Bishop, tenure, and the value of her research. As the link is too long, if you’re interested, look for Boston Globe, “A Murder Suspect’s Worth to Science.”
    Would it surprise you to hear that her lawyer is setting up an insanity defense? And, according to interviews, he claims Dr. Bishop remembers nothing of the shooting, and cries. I’m willing to believe that she’s insane, but my cynical side can’t help noting that crying and being very emotional worked very well the last time she shot someone. There’s also the pesky problem of the gun, its acquisition, transportation, loading, and use.
    If this case goes to trial, we’ll hear all about her childhood, and her personal life. Then, we might better be able to judge her. I don’t incline to believe that the accidental shooting of her brother changed her forever. I incline to think that she might always have had the potential to be violent.
    I also wonder if she’s an abusive spouse. If she is volatile, temperamental, and violent with coworkers and graduate students, what’s she like at home?

  36. “Last time I looked, it would have cost us about $400 a month more than our mortgage/tax/insurance payment to rent something of the same size and condition in our neighborhood.”
    1. What about maintenance?
    2. How quickly could you sell it if you lost your job?
    3. Aren’t the transaction costs ferocious?
    The arithmetic you mention is extremely seductive in low-cost-of-living areas. My husband was just trying unsuccessfully to talk a new graduate student out of buying a house (although in the graduate student’s case, he really could have it half-way paid off in 5 years). However, the math is very sensitive to price changes. Here’s a nice rent-buy calculator to play with:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/10/business/2007_BUYRENT_GRAPHIC.html#
    The calculator told me that buying a $100,000 house in our area would break even with renting in 2 years, while a $200,000 house would break even in 28 years.

  37. From the article cranberry mentions:
    “She had nothing published in 2007 and 2008, and during her six years at the university in Huntsville she published three papers that appeared to be original research articles, none of them in major journals — often a requirement for tenure.”
    “Christopher E. Henderson, co-director of the Columbia University Center for Motor Neuron Biology and Disease, noted that in Dr. Bishop’s published papers, her name did not appear in the last position, which ordinarily designates the senior author.”
    Now, if a science-type commentor could explain what an appropriate level of research is for tenure in biology.

  38. 1. What about maintenance?
    It is expensive, but it is still well-below what we’ve saved. This includes fixing things that no landlord would fix (e.g. energy efficiency improvements that we do because the savings go to us or replacing things that work because they are ugly).
    2. How quickly could you sell it if you lost your job?
    For various reasons, we’re stuck here. Nearly anything in the neighborhood listed for up to 125% of what we paid has sold in a couple of months. Nicer houses (let’s say anything that a newly minted doctor paying down loans cannot afford) can sit for a long time. Especially when the 70 year-old seller cannot understand why they can’t sell their house for as much as the neighbor got. (“I’ve cooked in this kitchen for 40 years with no problem. Why are you telling me you’d have to spend $15,000 on fixes before you move in? And shag carpet is so much nicer on the feet than hardwood.”)
    3. Aren’t the transaction costs ferocious?
    And how. 4% transfer tax plus a commission if you use a realtor.

  39. her name did not appear in the last position, which ordinarily designates the senior author.
    That seems strange. I wouldn’t expect a non-tenured faulty member to be in senior author position on very many papers, if any. I’d expect them to be in the first author position on most papers.
    she published three papers that appeared to be original research articles, none of them in major journals
    That’s bad.

  40. To Amy P. — the thing is that it would be difficult, without knowing the circumstances at UA-H, what standards for tenure would be. Evidently Bishop had not brought in grants — which would be necessary at my institution in the sciences. But at really heavy teaching schools, 3 articles could likely do it. But you would need to know the culture of UA-H, what sort of teaching load there is, what sort of start-up lab money is offered, etc.
    But I agree with Laura — the tenure process is scary. The all or nothing aspect of it makes people quite vulnerable. If they have put down roots in a community (either as renters or home owners), they have generally done so because of that job — academics rarely can choose their geography. This means that there could be little in the way of a safety net if tenure is denied — perhaps no family nearby, no sufficiently well-paying jobs to transition into, etc.
    These circumstances might not translate into issues facing Bishop — perhaps she did have a steady income from petri dish innovations — but Laura’s points about the precariousness of the tenure process are well-founded. Not all institutions send clear signals as to the likelihood of denial, nor do they have clear-cut standards. (Again, this is not a commentary on Bishop or UA-H, just tenure in general.)

  41. Sorry. Also to Amy P. — the first couple sentences were an answer to you, not the whole tenure rant. You clearly are well aware of academic life.

  42. But at really heavy teaching schools, 3 articles could likely do it.
    Yes, I’d forgotten that it was a teaching school when I gave my “That’s Bad.”

  43. Ok. I am a bio prof, and I learned a lot about this while earning my tenure and will look for the following in the future, as I evaluate junior colleagues.
    In any field, a key issue is trajectory or ‘arc’ of the person’s scholarship. How have they progressed over time? Will they continue to build on their achievements going forward? A random or meandering arc is a huge impediment to tenure, and the non-specialist tenure committee members care more about this than technical details of achievement.
    Technical details of achievement are what will be documented in the referee letters in the dossier. Those folks will praise (or bristle at the absence of):
    Funding. Need not be millions in NIH funding for everyone, but at least diligently applying matters. It’s not just $$$ but recognition by colleagues that your ideas are compelling.
    Avoid too many middle-author papers. You get middle author for writing a computer program, making a designer protein, developing a strain of yeast, etc. Not for leadership.
    First-author papers, especially early. This means you conceived and implemented a good experiment, and successfully wrote it up.
    Last-author papers, especially late. This means that you mentored a graduate student or postdoc in the best possible way: by handing over the reins. Note that this indicates that you can do one-on-one teaching.
    Number of papers. I’ve heard that one per year, on average. A lot more at prestige places. Maybe a bit less at places like UA-H.
    Teach reasonably well. On the list, but low.

  44. You get middle author for writing a computer program, making a designer protein, developing a strain of yeast, etc.
    Or for doing the stats.

  45. You know, I was thinking about the paper where Amy Bishop’s kids were presented as co-authors. Maybe she shouldn’t have put that in her tenure file, but it might have been the case that she was seeing herself as a mentor for her kids, teaching them how to write up results for a scientific journal. Her husband said that their kids have been doing tissue samples or something since they were 10. So given Hilary’s info, with the kids listed as the first 3 authors and Amy/Jim as the last 2, she may not have meant that as “serious” scholarship. I can’t remember if she put it in her dossier, though.
    Btw, a interesting follow-up to the IHOP incident. The person Bishop was accused of attacking was recently arrested (at the age of 42!) for attacking a police officer and other public disturbance-y stuff. The whole “I am Dr. Amy Bishop” stuff may need to be seen in a larger context, too. The woman might have been rude and said “WTF do you think you are?” And Bishop answered. She almost certainly did smack her on the head, but if you’re not predisposed to seeing every single thing Bishop ever did as an example of her great inner hidden evil covered up for by everyone, you can almost see how it all happened and wasn’t as bad as Bishop storming in to an IHOP, pronouncing “I AM DOCTOR AMY BISHOP! GIVE ME A BOOSTER SEAT!” and might have just been a dust-up that got a little out of hand. If you don’t give a crap about causing a scene when you’re wronged (and adults with Asperger’s often do not) unlike me and most people, who most often want to just move on and get my pancakes, then you can see how this might happen.

  46. There’s definitely a lot of “creeping determinism” going on here, where every last sentence is being shown as a clear pre-cursor to shooting at the tenure committee.
    But my point — to the extent I had one — is that if you had made an objective list of staff members likely to go on a bloody rampage, I am guessing that Amy Bishop (despite all of the back story) wouldn’t have made the Top 10.
    There’s the “schizophrenia story” that everyone knows about the researchers who went to psychiatric hospitals, told the doctors they heard voices saying ambiguous things (like “thud” or “bottom”) and after that began acting normally. The “story” is about how long it took them to get discharged.
    But Chapter 2 is that after that happened, the researchers told the hospitals they’d give them a chance to redeem themselves, and would send out some more “fakes” and them see if they could spot them. At the end of the study, the hospitals identified about 75 fakes — except that the researchers had never sent any.
    My concern is not stopping the “next potential Amy Bishop” – there’s only been one of her, and it doesn’t really seem to be a start of a trend. My concern is for the next 75 people who will have their lives made living hells as their University identifies them as the “next potential Amy Bishop.”

  47. “You know, I was thinking about the paper where Amy Bishop’s kids were presented as co-authors. Maybe she shouldn’t have put that in her tenure file, but it might have been the case that she was seeing herself as a mentor for her kids, teaching them how to write up results for a scientific journal.”
    Yeah, based on the sort of stuff my husband and his sister did as kids for science fairs, etc., I think at least this aspect of Bishop’s life is not that weird.

  48. Ragtime, that experiment was sort of a cheap stunt, even for a time when hospitalization was over-used. There is no biological assay for schizophrenia and diagnosis is largely due to self-report or other people’s reports of behavior. Successful diagnosis depends on the assumption (usually non-problematic) that nobody wants to be in the mental hospital when they don’t need to be. This isn’t just mental health. If a man looks 50, is heavy, and walks into an ER complaining of sharp pains in his chest, he’s going to be hooked-up to an EKG whether he’s lying or not. Under-treatment is a huge issue in schizophrenia. Over-treatment is mostly a thing of the past (because of cost-containment measures more than civil liberties grounds).
    I am guessing that Amy Bishop (despite all of the back story) wouldn’t have made the Top 10.
    I doubt that. The reports say all of the grad students kept leaving her lab.

  49. The paper with her kids was too recent to have been in her tenure dossier.
    But that brings up another issue, as long as we set aside the real issue of having published in fairly marginal journals. Had the papers been worthy of better venues, another likely cause for being scrutinized and and criticized is having your under-employed husband as a co-author on all or almost all of them. (He listed his affiliation as their home-based business.)
    No doubt, there tends to be a lot of lock-step narrow-mindedness among tenure referees.
    Turn the tables … a man who had his under-employed scientist wife help with papers probably would probably get less grief than a woman who did same.

  50. The Boston Globe stays on the story. http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/02/_the_states_top.html
    “US attorney orders review of 1993 mailbombing case tied to Amy Bishop”
    The ATF files revealed that Rosenberg, a Harvard Medical School professor and doctor at Children’s Hospital in Boston, told investigators that weeks before the attempted bombing he played a role in Bishop’s resignation from her job as a post-doctoral research fellow in the hospital’s neurobiology lab because “he felt she could not meet the standards required for the work.”
    Rosenberg said he feared Bishop “was not stable” and that her co-workers had growing concerns because she had “exhibited violent behavior.”

    So, she may have lost her position at Children’s due to her behavior.

  51. Investigators have discovered evidence they say suggests Amy Bishop may have purposely shot her brother with a 12-gauge shotgun in 1986, prompting Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating yesterday to initiate a judicial inquest into the death, which had been ruled accidental.
    Keating said his investigators enlarged crime scene photos and, next to 12-gauge ammunition in Bishop’s bedroom, found a news article that chronicled a crime spree similar to Bishop’s actions on the day of her brother’s death. He said the story could reflect Bishop’s intent.

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/02/26/suggestion_of_intent_in_86_shooting/

  52. Reading further in the article,
    Keating declined to identify the news article or publication. A search of news reports published at the time shows that two weeks earlier, the parents of the actor who played Bobby Ewing on the popular television show “Dallas’’ were killed by an assailant wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, who then held up a car dealership, stole a pickup truck, and fled.

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