26 November 2012

Temporal harassment

A few other people were writing about career and training practices at the end of last week.

First, I want to shine a light on something that Dr. 24 Hours said on Twitter, in conversation with Dave Bridges. Dr. 24h was commenting on the expectation of many senior academics that their trainees put in unreasonably long work hours, and offered this solution:

Harrassment to keep longer hours. Policed the same as other sorts of harrassment.

It’s one of those things that is so obvious in retrospect, I can’t believe I didn’t frame it that way before. A senior scientist demanding a grad student or post-doc work 80 hours a week, for years, is creating a hostile work environment, like telling racist jokes, or a man pinching a woman’s bum, or making innuendo laden comments.

Realizing that it is harassment gives me hope, for two reasons. First, we have made progress on getting rid of other kinds of harassment. Second, institutions like universities usually have people and procedures to deal with harassment.

Second, I recommend PalMD’s post, “Call me a commie, I dare you.”

The system itself devalues labor, and thereby the people who perform the labor. We perpetuate the idea that medical schools and grad schools must be cut-throat-competitive. This may or may not be true, but this creates a system where laborers (medical and science trainees) are told they are “lucky to be here”, that “there’s a dozen others ready to take your place should you fall.”

Once again, this may or may not be true, but it helps perpetuate a feeling among laborers that their position is always at risk, that they should be thankful for their abusively long hours and any other mistreatment they receive. And they should thank the boss that they get paid anything at all.

Third, in the “Pay us” department, is a New York Times article, “Skills don’t pay the bills,” that shows manufacturers who claim they can’t hire skilled workers... are offering crappy wages.

At GenMet, the starting pay is $10 an hour. Those with an associate degree can make $15, which can rise to $18 an hour after several years of good performance. From what I understand, a new shift manager at a nearby McDonald’s can earn around $14 an hour.

1 comment:

Dr. 24hours said...

Thanks for the highlight. I completely agree with you and PalMD on these points. We need to establish appropriate working conditions for training scientists and engineers.