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Author Topic: Should I STFU?  (Read 4724 times)
hegemony
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« on: April 23, 2012, 12:08:39 AM »

At my university, grant proposals have to be submitted to a university grant officer who vets them before they're submitted to the grant-giving body.  We have a new grant officer, a woman who had some kind of fancy post in administration elsewhere, but who has only been on this job a year.  So anyway, I submit my humanities grant proposal, a revised version of a grant proposal I submitted two years ago.  I got the reviewers' comments from that round, and it looks as if I just missed landing the grant by a hair.  The reviews are all glowing, 4/6 giving it the top mark, with the exception that the reviewers think I was detailed enough in saying what would be in the final two chapters, and they questioned whether I had the material to write those chapters as fully as I stated.  In fact the material is abundant -- I had just failed to see that the reviewers wouldn't automatically know that. 

So I didn't get the grant, and the project went onto the back burner. But I've finally finished another project and am starting it up again. So I revise the same proposal and send it off to this new university grant officer.

The grant officer sends it back loaded with comments.  For a six-page narrative section, she has written more than a hundred comments.  There is an addendum of several pages continuing the comments.  She objects to almost everything.  In particular she objects to my use of terms such as "poetry" and "narrative," and a lot more along those lines.  She says I'm using the term "poetry" wrong because I state that it has a narrative (I am in fact talking about narrative poems), and she cites Wikipedia as saying that poetry is about the expression of emotion and not about plot.  The grant guidelines specifically say to put everything in quotation marks and nothing in italics, and she has objected to every use of quotation marks for titles and chastised me for not putting them in italics.  I could add dozens of similar items.  She ends the long, long set of comments by writing, "I do not think it will be possible to make this application suitable for submission, but it will be a useful exercise for you to practice writing a more convincing proposal."

After all this, I just had to hold my head in my hands.  Now, it's no use arguing with people who aren't going to get a clue, and there's no point in alienating people.  And I'm going to submit the proposal to the grant-giving body anyway.  But I'm torn between saying, "Okay, thank you," and pointing out politely that this nearly got the grant in its present form last time around, as well as the fact that Wikipedia is not a reliable source for the definition of poetry and that the grant instructions specifically tell applicants not to use italics -- etc.  But maybe this is a fool's errand.  What do you think?  Should I STFU?  (In case it matters, I do have tenure.)
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crowie
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« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2012, 12:35:18 AM »

Oh good lord.  I would not reply to her at all (apart from perhaps a breezy "thanks") but don't you think someone ought to know about this, like maybe whoever she reports to or whoever hired her?  I mean, this is really ridiculous.  I am untenured but we untenured folk rely upon those with tenure to try to help intervene in precisely these kinds of situations-- faculty governance and all that. 
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fiona
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« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2012, 2:16:57 AM »

I think I would try to have a pleasant conversation with this grants officer, pointing out the major errors she's made.

When the conversation turned unpleasant, as it probably would, I would thank her and leave the office, and then write an e-mail to her setting out the major problems in her approach. Still polite.

Then I would make an appointment with her superior (a dean?) and lay out the same case, reiterating it later with an e-mail.

All this is polite, but it creates a paper trail to get the incompetent person fired as soon as possible I think it's your duty as a tenured person to do this.

The Fiona
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systeme_d_
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« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2012, 2:25:18 AM »

Yikes!
Incompetence is absolutely unacceptable in an important position like this.  The fact that you're required to run grant apps past this person makes things even worse.

But the odds are that you're not the first one to discover this person's incompetence.

I'd go straight to her boss on this one, but first, I'd do some investigation and check out the lay of the land. 

Talk to colleagues.  Have they had similar experiences with her?  Odds are they have.  Then, ask the harder questions.  Who hired her?  Why?  Seriously, was nepotism of some sort involved, or was there an above-board search with a competent committee?

Check out the history behind her hire, arm yourself with information and then go see her boss.
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frogfactory
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« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2012, 4:14:21 AM »

www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE7Zv6d-HUA

Send her this.
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august
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2012, 7:35:01 AM »

Wow, I am sorry you have to deal with this.

I agree with what everyone has written here.  If she is doing this to you most likely there are other victims as well, so you might as well do what you can to change her approach.

Good luck,

August
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cranefly
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2012, 7:50:32 AM »

I would also respond to her directly. Tell her that while you appreciate the amount of work she put into the review, point out the previous success of the proposal, and explain that she doesn't understand the conventions of your discipline enough to comment in such detail.  Give her a few examples, then tell her you'll take some of her comments on board and plan to submit it. If she comes back and says "no", you can explain that if she wants to hold you back from submitting it, you'll take it higher up along with a detailed critique of her commentary.

But no, do not STFU.  Grant writing takes way too much time.
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banana
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2012, 8:32:41 AM »

Get the grant funded first, and then go talk to her.  Without funding, she'll take anything you say as cranky defensiveness; with funding, she'll have to accept that she was dead wrong about your proposal.
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busyslinky
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« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2012, 8:39:36 AM »

Do you need this person's approval for the grant proposal to be sent?  If not, then send it.  If so, you should speak to the supervisor.  I would not go back to her.  I assume this is a university-wide position, if so, how can anyone find the time to do this, and how can they be an expert in so many disciplines. 

The University doesn't want to be in a situation that grants are not getting sent out.  This person should be helping you to get these grants, not as a barrier. 
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shrek
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« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2012, 8:58:27 AM »

what is this person's role supposed to be? At my a grants officer checks the budget and makes sure we fills out the on-line forms correctly. That's it. I hire an editor to check typos and she'll sometimes make wording suggestions. I wouldn't shut up frankly. What you're describing is a waste of resources.
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busyslinky
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« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2012, 9:19:38 AM »

what is this person's role supposed to be? At my a grants officer checks the budget and makes sure we fills out the on-line forms correctly. That's it. I hire an editor to check typos and she'll sometimes make wording suggestions. I wouldn't shut up frankly. What you're describing is a waste of resources.

This is usually the scope at my university as well.
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geonerd
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« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2012, 10:02:01 AM »

what is this person's role supposed to be? At my a grants officer checks the budget and makes sure we fills out the on-line forms correctly. That's it. I hire an editor to check typos and she'll sometimes make wording suggestions. I wouldn't shut up frankly. What you're describing is a waste of resources.

This is usually the scope at my university as well.

+2
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deadcatbounce
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2012, 11:23:30 AM »

I would take this up with your department chair first. Your chair will have a vested interest in your granting success, and, being in your discipline, will likely be gobsmacked to find those kinds of issues raised about poetry. Get your chair to fight this battle on your behalf, and on behalf of your department.
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oldfullprof
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2012, 11:45:53 AM »

After a very "dynamic" (in her own mind) grants officer with a PhD, we started asking that her successors have doctorates as well.  She had not interfered with content so much as try to inject herself into positions of power over faculty.  One scheme would have made her the de facto dean of research.  (We actually don't have this position.) 

Every PhD grants officer after her didn't work out.  Finally, the very competent MA level assistant grants officer was made permanent grants officer.  Relief. 

I think asking for a PhD in this position sets you up for trouble.
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larryc
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« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2012, 11:55:35 AM »

Hegemony, you are tenured, right? Do not STFU.

If you can submit behind her back, do so. Share her bizarre comments with your chair or with some trusted colleagues and see what they think. Write the grants officer a short memo/email: Hey thanks, I did take a few of your suggestions into account, however--and then list some of your concerns. Maybe CC her boss. A lot depends on the personalities and the lay of the land at your institution.
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