Best smackdowns for people who were awful to you in graduate school

(9 Posts)
SomePig Mon 23-Jan-17 00:18:44

So I can't be the only one who - amidst the lovely, supportive friends during the years of doctoral study - had some bullying jerks in my programme. For me it was two male students who would tear strips off me in seminars, order me to do admin work for them, took credit for my ideas, exclude me physically from group discussion by etc. I was not yet a bolshy feminist much shyer and less certain of myself then, and just took all the abuse and would go home and cry. It took me years and a permanent lectureship in the department that scored second highest in my discipline in the REF before I stopped thinking of them, and cowering at my own imposter-ness, every single day.


To my amazement, I have just gotten an email from one of these jerks. He is working in a university I have never heard of in a country several time zones away that doesn't have a brilliant reputation in my discipline. He has the chance to get a lovely grant from his institution that would pay me a nice little stipend, plus travel and accommodation, to come out to this country to do a very easy thing. The email is a steaming mess of fulsome praise gushing about how wonderful this opportunity would be, pretending we are nothing but old friends, and sidestepping the elephant in the room: that the very easy thing is very easy for me because it is directly in my field of specialisation and I do it every semester, but he is not an expert in this field (despite him trying to move into it) and so it would not be very easy for him to do at all.

I would love to visit this country. An extra bonus bit of cash would be very nice as well. But the prospect of even being in the same room with this guy means that he could be offering a trip to the moon and a million dollars and I'd still be turning him down.

After some thought about how I could respond to his invitation in perfectly polite terms while still conveying the underlying message of "fuck off to the far side of fuck and when you get there, fuck off some more", I have come up with this:

As tempting a prospect as it is to work closely with you, I have decided to decline the invitation.

OK, so it is not as waspish as it could be, but that's because he could well pass it on to other people. And I need plausible deniability. But if you got this, even if you were arrogant to the point of self-delusion, wouldn't it make you do a bit of a double take?

Other fantasy - or reality - smackdowns you have delivered to the people who were horrid to you in graduate school?

OP’s posts: |
Foureyesarebetterthantwo Mon 23-Jan-17 09:05:37

I would honestly be as professional as possible, as brief as possible and try to move on. I'd write 'Thanks for your email. I won't be able to come, I'm afraid, best wishes' and think no more about it.

I haven't experienced anything like this but have seen some of the arrogant behaviour of some of the younger male staff, but this is beyond what I know about in the institutions I've worked in (were you in a team, like in a science department, perhaps? ) No-one was horrid to me in grad school, I thought the whole point was that it wasn't like high school, so something went wrong where you work in terms of bullying culture (and I hope you don't work there any more!)

PlushVelvet Mon 23-Jan-17 12:09:57

As tempting a prospect as it is to work closely with you, I have decided to decline the invitation

Oh god no, not nearly passive-aggressive enough! you have to say that you're far too busy - I'd be referencing a selection committee I'm on for the new Director of XYZ Institute, or a research grant selection panel, or something like that.

You're just too busy & important to do this thing that is easy for you. I'm sure you can find your reasons.

OliviaStabler Mon 23-Jan-17 12:12:10

I would ignore the email.

PlushVelvet Mon 23-Jan-17 12:12:57

When I was a postgrad, there were a couple of male PGs who were arrogant. Didn't bully me or anything, but clearly behaved as though my research was insignificant.

I'm a v successful grant-winning, award-receiving professor at one of the top places for my field . And where are they? Pfft

It would be delightful to make this evident. In your position, I'd actually be inclined to go on the jolly, and be as polite & sweet as I normally am (I'm known for my niceness), but also be utterly utterly condescending. But I'm a champion at passive-aggression.

user7214743615 Mon 23-Jan-17 13:06:45

I wouldn't do a double take on that phrasing.

Maracattack Mon 23-Jan-17 13:19:24

It seems a shame to miss out on a great trip & extra cash because of someone else's behaviour. The best revenge is living well and all that... you could offer to give his Student's Union a talk on dealing with sexism within academia.

Alternatively, you might decide it isn't worth it. But don't dismiss it immediately.

Think of all the tiny digs you could make!

ImperialBlether Mon 23-Jan-17 13:24:30

You can't possibly do it because you're too busy doing things he's cut off his right arm to do. And list them.

MarasmeAbsolu Mon 23-Jan-17 19:35:49

Like purple, I think I would go - I would also be a little bundle of joy and delight and wit.
Only difference - I would not usually use the passive-aggressive route, but from day one acknowledge that we were not best friends in grad school [but then, I am known to be rather blunt - it makes people blush a bit, but a little truth never hurts].

Still - I would go, strip all emotions away from it, and made the best of a professional opportunity. I guess you have grown a lot since then, and what made you tick then may not so much now?

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