“British jobs are for british people”

Since the day I started my PhD coming from Mexico into the UK I had a number of interesting comments from staff and colleagues that were amusing at the beginning  but  rather unpleasant in the long run… I explain myself: I remember the day I arrived I was told straight away that I will be very happy in such a “friendly and open” department and that I will take a great experience back when I return to my country… Indeed, there was always this (ungrounded) assumption that I was only temporarily in the UK and that I should return to my country and speak about the bounties of Brit education back there, treasuring it while it lasted… In order to challenge what started to be an unneeded trend in every advice related with careers I kept expressing that I wished to stay in the UK and apply for jobs here: couldn’t be more surprised to notice that the intensity of the discouraging comments of the career advisors from my discipline went into downright persuasion to avoid my purpose because of the dire situation of the job market and sadly, even quite xenophobic expressions that “British jobs are for british people” and the like  … This made me take the whole thing as a challenge so much that i became quite determined to stay in English academia… This is not the place to report everything that happened in the process but eventually got the job and  I am working in another UK university now…  When I listen here and there publicity from the UK universities recruiting people and saying how friendly and welcoming their institutions are I tend to take it with a pinch of salt since…

“Oh, you mean you’re not married to an American? I assumed that’s why you were here.”

I am English, with an unexceptional English accent, and a PhD from a UK university. I teach in the US. Students here are mostly very decent about accent/cultural differences, and I have been lucky enough to find many supportive and welcoming colleagues. But there is some entrenched xenophobia still out there, and when it appears, it is nasty. Here are some examples:

–A provost at a liberal arts college on-campus interview: “What do you know about the liberal arts? You don’t even have them in your country.”

–A student, on hearing about us potentially hiring a faculty member from a non-US country: “Great, yet another accent I have to get used to.”

–Another student: “You don’t speak English. Well okay, I suppose you do, but not proper English.”

–A colleague: “You know, sometimes I just don’t hear you. It’s your accent.”

–Another colleague, in a meeting, in front of other faculty: “Over the summer, I was reflecting on the difficulties I’ve had in working with you on this project. I decided the problems come down to you being from a different country.”

–During hiring negotiations: “Oh, you mean you’re not married to an American? I assumed that’s why you were here.”

ignoring “small” universities

I am an academic in the humanities. On two occasions, and during 4 years, I have had double affiliation. In both cases, the main institution (the one financially supporting me) was in Spain, and the secondary institution a big name in North America (one in the US, the other in Canada). It happened to me many times in conferences, meetings and workshops that, even though I always put the Spanish institution name before the North American institution, I would receive a name tag only with the Northamerican institution’s name on it. It also happened that when people introduced me to other people during those events, they would only mention the North American affiliation. I understand that recognition heuristics played a big role here: everyone knows those two big universities in North America, and not many know the ones in Spain. And that’s why I wouldn’t complain when that happened. However, now I regret my silence. I think it is worth the effort to vindicate those “small” names, so we all start learning the names of more institutions in different countries – otherwise, how are they ever going to become recognizable for all the great work that people are doing there?

“The lectures should be given in English, not American”

I am an American philosopher, teaching in the UK.  One of my first student evaluations said: “The lectures should be given in English, not American”.  I couldn’t tell whether it was a joke or not, but trying to figure that out and trying to figure out who’d written it made it very hard to concentrate on my lecturing for the rest of the course.

credibility undermined at a consulate

I am an academic working in the biological sciences. I also happen to be a woman, from Russia. This story is about something that happened to me when I applied for a US visa to go to Boston for a job interview. I did my PhD at a European university. When I applied for a job at a prominent university in the US, I was invited for an on-campus interview. I then went to the US consulate to apply for a visa to enter the US. Usually visa applications involve an interview with an officer who decides whether or not you are trustworthy and deserve a visa. I already had a fair experience with what it is like to be a Russian applying for a visa to go anywhere, so I was ready for an uncomfortable experience, but I was still unpleasantly impressed by what happened at the US consulate. The visa officers started asking me questions about my personal relationship with the department chair of the US university; “is he married?” “what kind of relationship do you two have?” My guess is that, as a blond Russian woman, I was a tempting target for applying the unfortunately common “Russian bride by mail” schema. That was not it: they kept going in their undermining my credibility and asked me to give them the talk I was supposedly giving at this university in the US. They scheduled an appointment for me to come on a different day to give a talk to consulate workers (I guess the day in which they strongly felt they would like to hear about ribosomes). And there I went, with my ppt slides and my job talk, proving I was what they thought I was not, or rather, proving I was not what they assumed I was. I still wonder how much they learned about ribosomes from my talk.