I once had a ruthless boss try to do me in… and due process, properly followed, rescued me.
I was up for promotion from the rank of Associate Professor to the senior rank of Professor at the University of Manitoba.
In this complex process, the dean of the pertinent faculty would solicit the opinion of two experts from other universities. To make sure that those professors were truly expert in the field or fields of the applicant, a list of six names would be drawn up and agreed upon by the applicant and his or her department head. The dean would then secretly select two (to protect their anonymity) and ask them to render a verdict.
My department head duly requested such a list from me—since our fields were far apart—and then reviewed and signed off on it, forwarding it to the dean. Or so I thought.
Weeks later my friend Bob, an associate dean, appeared at my office door, looking awful.
“John, we’ve received the two letters of external review. I am here, as chair of your promotion committee, to remind you that you may withdraw your application without prejudice at any time. And I think that, after you’ve seen these letters, you may wish to do so.”
I felt the blood rushing my ears as I took the paper from Bob’s outstretched hand and began to read as he departed.
The first letter was condescending, concluding that “perhaps at the University of Manitoba this file would suffice for promotion, but not at [blacked out] university, where I teach.”
The second was actually vicious, misrepresenting my credentials and casting everything I had done in the worst possible light.
What made the situation particularly bad is that I knew every person on that list. They were all truly expert, so their judgment couldn’t be gainsaid. They were all highly experienced, so they knew what would result from such terrible reviews.
And they were all serious Christian people, so—
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