I will likely take this down in a day due to the level of detail.

I am a postdoc who moved to NYC to follow my mentor. However, my mentor has not yet moved here and only comes for less than a week a month. It is a big issue for me and I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to help them find housing and help to remove any barriers I can to their moving here - and making it clear that it really would be better for my training and development to have a mentor who was physically here.

I was cc’ed on an email on Friday that made it clear that this is not just an issue for me - but also for others. One of the deans cc’ed me on an email saying that it was hard to communicate with my mentor given that they are always out of town, and this lead to a misunderstanding.

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That dean stopped by a bit later to talk to me and expressed concern that I was included in these emails (which I only was because the dean cc’ed me - so that was odd). The dean then launched into a bizarre discussion of my mentor and some of the things the dean thinks my mentor has done wrong. Basically the dean called my mentor a bully and suggested that they (the dean) has been having to meet with people to calm them down after my mentor was allegedly so mean to them.

As an aside, my mentor is the furthest thing from being a bully - I think the issue is that people here don’t know them and don’t know how to interpret their emails or words - they have no context.

The dean said they wanted to make sure I was okay - which I pretty much was before that conversation! On monday, the dean is apparently talking to our incoming postdoc as well. I gave them a heads up that that conversation might be super weird and inappropriate (didn’t say it that way) and suggested we talk afterwards in case they had reactions or concerns. I didn’t share the details of my conversation with the dean because if the dean decides to talk about something more appropriate, I don’t want to embroil this new postdoc in this drama.

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I’m not sure whether to tell my mentor about this. On the one hand, I’m pretty sure they’d want to know. However, I am new here and don’t want to increase the drama and don’t want to do anything to get this dean on my bad side. Also, I don’t tell people when other people say negative things about them behind their backs as a rule- I think that is mean and unhelpful.

If I tell my mentor, they may deal with it inartfully that would make it clear I had talked to them about it. But, it sounds to me like the dean might go talk to the big head honcho dean about this - and I feel like I want to give my mentor a heads up.

The one thing I have been thinking of doing is just to tell my mentor I can’t really give details, but that it seems like they and the dean really need to have a conversation related to the email I was cc’ed on.

Adding to the complication is that my mentor is out of the country and won’t be here for a couple more weeks.

Academic politics are so challenging to navigate - you do one thing wrong and it can haunt you the rest of your time! I’ve only been here for a month and there is a possibility I could be recruited as faculty here - so I really want to stay above the fray. But, I also care deeply about my mentor and want to help/protect them. Any advice is welcome.