Congress – Don’t Waste My Money Recognizing Me!

So apparently there is a drive to make this week “National Postdoc Appreciation Week”. When I heard of this initially, I figured it was just some fanciful idea, something fairly harmless. That was until I got an email today (Full text below) asking me to write to my congressional representative asking to sponsor a bill to actually make this official. Here’s an excerpt of the email:

Dear Fellow Postdoc/Postdoc Administrator:

We URGENTLY need you to contact any and all members of the US House of
Representatives THIS WEEK and request that they co-sponsor H.Res. 1545
to formally recognize Sept. 20-24 as National Postdoctoral Appreciation
Week. It is currently in the US House Committee on Education and Labor.
We just found out today that it requires 25 or more co-sponsors to be
passed by the Committee and be put on the suspension bill calendar for a
vote next week (those are non-controversial usually non-partisan bills
like this one where they suspend the House rules and vote quickly).

Now disregarding the false urgency implied here, the rest of the e-mail goes on to detail all the good things about having a whole week dedicated to recognizing postdocs. I was a bit annoyed though. Remember my rant a few months back on Post Office Renaming ? Well, it immediately came to mind, so I drafted the following response to the originator of this movement:

Dear Aaron,

Recently your e-mail was directed to me through our director of postdoctoral affairs. I’ve only recently learned of the movement to create a National Postdoctoral Appreciation Week and as such, I was surprised to see your impassioned plea that this be made an official recognition through congressional action. Unfortunately, I believe I disagree with your position.

While I believe that postdocs make a substantial contribution to academia both in teaching and research, I find it disagreeable that the resources of my congress be used in such a manner as to bring national attention to them. As I’ve outlined on my own personal blog, congressional resources are not free, as a taxpayer I am financing in some small part all business of the legislature. Honestly, I believe my money is better spent by the legislature in attempts to fix social and economic ills rather than on recognition for any group of individuals. In this case, I do not believe recognition can bring about change such as better pay or benefits for postdocs – only negotiations between postdocs and their respective institutions can do this. Obviously our employers already know of the contributions we make, their ignorance of our needs is not something that this bill would provide in any way. Therefore I believe it is my duty to write to my congressional representation and request they do not sponsor the bill you advocate. I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Sincerely yours,
Jon Westfall.

As I said before in the Post Office Rant. Recognizing someone for their contributions is an excellent idea. I try to recognize all of the people I work with for the unique contributions they bring to our group that help me be a better researcher, scientist, and even person. But what good does it do for me to recognize people I don’t even know? Why should I recognize a profession as a whole when it would be much more genuine to appreciate individuals. Recognition weeks, months, days, etc… make people feel as though they’re recognizing someone else, when in reality, they’re simply handwaving. If you want to make someone else feel special, do it on a personal level.

And don’t use my money for it!

Full Text (Please feel free to contact Aaron to let him know if you think I’m an idiot and he’s doing a great thing):

—–Original Message—–
From: Aaron T. Dossey [mailto:bugochem@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:14 PM
To: Aaron T. Dossey
Subject: Urgent: Need help with pro-postdoc advocacy.

Dear Fellow Postdoc/Postdoc Administrator:

We URGENTLY need you to contact any and all members of the US House of
Representatives THIS WEEK and request that they co-sponsor H.Res. 1545
to formally recognize Sept. 20-24 as National Postdoctoral Appreciation
Week. It is currently in the US House Committee on Education and Labor.
We just found out today that it requires 25 or more co-sponsors to be
passed by the Committee and be put on the suspension bill calendar for a
vote next week (those are non-controversial usually non-partisan bills
like this one where they suspend the House rules and vote quickly).

Earlier this year I wrote a resolution on behalf of the National
Postdoctoral Association and submitted it to the congressman for my
district on a whim. We were fortunate that his office was interested in
it right away and over the summer he (Cliff Stearns) sponsored it and
submitted it to the Committee. (see URLs and emails below)

Now we need your help for it to be voted on DURING National Postdoc
Appreciation Week. Please contact any and all members of congress and
ask that they contact Rep. Stearns’ office and co-sponsor it THIS WEEK!
This will be very beneficial for many advocacy efforts on behalf of
postdocs and all young researchers and their careers, as well as
innovation, science, technology and education as a whole in this country!

Here are some URLs for the bill itself and that will help you find
contact information for various members of congress to contact. Also,
below is the usual “Dear Colleagues” letter you can also distribute to
the congressional staff members you talk to – it’s the official one from
Rep. Stearns’ office and contains the name and email address of his
staffer in charge of this bill (Nicole Alexander).

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.RES.1545:
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:hr1545ih.txt.pdf
http://edlabor.house.gov/about/members/
http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml

Sincerely,


Aaron T. Dossey, Ph.D.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *