Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The story that follows came to my attention awhile back, and while I have removed details identifying the perpetrator (whose identity is now known, and may be posted here subsequently--for now, we'll call her P) and the victim (whom I'll call V), as well as the school involved, I want to share the basic details to gauge reader reaction.
P and V were both on the academic job market. (I know V, I do not know and have never spoken to P.) They had somewhat overlapping areas of research interest, and so might have been thought of as competitors, as it were. Both P and V were under some degree of consideration at Major Law School (hereafter MLS). But V, unlike P, got a fly-back to give a job talk at MLS. On the morning of the day of V's job talk, P sent the following e-mail under a pseudonym ("Jade West") from an e-mail account created for that purpose. The e-mail began with a quotation discrediting V's scholarship and disparaging V's publications. P alleged that this quotation came from an email that was sent to P's "colleagues" at MLS. The e-mail concluded with these lines: "In other words, WE DON'T WANT YOU...HERE AT [MLS]. You belong at a crap school like [name omitted]. Hope you blow your job talk today."
Fortunately, V did not see P's e-mail until after the job talk. V was obviously very distressed, however, and the intent of the malicious missive was clear. Its contents were also false, i.e., no e-mail had circulated among faculty at MLS like the one P purported to be quoting, and P was never a faculty member at MLS.
An acquaintance of V, a computer expert, set up a technological trap known as a "honeypot" to decisively link P's fake email account to P's school account. P's identity is thus now known.
P, in fact, secured a tenure-track job at another law school. That law school does not know about P's appalling misconduct.
Should MLS notify the law school that hired P about what P did? Should V? Should those of us, like me, who now know the identity, do so? Should that information be made public? The school that hired P did not know of P's misconduct; what should they do when they find out? Is P's appalling misconduct a firing offense? Grounds for tenure denial?
I am curious to hear what readers think, or if they have ever heard of misconduct this egregious. Only comments with a full name in the signature line and a valid e-mail address will be posted.
UPDATE 9/9: Please see the update.