Sometimes it’s the little things

lego-chickenpoxToday, the Office of the Dean at our Department sent an e-mail to the staff mailing list, informing them that a case of chickenpox had been diagnosed in a student. The e-mail also informed people they were decontaminating the areas where the student had classes, but wanted to make people aware of the possibility of exposure and asked them to look out for symptoms of chickenpox, just in case.

So, first of, I was fascinated to “encounter” a case of chickenpox. Of course, I know that the vaccine isn’t 100% effective, but the number of cases are so small in the countries where I’ve worked I didn’t really expect to ever encounter one.

However, what also struck me was that the e-mail was sent to the staff mailing list. Now, in case you’re not familiar with the US academic system, postdocs do not count as staff. And this isn’t just a wording issue. It means that postdocs are not eligible for a bunch of things that staff are entitled to (eg here at UPenn, staff are allowed to take 2 classes per semester, postdocs are not). We are also not on the staff mailing list. Which may seem like a minuscule detail. But considering that e-mails concerning important issues (which apply to everyone in the department, not just staff – such as a case of chickenpox) are sent are sent out via this mailing list, it shows just how these little things could potentially have wide-ranging consequences. Surely, including postdocs on such e-mails is not too much to ask for?

(Oh, and just a footnote: I received the e-mail because our tech forwarded it. Other e-mails we receive via our PI. I’m not sure other postdocs in the department are so lucky to have co-workers who look out for them.)

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