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Maybe divorce is the answer… June 10, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, feminism, research, science, societal commentary, work.
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I think I am going to change my name.  It’s very annoying.

My last name, anyway.

If I had it to do over again, the one thing I would’ve done when getting married is to keep my maiden name.  Hyphenation was not the best idea by a long shot.

This has been an issue (a lot) because I worked with my husband for so long.  I suspect it will die off as we are no longer coworkers.  However, one of the most bizarre things that has come up is that I recently received some reviews of a proposal that we wrote before he changed jobs.  One of the reviewers noted that as a co-PI, I had the same last name as the PI and so a conflict of interest was a possibility.


My university has a clear and very detailed conflict of interest policy, and I’m not clear how this applies.  As far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with conflict of interest as these policies are almost exclusively focused on outside financial obligations.  I checked with the funding agency, and that was all they had listed for conflict of interest, as well.

If he were supervising me or vice-versa (that is, one of us was a subordinate), such a scenario would violate internal policies to the university.  However, even if he is PI and I’m a co-PI, we both reported to someone else.  Further, a PI isn’t necessarily a supervisory role.  Do faculty members who collaborate on research supervise each other or collaborate?  (My experience says there are very few faculty who view their role as co-PI is that of being supervised by the PI.)

In any case, it’s a completely ridiculous comment to make on a proposal review because we could have been two completely unrelated colleagues who happen to have the same last name.  I can think about some of the areas of research I do, and I know of several groups of researchers, particularly in Asia, where many members of the team do have the same last name.  I never once jumped to the conclusion that there was a problem with this.

Of course, it’s obviously my fault for the name, so I should probably fix it.  Do you suppose it’s cheaper to go through the legal name-change process or to just divorce and quickly get remarried?

Inadequate introductions August 22, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in feminism, societal commentary.
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I have sometimes worried about being in my husband’s shadow.  However, over the past couple years, I’ve been feeling like a lot of people are starting to recognize me as having my own talents.

But sometimes, I see it happening.

Today, my husband and I went out for lunch and ran into someone we both know.  He works for a different group but is in our building.  In fact, he’s two offices down from mine, and we were working on our MS at about the same time.  He was having lunch with some colleagues.  When he saw us, he introduced my husband and then me…with my husband’s last name.

I’m feeling a bit irritated, but I try to blow it off since a lot of people make that assumption and don’t realize we don’t have the same last name.  I go by a hyphenated last name, but I prefer that if they’re going to shorten it, they use my maiden name.  (I don’t mind if they introduce us as “Mike and Cherish” with just his last name, such as on mail.)

However, the next bit got me very irritated.  He then said that my husband worked in our building…and failed to mention that I work there, also.  In fact, he failed to mention anything at all about my employment.

The funny thing is that this doesn’t usually happen if it’s me alone.  It happens more frequently than I’d like when I’m with my husband, though.

My husband is considering emailing this person to rectify the misunderstanding about my last name but is as surprised as I am by the second…and equally unsure if anything can or should be done about it.

A rose by any other name… December 7, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in feminism.
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This is the 21st century. I shouldn’t be writing this post at this point in a society that has had three waves of feminism, but I am.

Apparently there are people who still don’t understand the concept of a hyphenated last name.

One of my first experiences with this problem was fairly mild. When I was an undergrad, I got a divorce and changed my married name back to my maiden name. I got remarried the summer between finishing my bachelor’s degree and starting my master’s program. When I remarried, I chose to hyphenate my last name: maiden name-husband’s last name.

The first class I took during my master’s was from a professor who had instructed classes while I had both previous names. This professor had a curious habit of referring to people as “Mrs. Last Name” or “Ms. Last Name”. I thought it was peculiar, but I appreciated it because it created a more professional atmosphere in the classroom. However, the first day of class, as the professor was going through the roster, he looked at me and said, “What the heck should I call you now?” While I admit the name is a bit of a mouthful (and is best spoken with a German accent), it bothered me a bit that he didn’t want to call me by my married name when he would brave the ten-syllable name that the Indian grad student in the next row was sporting.

At University of Minnesota, the nice people in admin decided to put all of my files under my maiden name, despite the fact that I’d been married for several years before starting there and that my application materials were made in my married name. When I inquired about having it changed, they said I had to provide a copy of my marriage certificate. (I’m almost surprised they didn’t want the paperwork from my previous marriage, as well!)

Since then, the most frequent problem I’ve had is when I have to give my ID to a person who is trying to look me up in some sort of database. I don’t know why, but they look at the last name on my ID and ignore everything that comes before the hyphen. I can almost count out the timing as to when they’ll say, “But you don’t show up in our records!” That because you’re using the wrong last name, doofus!

And now I’ve just been exposed to another example: apparently one of my colleagues, who has left our organization, had been listing me in professional documents (such as design drawings) with my husband’s last name. In such documents, they usually list a first initial and the last name. This means that if anyone who comes in later or outside our group has a question about the design related to my work on it, they will probably call my husband and assume the first initial is a typo. Unless, of course, they also don’t get the concept of a hyphenated name.

My advice to women who plan to get married: don’t change your name. It really isn’t worth it.


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