the postdoc guide book part 5

by Juliane

The next part of the postdoc guide book might be the most important part.

Finding services; this part tells us about the great services BU offers its employees. I am not being sarcastic here, BU is actually a great employer, they just like to hide a lot of their offers on obscure websites behind fifty links. Also a lot of those nice offers do not apply if you are on a fellowship or employed by BMC.

It starts rather boring informing us about the yellow pages and where the post offices are located.

But then it gets more interesting with links to human resources, child care, including back-up childcare, which sounds brilliant for snow days or school holidays.

The Staff assistance office is mentioned as well as the ombuds office, so postdocs at least have a first contact just in case something goes very wrong. These two organizations are also the first ever hint in the postdoc guide books that postdocs are actually staff and not students.

The following pages could definitely be copied from a student handbook:

There is a page about religious life, but I think that those organizations are more targeted towards students. This doesn’t mean they are not going to welcome postdocs, but it might not be what you were looking for.

There is a paragraph about students with disabilities which links to disability services, which are for students only, staff with disabilities have to make arrangements through HR.

There is information about BU gyms, which are free for students, but are with 50 dollars/month for staff not the cheapest option in Boston.

There is information about taking classes in English as a second language, which I find slightly insulting to most postdocs, but might be useful for accompanying spouses.

Following is some quite useful information for international students and scholars, how to get a Social Security Number and Mass ID. However I am not sure why we would need a Harvard ID to get a Massachusetts Identity card. I assume that this paragraph has been copied from the OPA at Harvard, which might also explain why the address of the satellite office of the Social Security Office in Somerville is provided.

The next part is going to be really good, it’s about money.

First comes a description about what BU does for employee postdocs. I am actually quite happy with the list, what exactly an employee postdoc is and I didn’t know that all those different positions for postdocs exist at BU. Unfortunately that’s it for employee postdocs, there is just a link to the rather confusing HR website to learn about benefits. International postdocs, who might be not terribly familiar with the US system of health insurances and other benefits, are pretty much left alone. I guess even some postdocs born and educated in the American system might still be confused about their rights and possibilities.

Then follows the part about the postdocs BU doesn’t like, the stipendee postdocs. There is a depressing list of all the benefits stipendee postdocs don’t get, but not much help about how to get health insurance, retirement funds or paid vacation, there isn’t even a link. I know that the OPA and the PAC is working very hard to improve the situation for stipendee postdocs, but this page in the postdoc guide book is just depressing. Maybe it serves as a warning: do not apply for fellowships, if you get one you are screwed.

Now finally taxes: lots of links to forms for both employee and stipendee postdocs, which actually include the dates on which stipendee postdocs have to file estimated taxes. Another big warning to only apply for fellowships if the department has really  nice and competent administrative support for postdocs.

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