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In the team where I work, we often have interns conducting their thesis assignment, in an engineering related field on a topic decided by us. The usual procedure is that we interview the candidates and once we have picked one, they search for a University professor who is willing to supervise them during their assignment.

Sometimes it has happened that one of the outcomes of the internship/selection process was that my manager decided to blacklist a particular supervisor from supervising any future internship assignments in our team, for well-grounded reasons.

How can I make clear with the candidates that we are not willing to provide internship assignments under the supervision of that particular supervisor, while disclosing as little background information as possible and not hurting the relationship with the University?

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  • Is this professors specific to one university, or is it starting from any professor in the field?
    – Ben Barden
    Mar 10, 2021 at 19:10
  • @BenBarden, just a specific university. Our experience with other professors from the same institute is otherwise excellent
    – L.Dutch
    Mar 10, 2021 at 19:43
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    Is there any harm in just being forthright and saying "We've had problems with that supervisor on the past."? Mar 11, 2021 at 2:39

4 Answers 4

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You need to add a step to your usual process - the manager needs to review and approve the potential supervisors the intern has selected to ensure that the intern will have the best possible experience during their internship. You should ask the intern to provide at least two choices with their first and second choice indicated.

If a candidate asks why they couldn't have their first choice, the response can be something like "we felt your second choice would provide a better overall internship experience" or something else that highlights that the better supervisor was chosen instead of focusing on the failings of the blacklisted supervisor.

You should also talk over the situation with the university. Good relationships require transparency. If there is a good reason why your team doesn't want to work with a particular professor, letting the university know about it gives them the opportunity to do something to improve the situation.

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If a candidate picks one of the blacklisted professors you could say "For reasons I am not at liberty to disclose this professor is not able to be your supervisor for your thesis assignment. Recommended alternatives include Joe Bob and Mary Sue".

I added the recommended alternatives bit since it could be kinda awkward if candidates inadvertently picked one blacklisted professor and each subsequent pick they made was also blacklisted.

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    "For reasons I am not at liberty to disclose..." is accurate, but unfortunately, many people start to speculate and assume negative reasons when they hear such things. Nasty rumours have been started with less. Mar 10, 2021 at 21:31
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If the candidate happens to select a blacklisted professor, I would recommend saying something like:

Unfortunately that university professor is not available for internship assignments at this time.

It's vague enough to where it may be that the professor is too busy to take on internship assignments right now or doesn't want to ever.

If the candidates asks for more information, I would answer:

I am not at liberty to discuss why this professor is not available to be your supervisor for your thesis assignment.

and suggest alternatives.

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    If you don't want to give out any information, you'd say "Sorry, but I wouldn't discuss why a professor is not available etc.". "Not at liberty" implies "I'd like to tell you but I'm not allowed to". "This professor" implies there is a problem with this particular professor.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 11, 2021 at 22:39
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    "Unfortunately that university professor is not available", but that professor is available, the company in question doesn't want to work with that professor. The company probably isn't the one to match up interns and supervisors, that is the responsibility of the university. Mar 13, 2021 at 18:16
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    This could backfire if the candidate ever talks to the professor in question about it. Jun 18, 2021 at 21:48
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How can I make clear with the candidates that we are not willing to provide internship assignments under the supervision of that particular supervisor.

Provide a list of people who can supervise interns. If the black-listed person tries to recruit an intern for thesis work, say

He's not supervising thesis work right now. Let's find someone on the list to supervise you.

This may be followed by "what happened?!" - respond with whichever you are most comfortable with and is truthful

He's busy and decided it would be best not to supervise anyone. Let's figure out a good fit out a good fit from the list.

or

I've just gotten guidance from the department not to allow him to supervise. Let's figure out a good fit out a good fit from the list.

or

The department and the professor both agreed it was better he not supervise. Let's figure out a good fit out a good fit from the list.

or

I can't really give specifics. Let's figure out a good fit out a good fit from the list.

I don't know if the reason was he forgot to turn in grades and delayed graduation or harassed a student. Either way, try to move the conversation to the fix (getting a different supervisor) and most people will take the hint to drop it.

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    Downvoted: "He is not supervising thesis right now" is a lie.
    – Hilmar
    Mar 11, 2021 at 13:13
  • @Hilmar - How is it a lie? He's blacklisted, by definition he's not supervising interns. Mar 11, 2021 at 13:47
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    He is blacklisted by one company not by the university. He is very likely supervising theses and interns, just not interns for this company
    – Hilmar
    Mar 11, 2021 at 23:18

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