8

He's also not listed in the faculty directory / contact list any longer.

I used to meet him about twice a semester to talk about life and academics, so he knew me fairly well.

He was tenured and, to me, was brilliant.

Can I email him to say hello and ask why he left? Or is that being too nosy and inappropriate?

6
  • 2
    Only you know if you know the guy good enough to do that. And what has this to do with "academics"?
    – Karl
    Jul 23, 2017 at 7:23
  • 4
    Maybe just an email to say hello, and see where the conversation goes from there? This isn't really academic, just normal human relationship stuff! Also, many professors make a website and then kind of forget about them... could that be the case here?
    – user45501
    Jul 23, 2017 at 7:42
  • 1
    Do not be nosy. Just email and tell him that you would quite like to continue meeting him twice per semester, assuming that he still has the time and the inclination to do so. Jul 23, 2017 at 10:13
  • 1
    This is very country-dependent and culture-dependent. In some it would be ok, in others it would be nosy and rude.
    – Bitwise
    Jul 23, 2017 at 12:43
  • Does it potentially impact you? You may be able to get your impact analysis without prying too much into personal details.
    – corsiKa
    Jul 24, 2017 at 0:14

3 Answers 3

24

Unless you are a very good friend, you should not ask the question. You can, of course, continue to meet him in private if he is up for that. I do not recommend prying into the issue if he does not talk about that from his own initiative.

9

As Philipp said .. Maybe you know someone in his former department you can quietly ask? "Oh, he moved to Princeton" or "He had a heart attack" or "He started his own company" or "He resigned to care for his ailing mother" ...

1

There is a million possible reasons why the professor and the university do not work together anymore. Some of these reasons might be private matters which should not be shared with the public. Tenured appointments aren't broken easily, so you can assume it's either one very serious problem or a huge number of small problems. The problem might or might not be relevant to you personally. But unless you have good reason to believe that the problem is relevant to you, acting on the assumption that it is would be unfair.

You could always ask, but if the professor doesn't seem to be willing (or able) to speak about it, pondering the issue will just hurt your relationship. But if you really want to find out what happened, you might want to ask people in person, not per mail. It might be a matter nobody wants to make any statements about in writing.

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    I disagree with "you can assume it's either one very serious problem or a huge number of small problems." It might not be a problem at all. I know someone who suddenly left a tenured full professorship to move to a research position in industry. His main reason was that he wanted to develop resl-world applications of the theoretical work that he had done at the university. Jul 24, 2017 at 2:45

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