roasting marshmellows in phd hell

Posts Tagged ‘phd sucks

This is not Clown College and I am not a clown.

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Other job titles that I do not call my own:

1. Camp counselor

2.Cruise ship director

3. Airline customer service representative who will refund you 10% your ticket price because a sky waitress did not offer you a diet pepsi on your last journey

4. Asswiper for people who are, sadly, missing arms

There must be some cognitive dissonance going on somewhere though, because I feel like other people (ie my students and the Professional Student Enablers like Dr. University of Phoenix Online) think that I am being paid a pitiful wage to perform the aforementioned tasks.

It was brought to my attention recently that several “complaints” have been lodged against me.  What was the numero uno complaint, you ask?

(wait for it.  it’s good.)


I can’t say it better than Capt. Daniels.  First of all, like I mentioned earlier, it is not my fucking job to entertain you.  Although on some level this comment does hurt me, because I try my hardest to make my class relevant and entertaining.  But at some point, we are going to have to do some fucking work.  When it comes time to do that work, I tell the students EXACTLY what I am looking for.  I give out rubrics.  I have examples of what an “A” paper looks like.  I then repeat my instructions until I feel like a dried up old sitcom actor relegated to the dinner theater circuit, because half the class has arrived 30 minutes late and wants to know if they missed anything ‘important.’  And certainly I am not asking a lot from them.  You could ask the same from a 6th grader and they’d do it with less drama.  But when my instructions are ignored and they turn in something that was clearly done 10 minutes before class and, as a result, get a failing grade.. well yeah it’s not exactly a day at the fairground.

Also.  not everything in life is fucking fun.  I remember my own undergraduate experience being challenging and rewarding, and yes good times were had, but most of the ‘fun’ I remember involved underage drinking.  Classes with my favorite undergraduate professor were difficult and exhilarating and fucking awesome.  But ‘fun’ is something you have watching stupid youtube clips of people jumping off roofs onto trampolines.

This conversation with Dr. UofP Online was so infuriating.  I am a fucking professional!  I am a hair’s width from having my phd (sob).  I do my work with integrity, and trust me, I take into account the limitations of my particular student population.  Nevertheless, I was told that I need to ‘remember where I am.’

It’s impossible to fucking forget where I am.

I don’t see any cobblestones or marble or other building materials that imply ancient tradition or scholarly rigor.  But I am still at an accredited college and I don’t see how a 10 page reading assignment and the expectation that people have their heads up and eyes open is asking too much.

“Not fun” is synonymous for having standards besides the ability to fog a mirror.  So because I have some standards and don’t take shit from lazy fuckers, they think they can lodge complaints about me all the live long day.  And they are right, because they can, and assholes like Dr. UofP online take their complaints seriously.

In many places, this is the reality of ‘higher ed.’

And I feel trapped, because why the hell else did I get a phd if not to dig in this mine?



Written by universityoflies

November 1, 2013 at 22:29

Top 3 Most Annoying Kinds of Students

with 2 comments

It has been a rough few weeks.

Midterms have come and gone; despite a still absentee-landlord adviser, my phd will be submitted SOON; and my students are shocking me daily as to the astoundingly tragic levels of collegiate apathy it is possible to attain.

Based on my recent experiences, here are the 3 most fucking annoying kinds of students I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with.  In reverse order, cause that’s how those shitty late night tv dudes do it and I am basically copying them minus fame, a studio audience, and lucrative endorsement deals.

3- The Student Who Ignores Everything You Say.

Probably 2/3rds of my students fall under the mildewed 1970s paisley print umbrella of this category.

For example: after I’ve spent 10 minutes explaining the assignment, and indeed, it’s written on the fucking board next to me, they call out, “What’s the question?”


2- The Genuinely Fucking Clueless

I handed back a multiple choice test and told the students that if I had made any errors in tallying their scores to see me after class.  So this kid came up to me and said, ‘you marked all of these answers wrong and they’re right.’  So I looked at the test and was really fucking confused.  The student’s name and incorrect answers were in black ink.  Where ze had a wrong answer (yeah it was most of them), I had made an X next to the question and circled the correct answer in red ink.  After a few minutes of ridiculous ‘who’s on first’ banter, it emerged that the student thought that ZE HAD CIRCLED THE RIGHT ANSWERS IN RED PEN.  I was like, ‘then who circled all the wrong answers in black?  Those are my markings– see, your score at the top is in red ink too.’  And ze was like, ‘oh.’ and walked out.  The hilarious thing is that I really don’t believe the kid was trying to fucking con me.  Ze legit thought ze had all the right answers, even though ze clearly did not study and couldn’t explain why any of those answers would have been right in the first place.

1- The Fucking Leader of the Pack

The other two types of annoying students are, well, annoying, but otherwise harmless.  Pesky mosquitoes of the non malaria spreading variety.  I’ve only been unfortunate enough to deal with The Fucking Leader of the Pack (TM) 3-4 times over my long and illustrious teaching career, but they are exhausting and infuriating, and they make it really hard to leave disturbing school shit at the door.  Identifying characteristics include: attempts to monopolize class conversations, tries to ‘school’ other students in why they are wrong, and basically is a douche and tries to undermine the instructor’s authority.  I’ve had a student in one of my classes who I long suspected was a FLotP and, recently, shit got a bit cray.

This gem of a student disagreed with me, and while I am normally cool with that, ze was really rude and belligerent about it.  So I said something to the effect of, I see where you’re coming from, but I stand by my answer in this case.  So ze starts telling me that I’m wrong, and launches into a monologue about why they are right.  I tried to cut hir off but the little fucker kept talking over me, using the kind of tone you might reserve for a toddler who is insisting he be given ice cream right this minute despite the fact that it is 9am.

It was mortifying.  I got flustered.  I hate that.  I really really fucking hate that.  I could feel my face getting red and I’m sure they could smell the reek of terrified woodland creature that my fucking pheromones were suddenly emitting.  I am all for dissenting opinions, you know?  I am not Saddam fucking Hussein.  But this person had the floor, they explained themselves, and that wasn’t enough- they had to be disrespectful and talk to me like I was an asshole in my own classroom.

I didn’t yell or throw fucking chairs.  But after a certain point, I cut hir off and said that they had already expressed their opinion and now they had to let someone else speak.  It was awkward as fuck and even now I am clearly still bothered by it.

That’s probably the worst bit.  I know that most people face interactions like this in a variety of other jobs, but in teaching it feels extra weird because if you let someone tear away that flimsy facade of authority you have over an overcrowded room of 18-20 year olds, there will be anarchy.  Whereas if you’re behind the counter at the DMV and someone is a cock, you can, I dunno, call security or move them to the back of the line?  You can step away from the counter and get a supervisor?

I don’t know.  It just feels terrible when you spend all this time prepping material (ugh and lets not even consider the 87 years of grad school hell you endure to get to this point) just to have an 18 year old metaphorically piss all over you.  Nice rant, bro.  I guess you don’t want to hear all about my phd and why I am a little fucking more qualified than you on this particular topic.

Someone remind me, why do I need a phd for this job again?

Written by universityoflies

October 21, 2013 at 21:02

The Paradox of Scholarship: There is no Great and Powerful Oz

with 6 comments

I’m trying to write my conclusion right now.  I’m looking over my notes from my last meeting with my adviser, which occurred sometime during the paleolithic era.

It’s funny, but going into that meeting, i felt so confident about my thoughts.  I kind of finally felt like I knew what I was talking about and was happy with my ideas.  But I wasn’t that surprised when adviser went, ‘yeah but……..’ and then did a 5 minute rant that appeared to say the opposite of everything I just said, but using way fancier language (which is probably obvious from my own use of phrases like ‘way fancier’).  So I wrote down everything ze said and yes sir’ed it up.

But something felt different this time.  Instead of feeling disparaged and slightly humiliated, sweaty and sick with the knowledge that I

Toto says, 'oh no you didn't.'

Toto says, ‘oh no you didn’t.’

could never produce this kind of genius on my own, I felt like I just saw Toto part the emerald curtain.  And now I truly know that my adviser isn’t the Great and Powerful Oz, a big floating face full of flames and a voice that should bring me to my knees in a sadistic combination of fear and reverence.  Ze is a person who is phoning. It. In.  And using the aforementioned props to keep me submissive and off hir back.  This time, I knew my ideas were good.  It was just clear that my adviser had to contradict what I said because I came up with it.

The really interesting part (to me, anyways) was that I could finally employ that internal critic to deconstruct everything my adviser said.  Instead of simply cursing how stupid I am and wishing I came up with this stuff on my own, I heard my Adviser’s own fucking voice in my mind pointing out all of the obvious flaws that ze would have said if these were my ideas.  And lo, the Great and Powerful Oz was just a short fat guy with a handlebar mustache in an ill-fitting suit.

Also, as I sit here now, having cooled off a bit from the meeting, I’m realizing that most of the “yeah but” rant is not that different from what I originally said.  So why frame the conversation in a way that makes me appear like I am still just a dumb apprentice who can only be trusted to make tea, and even then I’m probably Doing it Wrong?

This brings me to the point I’d like to discuss today: the paradox of scholarship.  We are constantly told that academia is a apprenticeship scheme, like the middle ages or renaissance fairs, where you’re attached to a cobbler or blacksmith or roaster of ye olde turkey drumsticks, and you shadow, study, and observe your chosen craft until one day you too learn the secret handshake and can set out as a master yeoman or whatever.  And while the Master Executioners say they want you to develop your skills until you are comfortable to operate a guillotine on your lonesome, in some cases, this is just disingenuous lip service.  They don’t want you to make it.  They don’t want you to be out on the road fixing shoes and training horses.  These meaningless platitudes escape one side of their face, and on the other side, they tear down everything you say in a disparaging manner.  And, ok at the beginning of your studies, i kind of get it.  Like I’ve said previously, I think there’s a more civil way to engage in this kind of criticism than outright hazing, but I do understand that learning how to think differently is part of the process.  But when submission is just around the corner and you are trying to get this shit over with?  What’s the purpose of it then?

I’m not saying that my adviser feels threatened by me– in fact, I’m sure ze doesn’t.  To misquote Lena Dunham, I know I’m not the voice of my generation.  But ze certainly doesn’t give enough of a flying fuck to ‘train’ me properly in the art of preparing Offal Stew for 300 people.  I’m a nuisance, an unwanted interruption from hir important fucking schedule of reading and writing books on other more important shit.  And since we already know that phd programs are Ponzi schemes designed to allow departments to run 20,303 sections of undergraduate classes, I guess that’s my answer.  I never was part of an apprenticeship scheme.  There are no jobs and my adviser has no interest in my future or what the fuck happens to me after the school stops profiting from my existence.  So why take the responsibility of turning me into a ‘scholar’ seriously?

When your adviser is phoning it in and they can’t be bothered to actually read your shit and make helpful suggestions so that you’re ready for submission, it’s easier to use their crizazy vocabulary, confidence, and position of power to tear you down and dismiss you.  Send you scurrying away to your garret to Write and Think and burn your previous diplomas to keep warm.  And maybe by the time you come back, either your thesis will be so improved that they really won’t have to comment on it anyways, or else maybe they’ll have more time/feel like reading it then (but not.)

Crooked advisers say they want you to function on your own, and they really do because then you wouldn’t be bothering them anymore, but if you need some actual concrete help to get to that point (like I do because I am not Galileo or Steve Jobs or Russel Brand), they continue to tear you down in a non constructive manner until you quit, die, or just submit the damn thing without telling them.

Written by universityoflies

October 9, 2013 at 13:48

Adventures in Babysitting: University Edition

with one comment

I have been meaning to write something down here for ages, but then I sit down and watch 23 episodes of New Girl instead.  It’s a really specific type of ennui that I suffer from.

This is what has been going on in my life lately:

1. My thesis is still not done.  The ridiculous part is that it IS done.  Paradoxical, no?  A few minor tweaks is all that’s needed, but for some reason NOW is the time I feel most paralyzed by fear and self-loathing.  I was supposed to send something to my adviser a while ago and I have never missed a deadline before, but now I am afraid to open my school email account in case ze has randomly decided to be all quick on the uptake and berate me for being late.  I am so so afraid to do 2 more hours of work and hit send.  Because this is supposed to be the end and I fear/know that ze will write back with 800 more stupid corrections that I cannot possibly do, or else I will do them because I’m a chump, rinse lather repeat, and it will never be cleared for eventual submission.

2. Teaching has started back up again, and my students are pushing my fucking limits daily.  The good part of this is that if I am ever invited to a cocktail party, I will have loads of hilarious and witty anecdotes with which to dazzle city council members and local parliamentary representatives.  But in the meantime it just makes me feel depressed.  Per esempio, today I received an emailed assignment (which isn’t permitted btw).  The email had no subject line or actual text when I opened it, nothing like “Hey Prof UofL, I know emailed submissions aren’t normally accepted but my grandma’s chia pet died suddenly this morning and since she is currently on a tour of paleolithic era gravesites in Burma, I have to make all of the arrangements myself.  I hope you understand and I apologize profusely for the inconvenience.”    No, it was just a blank email with an attached document titled “Fuck.”

I’ll share some of the more ludicrous stories here whenever I run out of New Girl episodes to watch.

Written by universityoflies

September 30, 2013 at 20:17

What to do When Your PhD Adviser Ignores You

with 17 comments

I’ve been thinking about what to do when your fucking phd adviser ignores you, because I am livin the life right now.  I’m not like one of those rappers who goes on about his tough life in the hood but has no bullet exit wounds or teardrop tattoos decorating his body-temple.

As a result of my contemplations, I’ve come up with a few different categories of phd adviser neglect:

1. Outright hostile treatment, usually with the intention of trying to get you to quit the program.  I know a few people this has happened to.  In one really horrific case, the prof in question had accepted a position at another university but was contractually obligated to stay at hir current spot until all hir phd students had graduated.  So ze set about trying to get the remaining few students to quit by maligning their reputations.  Ze claimed (despite good grades and previously filing paperwork saying they were making satisfactory progress and ‘on track’ for a phd) that suddenly the students were not capable of completing phd level coursework and tried to have them kicked out of the school.  The person I was friendly with was the only one to stick it out, and ze had to take the fight all the way to the head of the university.

2. Busy Backson Syndrome (as coined by Winnie the Pooh and Benjamin Hoff)- My first adviser suffered from this.  These people are Too Damn Busy flying around the world, giving lectures anywhere other than their home university, being on TV, and frolicking through the lavender fields of Provence and buying age-inappropriate accessories with Johnny Depp.  Clearly teaching/advising is not as exciting as all those other shiny things, but then how about don’t be a fucking professor then?

3. Benign neglect.  Now that really is a misnomer because, as the advisee, there is nothing too fucking benign about the situation, but you can be somewhat reassured by the fact that your adviser is not planning an elaborate Manchurian candidate type situation which ends with you being assassinated in a ballroom full of reporters.  Whenever they see one of your emails in their inbox, they probably think, ‘oh yes, I must get back to University of Lies soon’ and then they forget about you and your hopes and dreams as soon as they hit the X on outlook and resume watching videos of cats playing or whatever the fuck it is they really do with their time.

I have been stalking my adviser lately (in a completely legal way, I assure you), and after several MONTHS of attempted contact, recently had a very brief conversation with hir.

Eau de Desperation: A Curious and Unpleasant Unisex Fragrance by University of Lies, now available at discount retailers near you.

Me: Hi Dr @#$%^, it’s great to finally talk to you.

Adviser: Yes, absolutely.  I should tell you that I only have a few moments to speak, I’m quite busy here with some Very Important Documents.

Me: Oh, um ok.  I was wondering if you got a chance to look at the stuff I sent you awhile back.

A: No, I haven’t had time.  I’m very busy at the moment with those Very Important Documents I just mentioned, and I won’t get to look at it for another several weeks, at least.

Me: Oh, um ok. I’m really still stuck with what I was working on, do you have any advice for me?

A: Well… I recently read an article containing a Marxist commentary on Japanese Rock gardens.  It might not be helpful, but you might find it stimulates some ideas.

Me: ………

A: Good luck, let’s speak again at some point!

End scene.

What the fuck.  I assure you that the actual suggestion my adviser made was just as ridiculous as the fictitious example that I generated in the interest of preserving my anonymity because this whole phd process has made me even more of a paranoid wreck than I was before.

Since I am a trained ‘researcher’ (HA), I took my complaint to Dr Google.  And though it’s always reassuring to know you’re not alone, I didn’t find any helpful magical advice that would tell me how to make my adviser care about me and my work  (though some article in the Chronicle told me that I should have anticipated these problems before starting my phd. gee thanks, you fucking genius bastards!)   I guess that means it’s up to me to put that shit on the internet.  So here goes.

Since I am at the very end of this magical mystery tour, my advice to someone in a similar position (with less than 6 months remaining on their phd prison sentence) would be to put their head down and finish.

Again, like my last piece of advice, this sounds really fucking obvious.  But bear with me for a mo, mmkay?

Nobody drowns in academic bullshittery on my watch, old sport!

Nobody drowns in academic bullshittery on my watch, old sport!

A while back, when I was in the trenches and up to my eyeballs in metaphorical muck, faced with the task of making actual fucking Chapters out of my 87,000 scraps of paper and ideas, I had an idea about how these last few months would go.  Even though I imagined a high pressure race to the finish, I’d have the relief of knowing that my thesis was basically written and it was just a matter of making it the best it could be before sending it off.  I’d write my introduction and conclusion, and go over each chapter again, make what I hoped would be final changes, and send em off for approval.   Then, I’d get some feedback on my opening and summative material, and maybe a few last minute suggestions.  I’d make those changes, send the damn thing off to the printer, and submit.  Then, immediately after, I’d have a Gatsby like party where I would employ Leonardo DiCaprio to lifeguard and Cary Mulligan to throw beautifully constructed silk shirts from a balcony as a sumptuous visual feast for my 1000 well-heeled closest friends.

And now it looks like I was very wrong about that, along with everything else.

I can’t ‘wait’ for my adviser to answer my questions or give me helpful advice because it is not going to happen.  Ze either doesn’t care or doesn’t have any good ideas.  And at this point, it doesn’t matter which, because they both have the same effect.  I can’t afford to waste 2 days immersing myself in the extremely boring world of marxist approaches to Japanese rock gardens because it doesn’t fucking matter.  It was a wild goose chase red herring bullshit idea that ze threw at me to get me off hir back for awhile.

see also: all the times I was told to pursue something on a ‘deeper level’, and then after going away and staring at it for days, coming up with nothing, and getting depressed about how I’m not smart enough to think on a higher fucking plane of consciousness, I’d ask for advice, because I really couldn’t see anything more.  The answer each time was, ‘hm, maybe there isn’t anything else.’

What a mindfuck.

I used to think my adviser was so fucking smart, the way ze would throw out book titles and suggestions and tell me to scamper off and Think About It, because my last adviser was a Bisy Backson.  But now I realize that this kind of behavior is just a different kind of poisonous insect.

And if you are just starting off in your phd, well, fuck.  I really feel for you.  My advice then would be:

1. Get some therapy.  Seriously.  Your university probably offers free sessions for grad students, which some other blogger I’m too lazy to search for previously indicated that this should be very telling.  Take advantage of the help and use the sessions to blow off steam and formulate some kind of plan either to get the shit out of academia, transfer, or find better advisement.

2. Don’t take it lying down.  Fight for your right to have some kind of guidance.  I realize there are all kinds of ego and political issues at stake here which make the situation very complicated, but remind yourself that you are already in a pretty bad spot and you probably can’t feel much worse than you do right now.  Talk to whoever is in charge of advisement in your school and bring documentation to fucking quantify for their academic minds just exactly how you have been shafted.  Insist that something be done about it.

3. And if you’re smarter than I am, ask any honest non slimy members of your cohort if their advisers actually do their job.  Hopefully you will find someone in your subject area with a shred of work ethic remaining, and they will take you on.  This does involve a lot of luck.  It also may involve a kindly granny type with nothing to do but go to various churches and light candles on your behalf.

If your school refuses to help you or you can’t find a suitable replacement on your own, well, they may have made the decision a bit easier for you.  But the bottom line is, you don’t deserve to be ignored and miserable for 3-6 years of your fucking life.  If they clearly don’t value you, your time, and your awesome mind, there is probably a different department or industry that will.  And you owe it to yourself to find that place.

In the meantime, I will commence with GatsbyEndGame 2013: The Reckoning.

Written by universityoflies

July 11, 2013 at 17:35

3 Facts to Help You Finish Your PhD

with 20 comments

“Yeah, I’m finishing my PhD this summer,” I said, smiling brightly to signify that this is a fact, something that will actually happen due to gravity or inertia or some other scientific, inevitable thing that has nothing to do with me.

This is the conversation I have been having lately when people are  bored enough to ask me that dreaded question, “how’s your schoolwork

going?” (“schoolwork” reminds me of Monty Burns as a schoolboy, with a satchel and plate-sized lollipop.)  No more whining about how shitty it’s going, how scared I am, how I wish I became a painter or engineer or electrician.  Lately I’ve been trying to project something a little more positive.

I’m learning a lot about myself and about the whole fucking process.  Just when I think that my eyes have been opened and I’m finally aware of what a sham all this stuff is and what I need to do to get the hell out of here, I have another realization.  So even though I am not claiming to be the Grand High Poobah of all Knowledge (although this would look great on a door plaque), here are some recent revelations that I hope get me through the summer:

1. There is no such thing as a perfect PhD.  Only a finished PhD.

Now this sounds obvious, and I admit that I’d heard it many times before it actually sunk into my grotesquely thick cranium.  But there was some cognitive dissonance going on, because in phd world, I certainly don’t think of myself as a perfectionist.  I’m not the one living in the  library, sustaining myself on chewed eraser bits and copy machine fumes as I live the life of the mind.  I’m not the one who goes to every department party, arriving early to set up strategically placed bowls of budget supermarket snacks, or the one following around the dept chair like a deranged groupie, hoping for the shadow of genius to brush against me in a maybe creepy borderline sexual way.  And since I am already disillusioned and just trying to do my work and get out, I didn’t think this advice applied to me.  Because I didn’t think I was aiming for perfection.

But my realization stems from the fact that on some level, I have still  been living under the jackboot of academic perfectionism.  Exhibit A- I’m sitting on a chapter I should have sent to my adviser a few weeks ago, but I asked for an extension because it wasn’t ‘ready.’  Wake the hell up, University of Lies! In the Ivory Tower, “ready” is synonymous for perfect.  If you keep waiting for readiness or perfection or Godot, you will be waiting for ever.  Just send the damn thing.   This brings me to point two.

2.  You CANNOT avoid criticism.

No matter how thorough you are or how brilliant and original your research is, your adviser and examiners will find problems.  Most of these problems will not actually be problems at all, but fall under the category of Things You Left Out (TM).  You probably left them out because your thesis is a finite project, and you cannot mention everything that ever happened or will happen in the world.  This is just a sad fact.  But it makes your adviser/examiner’s job very easy, because all they have to do is point to any number of these infinite things and ask why you idiotically thought it would be ok to leave out a chapter on Madonna’s 1989 music video (where she burns crucifixes and makes out with black jesus) in your thesis about medieval representations of the virgin mary.  And despite the fact that you politely answer, “my thesis focuses on medieval representations of the virgin mary,”  they will sigh and push their glasses up on the bridge of their nose and insist that your thesis would benefit from a more “balanced approach” and then they make you write another fucking ludicrous chapter anyway.

So, to recap, this criticism cannot be avoided because, in most cases, it probably has way more to do with them not reading your work and needing to critique something in order to claim to be doing their job.  You are not a mind reader.  And even if you were, they would just lie about having chosen the jack of hearts, and still make you write something completely ridiculous.

3.  You are NOT an idiot.  You are probably very smart to have gotten this far, but are being held back in some way if you believe their hazing ritual is a binding judgement on your intelligence.

This is a big one.  And its closely related to items 1 and 2.  You cannot be perfect, they will criticize you no matter what (because it’s their job), and often these things are delivered in a big ol package of ‘fuck you’.  Perhaps they make comments like, “I’m really worried about where this is going.. I just have no idea what to say,” making you think this is YOUR fault and not a result of them being too lazy to read your stuff.  Or conversely, maybe they rip your shit to shreds and you haven’t heard a positive comment in years besides the one time you got a check mark next to a paragraph.  But a check mark doesn’t count as praise, right?  I should be smart enough to know the answer to this.

I have experienced this kind of repetitive assault on my humanity before.  I was 16 and a trainee lifeguard at the local pool ( I realize it wasn’t exactly Gitmo, but it was three months of nonstop institutional hazing and it sucked).  The older lifeguards had a number of methods they used to initiate/terrorize us rookies: they dumped buckets of slop water over our heads while we were stuck up on the stand, took our belongings and sunk them to the bottom of the pool, had a special notebook where they wrote humiliating comments about our looks, pushed us in the water after our shifts were over and we had changed to go home, etc.

The worst perpetrator of these small crimes against my angsty teenage soul was our supervisor, a middle aged woman who ironically was also a psychologist.  As far as I knew, she only used her advanced degrees to play mindgames and fuck with people.   An example:  Once I was up on the stand around dinnertime, which was always pretty slow.  She called over to me that there were too many lifeguards up, and I could come down and take a break since the pool was almost empty.  I was confused because this went against the normal protocol of the place, but she insisted and waved me over.  So I climbed down off my plastic perch and walked over to her.   She took off her aviator glasses, got real close to my face, and stared at me like I was the biggest asshole she ever saw (or like a basic training scene from any army movie).  She screamed  “what the fuck do you think you are doing?  You NEVER leave your stand.  Are you a fucking moron?”  At this point my face contorted in some awful adolescent picture of confusion, and and I said/asked, ‘but you just told me to get down?” and then after several excruciating seconds she bent over in hysterical laughter at how stupid I was, and ha ha how hilarious that she could use her position, age, and authority to get a teenager to follow her orders or believe her or something.  I distinctly remember how horrible it was to discover that a middle aged psychologist could act worse than the frat boys.

But what many academics do is just a slightly veiled, ivory tower version of the same treatment.

At 16, when I cried every fucking day after I left the pool, (I was a sensitive child, ok?) my parents told me to suck it up.  They told me that the world has a lot of unpleasant people in it.  And even though this woman was wrong and a dick (I may be paraphrasing slightly), I was not allowed to quit.  I made a commitment and had to see it through.

So what point am I trying to make with this self indulgent and unnecessary trip in the wayback machine?  This kind of hazing is wrong and completely fucked up, but these people see it as an initiation rite.  The reasoning is usually something awful like, ‘I went through it so you do too.  But don’t worry cause soon you’ll be on the other side of the slop bucket!’  You know what?  I never went back to that pool after that summer, despite ‘earning’ the ‘right’ to terrorize some fresh new batch of kids who weren’t old enough to shave yet,  because it was cruel.  And now I feel the same way about academia.  Their bad behavior is a reflection on THEM, not you.  And you owe it to yourself (I have no idea who I am speaking to right now) to FINISH.  Don’t take the mindgames from a sad middle-aged psychologist/professor to heart, when you are so close to the goal.

So, in closing:

1. Hand shit in.

2. They will tear it apart no matter what.  Smile and say thanks.

3. Make their idiotic suggestions.

4. Get phd and never enter a formal program of education again.

Written by universityoflies

June 14, 2013 at 14:04

One is the Loneliest Number

with 5 comments

Sorry for the radio silence, earthlings.

The world is so cruel. Let's just snuggle and watch mad men, ok?

The world is so cruel. Let’s just snuggle and watch mad men, ok?

Things have been crazy at casa di university of lies lately.  I still suffer from an all too common strain of thesis blues, phd neglect, and ennui.  Symptoms include: apathy; unhealthy rage; desire to consume nothing but pizza and saccharine sick cups of builder’s tea; and netflixia.

So I let my side job take over my life.  Because even a teeny micropeen of a paycheck is better than focusing on the other thing, which just costs me shit like money, sanity, and precious life units daily.

(also: don’t google micropeen.)

As the semester approaches its final death rattle, my classes are thinning out at an alarming rate.  My bigger class, which started with 40 students, usually has around 18 seat warmers now.  I don’t know if I should really care about this or not.  There’s not even really a proper ‘selfish’ perspective here.. because this new low low number probably doesn’t mean less papers for me to grade.  It means more random ‘did we do anything important today’ emails and students finding me in the hallway, feeding me a sob story about how their car broke down/they were abducted by aliens and can I please just wait in my office for another hour while they go to the computer lab and whip up something fresh for me to read?

But the show must go on and it does.  As I’ve said before, alien abductees aside, I really like the majority of my students as people.  They are funny and quite nice when you engage them on some other topic besides the one I’m supposed to teach.  But I can’t help but get frustrated at their lack of work ethic when it comes to things that are hard or don’t interest them.  I want to bash my head against the wall when they go on about their impending stardom, or ask them if they have a backup plan in case Simon or Xtina hit the ‘X’ (or don’t hit it. however those shows work).

(Though, according to the recent comments on that slate article about how the phd ruined some other persons life, this is probably a manifestation of the self-hate i feel, since apparently becoming a professor at a decent school with job security is just as ridiculous a career goal as wanting to be lady gaga.)

But the bright star in the firmament is that I have one student who gets it.  This student is pretty affable, will say hi to me on campus etc.  And while ze rarely hands in any work, ze always shows up to class and has an interesting contribution to make to the discussion.  Which is often a discussion I am having with myself, or one other person.  I don’t know why the hell ze bothers coming to class and paying attention when the hopes of someone passing the class without doing any fucking work are nil.

We are doing a Shakespearean play at the minute.  It has made me parts maniacal and homicidal at the level of fucking apathy that gets bounced back in my face on a weekly basis, despite all my jazz hands and attempts to make what is already very fucking interesting even more fucking interesting.  But yes, this one student gets it.  And to hear hir laugh at the funny bits and make very 21st century comments in response to what is actually happening in the play is awesome.  It’s like one of these internet memes where puppies and ducks and rabbits are best friends.  I feel some kind of electric ZING that signifies the transportation of knowledge and all the centuries are squished into nil and isn’t literature and time travel brilliant, fellow adventurers?

Then I look around the rest of the room and see 17 slack jawed walking dead extras.

I’ve been ‘mentored’ by some very awesome people who tell me this is the best I can hope for.  But as good as I feel in that moment, with my student who does no work but can appreciate timeless art, I don’t know how good I feel about ‘getting’ 1 in 40.