Stuff Grad Students Like… to complain about

Before rolling on with a tried-and-true “Stuff ____ like” style post, I think I should reflect on list-making and why it dominates my life. There are a few things that I like about lists: they are easy to read, concision has a special appeal when you read books for a living, and they allow for irreverent and fragmented writing that reflects true-to-form what is happening in my brain 90% of the time. If lists bother you, this probably is not the blog for you. And now, on to:

STUFF GRAD STUDENTS LIKE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT
1. Our work load. We are all guilty of this. The minute someone we know mentions how busy they are, we launch into hour-long tirades against our professors, bosses etc. for making us read so much, grade so much, write so much, and/or study so much. If we are perfectly honest, this is probably an outpouring of what I will henceforth call “graduate student guilt.” You went into the workplace and sit at a desk 9-5, you have kids and a morgage and an alcoholic boss whereas I wake up at 9am, sit at my computer for a few hours, do yoga, read a bit, and head out for beers with my friends at 9pm. Life is pretty good for a graduate student so we reinforce the legitimacy of our life choice by playing up the amount of time we spend doing work. In fairness, we do spend a lot of time doing work… we just have the luxury of doing it whenever and wherever we want. Today I am taking my laptop down to the park and working under the crisp winter sun with a stunning view of the coastal mountains. Mind you, I have soooo much grading to do…

2. Office Hours. Because I am a nerd I have made a histogram for this term (see inspiration at: :

So why do we complain? Because student’s wait until the last possible second before bombarding you with quesitons that you already answered in a recent lab/tutorial. See my last post for my thoughts on this… complaints abound.

3. “Professional Degrees” Chances are (at least in the social sciences) that any number of our college friends are now in business or law school (people in the sciences may be able to relate with medical schools). These former colleagues will graduate in 2 years with a degree that will probably get them some combination of: money, a job, laid. We the proud academics turn our nose up at such mundane considerations and devote ourselves whole-heartedly (okay… somewhat begrudgingly) to the long (7 more years in school… sign me up!), hard (see above: work load) and lonely (see below) road to tenureship.

4. Our social lives, or lack thereof. I don’t know if this holds true for other departments (for some reason I imagine that philosophers are to wrought with existential angst to be concerned with their corporeal form) but political scientists mostly spend time with… other political scientists. There isn’t anything wrong with this but unless you live in the city that you grew up in (as I do), you probably spend a lot of time complaining about how socially isolated you are. This probably also gets blamed on your enormous workload, unmotivated students, and the professional degree-ers holding court at the local bar.

5. Grade inflation. Grades at the graduate level are inflated (though of course you have an odd and highly biased sample). If grades in a class are too low we complain about the professor who “clearly doesn’t know how things are done here and will probably get a talking to by the head of the department soon”. If grades are too high we agonize over the value of our degree and of our ideas. Graduate students are rather silly… this is unlikely to change.

6. The Weather. When we have exhausted all other complaints, we turn to the weather. It is a mandatory feature of communal graduate student spaces (computer rooms, classrooms, and offices) have sub-standart climate regulation systems. The AC is ALWAYS broken in the summer and it is way too hot to work. There is no heat in the winter and we crouch shuddering in the corners, bundled up in mukluks and toques (yeah… I’m Canadian). In fall the windows are jammed open and the wind sweeps in all sorts of dust. In spring… it rains…and rains… and rains…

Today I am going to grade an excessive number of papers, hold office hours and wait in vain for a student to attend (no assignment due this week), hang out with my roomate the commerce student, have friends over to watch a movie, agonize over my grades before submitting some PhD applications, and sit in the park on the most perfect west-coast day.

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