It’s a different generation, Part One.

I have the pleasure of working as a post-doc at the same university where I went to graduate school. I am in a different department and geographically distant enough from my old lab that I don't see it unless I make a point of walking over there (2 minutes away through a maze of hallways). However, some of the grad students in my lab are in the grad track which starts off, initially, as a dual-department program between my old and new departments. Thus, I am still privy to all the gossip and goings on of the current graduate students.

Recently, I have come to realize that either I am becoming an old fuddy dud, or the current grad students are completely Lacking in Perspective.

Now, when I was in grad school, the older grad students had a pretty good relationship with the professors. We always were quite proud of that- the difference between being a PhD student and being a med student was that you didn't have to be so darn formal with the Dr. so and so and Prof. this and that. (with a few exceptions- those venerable or extremely cranky older faculty who were always "Dr.") I often ate lunch with my PI, if we were making a coffee run and didn't ask him to come he'd complain, and we'd have potlucks and bake-offs in which he and several other faculty participated, or provided the prize money. It was a relaxed and casual atmosphere. On the other hand, we all worked hard and we were always aware of the fact that he was Faculty and we were Student, and that he was entitled to respect while we were still trying to earn some.

As students, we had our own hierarchy; I looked up to the older grad students, and looked to them for advice and guidance and for that all important Perspective. When the faculty were occasionally eccentric or erratic, we turned to the older grad students and said, respectfully, "WTF?" (Although, I don't think I knew that acronym back then, it being the dark old pre- text message age). And they would say "Chill. This will pass, just put your head down, get your work done, and don't worry about it. In the Grand Scheme these things are Not Important"

The problem now is that the older grad students- who started after I was gone and therefore didn't benefit from my wise and reverent perspective- never learned that sometimes you just have to Chill Out. And everything became a Big Deal.

To make matters worse, the younger grad students not only do not know how to Chill Out, they also do not understand how to put things in Perspective.

Recently, when one of the faculty was getting desperate in lecture because no one was participating, he started to behave a tad bit like a crazed man. Now, having taught (only a few) classes myself, I understand what it feels like to ask a question and look out at a sea of blank and vacant stares. I can understand the compulsion to beat on the desk with a stick, wave your arms around, and point to students and say "you there! Do you know what I am talking about? Do you? Do you?" Only, I have, so far, restrained myself, while this faculty member Did Not. On the one hand I am a little worried that he Finally Cracked, but on the other hand, I think it was probably quite entertaining (a notion that was confirmed by one of the TA's).

However. Some of the first year grad students and one of the TA's have decided that this behavior was Completely Inappropriate and Personally Insulting and Should Not Be Allowed, and this faculty should No Longer Be Allowed To Teach. And they have begun making moves to make it so.

I will allow you a moment go Gasp in Collective Horror.

Eccentric? Yes. Over the Top? Definitely. But how can a first year graduate student be so clueless as to how things work to believe that they can get this faculty member removed from teaching these classes because they think it should be so? To make matters worse, they are claiming that part of the problem is that "He doesn't know the topic." Never mind the fact that this topic happens to be his area of research!

Part of me wants to march over there and slap them all across the face a few times and say "What makes you feel so Important and Entitled? Get some Perspective, people! And learn this: here, as in life, when you become a whistle blower and trouble maker, you only hurt yourself- especially when you are making a mountain out of a molehill." But the other part of me wants to sit back and watch them crash and burn. It's a lesson they have to learn, sooner or later, and it would be better for everyone if it was sooner.


~~~to be continued~~~


Stacey said...

Holy crap, what ingrate, know-it-all's. That's not the department I remember...

Lisa said...

I was laughing out loud....until I WAS gasping in horror!
I not so secretly hope the DO crash and burn because that is just Ridiculous.