October 13, 2007

Bad Apples….

Category: Academic,Tech — Biella @ 11:44 am

I am not even sure what to make of this article, written by a professor at a well-known university, on the perils of advising graduate students. Given that I have been sitting at my computer for nearly 12 hours straight and since 4 a.m, I don’t think I am really in a state of mind to think too much of it. Neither do I have much experience doing this (though whatever experience I have had, it has been good so far), so I can’t really comment back via personal experience. I only hope that her/his experience was the exception or that he/she allowed too many boundaries to be crossed, but whatever the case, interesting food for thought.

I am sure a graduate student could write an interesting counterpoint, talking about all the questionable things their professors did back to them too and knowing the web, I am sure that will be forthcoming soon.


  1. Difficult issue. I certainly feel sympathy with the anonymous faculty member with respect to her amorous and litigious students. Also, I often wonder how I would deal with students who don’t share my sensibilities or workstyle if I were advising them under such circumstances. However, I also find much of her disappointment is related to disappointment of what her students do next, and in this I feel she may be a little unfair. She rightly recognizes that graduate school is a time of flux, no student can really guarantee what’s going to happen next. (One of my favorite religious jokes is: “How do you make God laugh?… Tell her your plans.”) If she is disappointed that a student she tried to help achieve a position at a tier 1 research institute accommodates themselves to something less than that, I’m sure at the student worked just as hard and was even more disappointed.

    The heart of the issue is that academia is so ridiculously competitive. It is never good enough to make a contribution or to be helpful, one always needs to be the best. It’s an exemplar for “The Winner Takes All.” I often think of this in relation to my technical work. One of the most rewarding professional relationships I had was when a more experienced programmer co-authored a Python software library with me. I don’t think he did it with any expectation that he was somehow seeding the discipline with followers, or even that I would someday be able to reciprocate in a similar manner. He was a good guy, we enjoyed our collaboration, I think he was learning by helping me, and in the end we made something useful, even if neither of us ever became Python gods. This is one of the things I like about open content communities, yes the people at the top get a fair amount of attention, but even if you spellcheck Wikipedia articles or write a Python library for canonicalising XML, that work is still appreciated.

    Comment by Joseph Reagle — October 15, 2007 @ 6:34 am

  2. [...] Reagle, who happens to be a PhD student I am happily advising, wrote a response to my blog entry on the Chronicle of Higher Education article lamenting and lambasting advising graduate [...]

    Pingback by Interprete » On Adivising Grad Students: A grad student perspective — October 15, 2007 @ 7:52 am

  3. hi bismella,
    i’d like to take a look-see at the chronicle of higher ed article, but the link isn’t working. can you please re-post it or send it to me?!

    Comment by minty — October 26, 2007 @ 5:05 am

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