Revisiting “Grad Students: What Would You Tell Your Prof(s), But Can’t?”


About a year ago I asked, “Graduate students, what would you like to tell your professor(s) right now, but can’t?

As the new school year begins, I would recommend professors and graduate look over the comments on that post. Graduate students, feel free to add new comments. Professors, see if you see yourself in any of them.

A slogan I try to remember is “philosophers are people, too.” This helps in meetings and other events, it helps in philosophical conversations, it helps when providing written comments and criticism, it helps when putting together a talk—it helps in pretty much every professional context. And, judging from many of the comments on the post we’re revisiting, it could improve our interactions with graduate students.

For example, students noted that some professors:

  • used unnecessarily harsh or insulting language
  • neglected to inquire about known significant events in the students’ personal lives, especially ones that might affect the students’ performance
  • failed to note how the power imbalance between professors and students makes it difficult for students to respond honestly to some questions
  • treated the aims of the students as unimportant compared to their own, for example, by neglecting their teaching and mentoring responsibilities
  • did not take seriously the financial constraints on graduate students
  • were great at showing how grad students’ work was deficient, but, in failing to also be constructive, were very discouraging
  • acted and talked unprofessionally with graduate students, involving them inappropriately in their personal lives or in intradepartmental conflicts
  • did not realize how ignorant graduate students are (compared to professors) about how academia works.

There were also several positive comments from grateful students who felt that their professors were responsible, encouraging, and caring. The whole post is worth a re-read.

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