Profs: What Would You Tell Your Grad Students, But Can’t?


Comments are still coming in on yesterday’s post, “Grad Students: What Would You Tell Your Prof(s), But Can’t?” In future posts we’ll take up some of the recurring themes in those comments. In the meanwhile, a friend proposed that we hear from the other side. That could be interesting and constructive (I say, suggestively). And so:

Faculty, what would you like to tell your graduate student(s) right now, but can’t?

dear-grad-student-stationery-and-pen

Again, given the sensitive nature of this question, I’m going to relax the commenting requirements. Normally, as per the comments policy (go ahead, take a look) you are required to either sign in via social media by clicking on one of the symbols above the comment box—

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—or by entering in a name (or pseudonym) and an accurate email address. For this thread, though, if you choose not to sign in and wish to not use a real email address, you may use “[email protected]” or a clearly fake one of your choosing. You are welcome to use a pseudonym, but don’t use one that has “anonymous” or “anon” in it.

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Old Prof
Old Prof
4 years ago

If I could say anything to a grad student, it would be this: that the only thing that is worth anything in this world is love. (Obv I can’t say this)Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Old Prof
4 years ago

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a prof a while back. He’d asked me about my summer plans and I proceeded to give him a run down of my way too ambitious list of things. His response was to wryly remind me to also have some fun. Best piece of advice I’ve gotten in grad school so far.Report

Nonners
Nonners
4 years ago

I would say to my grad students the following, and I would hope that they would listen carefully: Typhoid and swans-it all comes from the same place.Report

Young prof
Young prof
4 years ago

I would tell them that they should realize what a mixed bag their professors (and other more senior philosophers in the broader profession) are. Some of them will go out of their way to support you over and over, but some of them will be shitty human beings who will be vindictive or useless or will harass you. “Networking” (which I loathe) isn’t just important for getting a job. It’s important for raising your chances of meeting more of the good people, and in that way keeping alive your hope for and love of the profession.Report

Junior woman faculty member
Junior woman faculty member
4 years ago

I wish you knew that nobody is entitled to an academic job, that your ”soft skills”—flexibility, dependability, curiosity, creativity, and ability to work hard on a team—play a major role in your success in this program, that you are responsible for your own dissertation progress, and that many of you need to take more personal responsibility for your success or failure in this profession.

To male graduate students in particular: most of you are wonderful. But a few of you constitute the biggest source of sexism I regularly face in the profession.Report

Rebecca Kukla
Rebecca Kukla
4 years ago

Dear grad students: We don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about you as you think. We won’t be hurt if you don’t choose to work with us or put us on your committee; our ego is not wrapped up in you. We don’t remember that you owe us a chapter or that we haven’t met with you for a while, so just remind us and don’t get all weird about it. We love you and love talking to you and want you to do well in life and in the profession, but writing your dissertation is 90% of your job right now and supervising it is like 2% of ours. So don’t project so much onto us, k?

(I say this to their faces too but they don’t believe me so maybe it will be more convincing here.)Report

An*nymoose
An*nymoose
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
4 years ago

I am a faculty member and am saddened this has gotten voted up by so many people. Fend for yourselves grad students, we love you but can’t be bothered to go much out of our way to help you succeed.Report

prime
prime
Reply to  An*nymoose
4 years ago

Why isn’t simply doing our jobs, considerately but within the bounds of our defined responsibilities, enough?

Now to begin to answer the question. Most of us, despite obvious and unobvious nightmare cases, aren’t in this to indulge or exploit our “power” over you. Nor, though, do we want to be in the business of Captain Save A Grad Student. You are adults. In fact, many of you have made it clear that you”d rather faculty not cross a professional-personal boundary — except maybe when you feel that our doing so would be helpful to you. As a rule, no thanks: trying to navigate those unstable, one-sided expectations poses mainly risk, on both sides.

I’m not sure how many grad students truly appreciate that professors have lives, problems, and priorities of our own. See this, which can be found under “Heap of Links” to the left:
“When not teaching, ‘what is my lecturer doing?’ — a guide for students by Sara Uckelman (Durham).”

Most of us would like to be helpful if you’re struggling. But there are limits in time, energy, and appropriateness. Best of luck, sincerely.Report

Tuna
Tuna
Reply to  prime
4 years ago

“…many of you have made it clear that you”d rather faculty not cross a professional-personal boundary — except maybe when you feel that our doing so would be helpful to you.”

I think you should explain what you mean by this, because at first glance it sounds like a really gross and tone-deaf thing to say.Report

prime
prime
Reply to  Tuna
4 years ago

You’re free to read the grad thread for an explanation. I have no idea what your “first glance” reading is about, but I’m sorry you find it disturbing. Report

AlsoWondering
AlsoWondering
Reply to  prime
4 years ago

I’m not disturbed by the bit Tuna quoted, but I’m also confused. Some comments in the grad thread seemed to ask professors to back off emotionally, but step up professionally. Who asked anyone to back off emotionally except when it benefited them personally?

In any case, what would be the ideal balance for you? Report

prime
prime
Reply to  prime
4 years ago

AlsoWondering: My default is to be professional in a fairly old-school sense. I am available to meet with students on campus, and I let them know I am accessible; I do not fraternize with grad students outside of official department events; I do not make a proactive effort to “get to know” grad students; I strive for an understanding but “straight shooter” approach with students who come to me for guidance or in crisis. I’m not sure why my sensibilities would matter to you, but there they are.

Below are samples of what called to mind “unstable, one-sided expectations” that cross into the personal realm.
—–
“It’s a good thing when professors are supportive of their graduate students, but some behaviors that are acceptable with peers are not with graduate students, and so curtailing how personally (and socially) involved you are can be a good thing.”
—–
“And special thanks for being pretty much the only man in my life who I feel like I can trust, intellectually and emotionally, and for being interested in me for philosophical and friendship reasons and not weird sexual or fetishy or emotionally weird reasons.”
—–
“I often mistook your refusal to act as a parental surrogate for my emotional needs as you being cold and uncaring. I now realize that you were keeping professional distance and that you couldn’t (and shouldn’t) involve yourself in the personal lives of your students, me included.”
—–
“I am glad I have better academic mentors who are interested not only in my intellectual and academic work, but also my emotional, social, and spiritual growth.”Report

Third
Third
Reply to  prime
4 years ago

I’m unclear why you think all those comments by grad students are making demands for something one-sided. As the author of one of the comments you excerpted, I think you missed what was meant. When I want professors to “be supportive”, I think that it is appropriate for advisors to meet with their students and discuss work and progress in the program. When I want professors to remember there is a line, I’m asking them not to insist that the meeting happen over alcohol and not to make comments about my appearance. I suppose that there do exist professional contexts where that might actually be acceptable, were we friends or equals, but the power a professor wields over a graduate student makes that inappropriate.Report

John Doe
John Doe
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
4 years ago

Anonymoose, you’re not the only one shocked by the alacrity with which Rebecca Kukla publicly advertises her disinterest in her students’ work. If this is how she really feels, she should let students know right when she meets them that this is her mentality, lest they have to suffer through a working relationship with her in which she has very little interest, thinking all throughout that she genuinely cares greatly about their success.Report

Mirror
Mirror
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

“writing your dissertation is 90% of your job right now and supervising it is like 2% of ours.”

This is actually a pretty good reminder, RK. Report

John Doe
John Doe
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

I see your point. Fair enough.Report

Rebecca Kukla
Rebecca Kukla
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

I adore my grad students, support them, encourage them, find them opportunities, and go to bat for them. Ask any of them. But I do not obsess over them or their projects or their social nuances, as they often think I (and others) do. I think it’s helpful for them to remember the asymmetry between how big a part of their lives their work with me is compared to how big a part of my life their work with me (of necessity) is. If nothing else, they are writing one dissertation and I am supervising six of them, plus being on other committees. And obviously my job is not just to supervise grad students, to put it mildly. I don’t think any of this makes me at all callous.Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
4 years ago

As a graduate student, I find it helpful to be reminded of what Prof. Kukla says. I — and other graduates I know — am often way too worried about what my supervisor thinks of me, and how they would react if I tell them that I can’t meet a deadline, and whether they expect me to do more during the summer holidays etc.
I feel so sorry and ashamed for being late or not doing a good enough job that sometimes I feel like I don’t want to meet with my supervisor — which should be what helps, and usually does.. This is completely unjustified and unnecessary. A honest remind like Kukla’s is more helpful than many reassuring speeches by professors or fellow graduate students; because it feels honest beyond doubt.Report

Rebecca Kukla
Rebecca Kukla
Reply to  Grad Student
4 years ago

Grad Student: Thank you and I am glad you found my comment helpful – this is *exactly* the mind frame I know many grad students are in (and I vividly and painfully remember being in!) and that I was trying to address/defuse. We are happy to see you and to be helpful when you need us. We are not sitting at home seething over how much we needed to read your late chapter draft 🙂Report

Mike Titelbaum
Mike Titelbaum
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
4 years ago

Just to back up what Prof. Kukla is saying: According to my university, I am being paid to spend 40% of my time on research, 40% of my time on undergraduate teaching, and 20% of my time on “other”, which includes (among other things) university committee work, departmental committee work, refereeing and editing for journals, organizing that conference I’m putting together, and also supervising my graduate students, of whom I currently have 5. So to say that supervising a particular graduate student is 2% of my job is almost literally true, given the way my employer defines that job.
In actuality, I spend much more than 2% of my time, thought, and effort on each of my advisees, and I’m happy to do so. But it would help for them, and all the other students I work with, to understand how my life breaks down. A grad student (not one of my advisees) once asked me to read a draft paper of his. I asked him when he needed feedback by, so I would know where to put it in the stack. He asked me what was this “stack” I was talking about. So I showed him my to-do list, which on a good week runs to multiple pages. Suffice it to say he was shocked, and a little bit more understanding when I didn’t get back to him on his paper for a few weeks.Report

Another Grad Student
Another Grad Student
Reply to  Grad Student
4 years ago

I share Grad Student’s perspective completely, and wish I had realized what Professor Kukla shared several years ago.

I used to STRESS OUT before every meeting with my advisor. After a few years, I realized that my dissertation just isn’t as important to my advisor as it is to me. This helped me to lighten up a bit, and not take myself so seriously, which in turn is helping me to write my dissertation a bit faster, since I’m not stressing out as I write, wondering what my advisor will think.Report

anxious-grad-student
anxious-grad-student
Reply to  Grad Student
4 years ago

I completely second your thoughts. It is quite a relief to hear this from prof. Kukla, specially for students like me who get easily anxious and nervous about such things and enter an infinite loop of what-would-my-prof-think-of-me! Just to add to what has already been said – there ARE professors and lectures who DO get affected by little things like – sending your paper one day late or missing their class without informing (sometimes it so happens that you forget to inform or some other genuine reason!) or telling them that you’d like a different supervisor/tutor – and I, like many other grad students, completely dislike and abhor such attitude because it makes our lives hell. So maybe instead of engaging in the backlash towards prof. Kukla on how she supposedly doesn’t care enough – I’d request you to redirect your efforts towards making a friendlier and less-stressful environment for everyone (both students and teachers) and (maybe!) moderate such unpleasant behaviour in academia (specially if you happen to know someone who is like that or if a student comes with a complaint). Sincere thanks 🙂 Report

Flavius Id
Flavius Id
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
4 years ago

“We won’t be hurt if you don’t choose to work with us or put us on your committee.” Your sample size is undoubtedly larger, but that was not my experience. Report

DNfac@DNfac.com
Reply to  Rebecca Kukla
4 years ago

I think there’s an alternative explanation that you might want to consider. The students who “get all weird” might well realize that the probability of your remembering that they owe you a chapter is in fact rather low. Yet they might also think that if you did happen to remember that the chapter is late, you might form a negative impression of them, and that your impression could negatively impact their career prospects.

___________
Rebecca Kukla · September 8, 2016 at 1:36 pm
Dear grad students: We don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about you as you think. We won’t be hurt if you don’t choose to work with us or put us on your committee; our ego is not wrapped up in you. We don’t remember that you owe us a chapter or that we haven’t met with you for a while, so just remind us and don’t get all weird about it. We love you and love talking to you and want you to do well in life and in the profession, but writing your dissertation is 90% of your job right now and supervising it is like 2% of ours. So don’t project so much onto us, k?

(I say this to their faces too but they don’t believe me so maybe it will be more convincing here.)Report

Sad
Sad
4 years ago

I had an amazing supervisor. Ideal in so many ways. I don’t think my students will ever think that about me. I think I spend more time working than he did. I’ve sacrificed all the time that I could use to spend with friends, families, or the hobbies I don’t have. I’m not spending that time selfishly on my own research or anything. It’s all pretty half-assed right now. (Actually, that’s generous. At best, one sixteenth of an ass.) I find the current set of demands in my job completely overwhelming. I don’t think you’d understand it unless you had a similar job. Anyway, I feel like I’m constantly letting my students down, but I don’t see what I can cut to offer more. I hate my current job, don’t have a terribly high opinion of myself (I feel horribly guilty whenever I can’t help someone out who wants feedback or time for a discussion) , and I fear that I’m just another one of those academics who is going to contribute to a disappointing experience for the current graduate students in our program. I don’t want you to think that I’m indifferent or unconcerned, just drowning.

Part of the problem is structural. I’ve spoken with colleagues who feel the same way. We think that the school won’t let us run things in the way that would be best for your training. We think that we have most of our time wasted by meaningless bullshit. We’ve talked about trying to do free additional teaching to cover this, but we’re all pretty miserable and overworked. I don’t see a change without a change to the system, but nobody who can help change the system sees any reason to do so. (Postgrad student satisfaction counts for nothing in the UK and neither does the happiness of employees. Our leaders seem to only be concerned with the maximization of undergrad satisfaction and paperwork.) Report

mid career faculty
mid career faculty
4 years ago

Students sometime confess to having various forms of mental illness, and sometimes they hint at it with phrases like “health problems”, though we both know what they mean. I want students to know: I, and the majority of your professors, and the majority of people in philosophy, have some diagnosed mental illness or could be diagnosed with a mental illness but haven’t been. You are not weird or freakish if you have one; in fact, my default presumption about people in this field is that they have at least one, unless I learn otherwise.

It’s odd having these conversations with you in my office, because I really appreciate how hard it is to bring something like that up, and how exposed you can feel as a student to note that it is having an impact on your work. I usually quell my instincts to start talking about my own and comparing notes (I am bipolar I and ADD). Really large numbers of people, successful and not, in this field have various short and long term struggles with mental health issues. It’s normal. That doesn’t make it easier to overcome those struggles themselves, but hopefully it does make it easier not to feel weird or unusual for having them.Report

Pprof
Pprof
4 years ago

Your career will not resemble mine. Be open to opportunities that, in all honesty, I may not realize are available. Get a second opinion. A third. I think the advice I give you is right, otherwise I wouldn’t bother, but maybe I am wrong.

I will try to guide you as best I can, but my powers are more limited than you might think. My power might be less than I lead you to believe, in which case, shame on me. On the other hand, I might not think at all in these political terms, but mostly try to help you along while keeping my own head above water.

Report

Mark alfano
4 years ago

We (at least the good ones) are not jealous. It’s fine to disagree with it just ignore what we’ve written, if it’s not relevant to your work. Report

Senior female faculty
Senior female faculty
4 years ago

Find another profession. Figure out how to have philosophy outside academia. Find like minds and work on projects. Forget peer review and publishing in most academic journals. Find another way to do it. The ship is sinking. It’s just us rats still hanging on. Report

7000 students and counting
7000 students and counting
4 years ago

If you don’t currently love being in the classroom, or you’re not some kind of natural at teaching but don’t care to improve your performance except maybe enough to get by, get out of the profession both for your own good and the future of philosophy. The TT jobs are only increasingly going to go to those who teach well except for the handful of R1s where you probably won’t get a job anyway, and even in those there will be mounting political and societal pressure to teach more and research less. I don’t regard all this as a bad thing either. The more high-quality instructional professors we get in the profession, the better.Report

Stillnotsafe
Stillnotsafe
4 years ago

Dear graduate students,
Tenured does mean incredibly lucky. It does not mean invulnerable. Especially not in these days of post-tenure reviews and other such. And especially not for those of us who are members of socially subjugated groups with regard to race, sexual orientation, gender-identity and/or gender. If they are acting professionally, you won’t know with what levels and volume of discriminatory crap your professor in one or more of those groups is dealing, let alone the gory details. So before you make presumptions about say, what explains that persons level of social engagement with other members of the department, maybe take a giant step or two back and consider what you do not know.Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  Stillnotsafe
4 years ago

Why suffer in silence and then let the frustration come out in this tone at your students, of all people? We make $15,000 a year when fortunate and sell blood plasma to supplement our food stamps. We would stand up for you. NTTs would stand up for you, and they are +70% of the workforce. Why not do more to expose the discriminatory crap you face every day, rather than castigating grad students, of all people?Report

Stillnotsafe
Stillnotsafe
Reply to  Grad Student
4 years ago

“Why not do more to expose the discriminatory crap you face every day?” Because, among other things, it is my professional obligation not to put students in the middle of matters between faculty, even when and insofar as those are matters that involve my dealing with crap tonloads of discrimination.
“rather than castigating grad students”? Castigating? I suppose I can tilt my head and see where you get that from my post, but the message is a simple one– you don’t know why your professors aren’t socializing with one another if or to the extent they’re not. So don’t assume. And don’t treat it like it’s their obligation to do so.Report

Old prof
Old prof
Reply to  Grad Student
3 years ago

When I was a TA and adjunct, 15,000 was a lot. I got $550 a course. Adjusting for inflation, that is still less than 15,000. In business you might be an unpaid intern.

I am not condoning the system, which is unfair, I agree, only trying to get a bit of perspective. It has gotten marginally better, but better is the key.Report

G
G
4 years ago

I generally really enjoy helping the graduate students in my department with their work. I read drafts, give comments (usually within a few days), listen to ideas, and look at slides. I am junior, and all the time I spend doing this is time that I am not using for my own research, and to meet the very high tenure requirements in my department. It is very rewarding when I see that a student really listened, and their work improved as a result. But some students take up my time over and over again, and they never seem to make progress. I write many comments on a promising draft, and they never revise it. Or they revise it in the most superficial way possible. Or they write a new paper, and have seemingly forgotten all the advice that I gave them about their last paper. It makes me feel like I am wasting my time. Why should I try so hard if the student isn’t? This is not everyone of course. But given that my students are presumably in grad school to become good philosophers, I would expect to see this much more rarely.
Also, some grad students seem to think that professors have some special way of keeping track of what students do and don’t know. They complain that they have never been told how to do x. I have no idea what you talk about with other professors and students, and what your gaps are. Why don’t you come and ask?!Report

Glass Houses
Glass Houses
4 years ago

Dear Grad Student (or even undergrad),
That ‘super-friendly and nice’ faculty member who sympathises with you about what you don’t like about your supervisor, and encourages you to express your grievances about that person, might not have your best interests at heart. They might be playing a power game within their own ranks which you know nothing about. Report

OkayDen
OkayDen
Reply to  Glass Houses
4 years ago

Duh. Relax, Simon.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  OkayDen
4 years ago

That was Billy, obvs.Report

DoDo
DoDo
Reply to  SCM
4 years ago

FoSho, I got that DoDo, DoDo.

In any case, I’m emotionally spent from both threads. I love philosophy and philosophers. We all get caught up sometimes. Life is tough. Everyone is trying really f*cking hard. Nobody is a sociopath. Let’s just all go home and watch some TV or play Beethoven, or whatever perfectly okay and reasonable thing we each do for fun?

Justin, how do you feel about closing comments on both of these for now? Report

soontobetenured
soontobetenured
4 years ago

Something I do tell my students sometimes, but that’s worth saying here too —

It’s not only you. We too have been overwhelmed by anxiety, discomfort, insecurity, feelings that we just aren’t smart enough or that our work is inadequate or underappreciated. Indeed, many of us *still* experience these feelings, regularly, especially when we interact with our professional peers — no matter how accomplished or successful you (and perhaps they) think we are, in our own eyes it is never enough, as we will never cease to feel like a first-year student walking into a room full of people who are way smarter and cooler than we are, and who have mastered a set of skills that are utterly beyond our grasp. So — don’t expect these feelings to go away. Ever. Don’t think that you should be embarrassed by them, or that you can’t express them to us and ask for help in dealing with them. And don’t ever — ever — think it’s only you.Report

Mid-career R1
Mid-career R1
4 years ago

I would ask my students to cut me slack just like I cut slack to them. Obviously they are entitled to have their work read and concerns heard (it kills me to read the parallel thread about what some of our colleagues do). But please don’t hold me up for role model and don’t watch my every word. You can expect quality and kindness from me, but sometimes I stumble both philosophically and morally because I am not a genius, I am not perfect, I have young kids at home, I am full of doubts, and most of the time I am only just getting by.Report

Sara L. Uckelman
4 years ago

Dear student,
It can be done. You can find the good people, the ones who build you up instead of tear you down. Don’t read only the negative stories — read some of them, because it’s important you know that this is out there and it is a problem. But don’t read ONLY them because they tell only part of the story. Some of us care about our students a lot. We had advisors who cared about us and we know how important that is. We care not only about your work but your well being. Don’t let the terrible stories discourage you.Report

It's a job
It's a job
4 years ago

For a lot of us, this is just a job. We have families, friends outside the profession, activities we love that have nothing to do with philosophy, and very well might quit today if some other opportunity came around (or we won the lottery).

So, sure, I will help you with your dissertation. But, I am not paid to provide you with emotional support (I have kids and a spouse who need that), nor am I paid to socialize with you (I have friends outside the discipline and the profession, as well as my kids, with whom I’d much rather spend my time). Quite honestly, I’m not looking for another friend, another child, or, for that matter, another peer with whom I am obligated to make small talk. My job is to teach and I will do my best to teach you. That’s it.

Here is what we professors ought to do: we should get detailed comments back to you on time, we should meet with you regularly to discuss your written work, we should not treat you disrespectfully (obviously), we should be diligent teachers, and we should help you learn how to be a diligent teacher.Report

GRAD_HUMAN_Emotional
GRAD_HUMAN_Emotional
Reply to  It's a job
4 years ago

It’s a job that 100’s of people who are as qualified as you would love to have and I think your comment speaks to why there is a need by universities to interview in a way that allows you the opportunity to speak candidly about what you think a tenured (or TT) prof in a program with graduate students should be doing for said students. Show me an institution that would *prefer* someone who treats students like robots and I’ll show you 10 than actually recognize that we (grad students) are not robots and we require more than what you’re willing to give, or care to give.

So if these are your thoughts about the obligations of your position are that “(you) are not paid to provide you with emotional support (I have kids and a spouse who need that), nor am I paid to socialize with you (I have friends outside the discipline and the profession, as well as my kids, with whom I’d much rather spend my time). Quite honestly, I’m not looking for another friend, another child, or, for that matter, another peer with whom I am obligated to make small talk. My job is to teach and I will do my best to teach you. That’s it.” Then you (and others like you) are one of the main problems in our discipline and we should work to weed you all out by changing our hiring practices such that we can spot someone who sees their role as narrow as you do. You seem to be a much better fit for undergrad teaching at best, but working without people is likely best (for all of us).

Because the fact is that you are working with PEOPLE. We are emotional creatures. So, the way in which you give us feedback entails that you care about how your comments affect us emotionally. If you’re not into dealing with the complex emotions of your students in a compassionate way maybe it’s best you didn’t have any students.

I could keep going but I think you get the gist. Also, you don’t see grad students as colleagues?! Whether you recognize it or not WE ARE. So please, get over yourself!Report

Tim
Tim
Reply to  GRAD_HUMAN_Emotional
4 years ago

You, my dear graduate student, are wildly in need of a deep, soulful helping of growing up. The fact that someone would see their job as (gasp!) just a job is… not tragic, not a catastrophe, not… well, really not much of anything. It’s certainly not worth hootin and hollerin about.

You say “If you’re not into dealing with the complex emotions of your students in a compassionate way maybe it’s best you didn’t have any students”. This is, without bar, the most unbelievably dense thing I’ve seen written on either of these threads yet. Actually, I’ll give you a chance: maybe it’s not. Would the following count as dealing with the complex emotions of my students in a compassionate way: if my student attempts to lay a complex emotional burden at my feet, I (calmly and professionally, I might add) tell them that I am unable to help them because (a) I’m unqualified to offer any genuine help with their emotional problems, that (b) even if I were qualified, I would not have the emotional capital left to invest in them after giving everything I can to my family and (c) I am, in any event, already deeply tremendously fucked for having dropped so much time on my students and not on my research that I’m seriously in danger of not keeping my job, and thus not being able to feed said family.

Does that count as dealing with the complex emotions of my students in a compassionate way? Because if not, you have (being frank) stupendously unrealistic expectations of the human beings who are your faculty members.Report

grateful
grateful
Reply to  Tim
4 years ago

Professors aren’t obligated to provide emotional support. Students should never expect or demand it. However, I want to stress that for those who are inclined, small things could make a big difference. Listening to a student for 20 minutes twice a month can make all the difference in the world. You don’t need to say much more than “I understand what you’re going though” or something like that.

Back when I was a grad student, I had issues. I had a horrible family situation. I had no friends and no one to talk to. This was not my professor’s problem. It was not his problem at all. However, I cannot explain what a difference it made that he listened to me complain on occasion. He didn’t say much. He just listened and looked like he understood. That was all it took. It got me through grad school. So when students ask for support, most of the time they are not asking for more than this. I also want to say, though, no professor is ever obligated to do this. It is a choice. And that is best for everyone. I felt like I was worth something because a professor would listen to me even though he didn’t have to.

And Tim, I think its awesome you’re a good father. Keep doing it. For it is very often the case that the students who are immature, emotionally, troubled, etc. are also those not lucky enough to have had a supportive family.

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Pprof
Pprof
Reply to  GRAD_HUMAN_Emotional
4 years ago

I too am struck by the unrealistic expections of grad student, and frankly repulsed by the proposal to “weed out” adults with a family from the profession.

Of all the things I have read here, I truly hope that this sentiment is not a majority view. For your sake, students, not for ours. It is a rough road ahead of you otherwise.Report

Student
Student
Reply to  GRAD_HUMAN_Emotional
4 years ago

I am relieved to hear professors emphasizing their role as TEACHERS, and understanding that they are not qualified to give counseling. I am burnt out by professors that secretly want to be psychologists. You are doing a huge disservice to students, both to those who need the academic guidance while you waste time trying to be Freud, and to the students who have come to rely on you for counseling thinking that they never have to do any work because they can be excused from their work anytime they cry about their personal lives. As students, we all have problems. Some of us work really f-ing hard to put those problems behind us, prioritize our work, and hope to receive constructive feedback. It really takes away from our education and our time when certain professors don’t want to discuss academic work, and instead ask students questions about personal problems. That being said, “just a job” is a little on the robotic side. I would want to work only with professors that love the job– but that’s the key, they need to love their actual job.Report

AnotherStudent
AnotherStudent
Reply to  Student
4 years ago

All of this sounds right to me. But I have two concerns. First, how should students deal with professors who seem to really want to act like their friends? Second, what is a department’s responsibility to students whose personal problems were caused by the department (e.g. sexual harassment or professional bullying cases)? Report

grateful
grateful
Reply to  Student
4 years ago

Obviously if a professor is prying into a student’s personal life that is bad. But you do not need a degree in psychology to listen to someone.(If they offered to speak, first, of course.) Therapy is great. But often students can only go once a month, if that. People overestimate therapy’s magic powers. Most therapists, for the most part, just listen. Report

AnotherStudent
AnotherStudent
Reply to  grateful
4 years ago

I agree with that. What about cases in which a student’s life problem is caused by the department- like harassment and bullying cases?Report

AnotherStudent
AnotherStudent
Reply to  grateful
4 years ago

I agree with that. But what about cases in which a student’s life problems are caused by the department, such as cases of harassment or bullying?Report

unfriend
unfriend
Reply to  It's a job
4 years ago

Dear ‘its a job’

So sorry I asked you to have coffee. I didn’t realize you would consider this a such a burden. You see, on occasion I socialize with other professes. I sort of assumed I did so because it was mutually enjoyable. I didn’t think our interactions were “friendship for me” and “work for the professor”. In general, I would say most people don’t won’t friends that consider that friendship unpaid overtime. So seriously forget I even asked. Because trust me, If I knew it was asking so fucking much of you, I wouldn’t have.

And for what its worth – its not just any job. It is one of the most competitive jobs on the plant that requires a longer training period than 99.9% of jobs. But whatever. I hope win that damn lottery. Report

DNfac
DNfac
Reply to  unfriend
4 years ago

Like the other grad student comment above, this is a rather uncharitable reading. The time demands placed on professors outside the normal boundaries of a workday can be extremely intense and difficult to reconcile with a life and family or other activities outside of work. The professor did not say that any request to have coffee was a “burden”. Going out for coffee could involve discussing the student’s work or teaching. The point is, please don’t be offended if the professor does not have the time, training, or inclination to go out for coffee primarily in order to socialize with you or offer emotional support. Please don’t criticize professors who aren’t able to spend hours at the pub after seminar, or who encourage students to seek counseling to handle emotional concerns instead of discussing such things themselves. In any given week, professors easily could spend more time meeting with students or going to extra events after work than they would have left to spend with their own families. It would be unreasonable to insist that professors regularly decide those conflicts by prioritizing the job over family or other obligations, and the choice to have coffee with a student for that extra hour may mean being unable to help one’s own child with homework for an hour. Yes, we are professionals who have made a commitment to do what this job requires beyond a typical 9-5, but we should not be expected to sacrifice more for it than other professionals do. In addition, administrative demands seem to be taking up more faculty time than they used to, thus creating more conflict with time available for students. Report

ANOTHER GRAD FED UP with CARELESS Profs
ANOTHER GRAD FED UP with CARELESS Profs
Reply to  DNfac
4 years ago

Where did either of the grad comments in this mini thread suggest that a prof should put their job OVER family? I didn’t read the comments that way AT ALL. Want to talk about charitable? Let’s talk about the way in which both of these comments were responded to by Tim, pprof, and now DNfac.. Not charitable at all!

Because these grads expect that profs not act *fake* and show emotional support given they chose a job to work with PEOPLE who are embarking on an emotional process (PhD is hard and many of the students are at a vulnerable age in their lives, job market concerns, financial stress because they do not get adequate pay, etc.) these grads have been told to “grow up”. Sounds a lot like silencing to me. But assuming these profs “liked” the initial response by “it’s a job” I guess I shouldnt be surprised.

It’s worth mentioning that “growing up” need not include not caring about the emotional well-being of colleagues and students. Just because you grew out of caring about those you spend lots of time with, it shouldn’t follow that that should be the expectation for all of is “not yet fully grown” like wise Tim suggests.

Sad times. Report

Grad Student
Grad Student
Reply to  It's a job
4 years ago

If this is your attitude, which is fine, then please fight against administrators who use the antiquated myth of a “noble relationship” between us grads and you profs as a way to disenfranchise use grads from workplace protections such as collective bargaining rights. It would only be consistent, and after all, shared governance grants you as faculty non-trivial authority with respect to the institution. So challenge your dept to charge your faculty senate rep with pushing back against admin who weaponize the “noble relationship” you yourself acknowledge is a myth. Speak up, be consistent. Report

Crab
Crab
4 years ago

“Don’t believe everything you think.”Report

Cecilea Mun
4 years ago

1) Sometimes it’s worth doing what you or others think can’t or shouldn’t be done. That’s how progress happens. And if you fall, just pick yourself up, reassess, learn, know yourself, ask for help, give it time, and sometimes you might just have to move on.
2) Sometimes you will have to know how to figure things out for yourself, but you won’t always know when. So try, try, try again, and when you think you can’t, see #1.
3) Try to see things from other perspectives, but always respect yourself, or see #1.
4) Don’t just think, try to know, or see #1.
5) Advice can be good or bad, but they are always given with good intentions. Don’t play the blame game or see #1.
6) Don’t play the guilt or shame game either unless you or someone else did something you or they really should feel guilty about or ashamed of, and you and they know and care about each other, or see #1.
7) Be okay with being wrong, admitting that you were wrong, recognizing others when they are right (including your students), and remember, pride comes before the fall.
8) On the one hand, the good ones, the ones who are worth knowing, won’t judge you based on what you look like (as long as you are dressed appropriately…which you will have to figure out for yourself), how wealthy your family is, what school you graduated from, or how many famous people you know. So if someone does, they aren’t worth knowing.
9) On the other hand, implicit biases are not things that people can easily control, and we all have them. So when you buy clothes, buy investment pieces that will help you in your professional life either inside or outside of academia.
10) You don’t have to be a black swan or a shooting star. Just try to figure out how you can live a good life, be happy, and have some fun!Report

Christine
Christine
4 years ago

It is very hard—maybe impossible in this age of rankings obsession—but try not to be too blinded by prestige. You are not in graduate school to become an acolyte of some famous philosopher, but rather to learn how to think things through for yourself. To learn how to judge the value of an idea on the basis of your own developed insight, not on the basis of how employable you will be if you run with the idea in your work.

It seems harder than ever in the present climate to teach students to think authentically, for themselves.

Report

Recent grad
Recent grad
4 years ago

Shed the feelings of guilt and worthlessness. You are here because you worked hard and you have skills. Your work now is contributing to the university–your teaching is essential for helping the faculty have more time for research, but, also, without you and your peers the university would not be a research university, which is based on graduate programs. You are an important part of the system, which is true no matter what career you embark on post graduation. Seize the moment, learn as much as you can, and prepare yourself for the next step. You have earned it. Report

fluorescence
fluorescence
4 years ago

Many of us profs already think of you as junior colleagues — seeing your future where you may not yet be able to imagine it. If you are on top of things, curious, and enthusiastic, you’re the kind of colleague we’d like to have. If you are grumpy, resentful, or don’t do good work, then not so much. Most of the time we are in awe of your brilliance and youth (and the ability to dress so well with so little money) and at what you know at such a relatively young age. We’re curious about what interests you, who you think is worth reading, and what the future of the profession is. Report

AnotherStudent
AnotherStudent
Reply to  fluorescence
4 years ago

Sometimes resentment is appropriate. For example, it might be appropriate in cases of mishandled sexual harassment. Or is that out of fashion now?Report

Ash
Ash
4 years ago

I feel terribly guilty when I compare myself to my own graduate school advisor who was so generous with his time and so proactive about setting up regular meetings with me, while I have graduate advisees I rarely see. The truth is that I am more of a mess than he was. Depression often clouds my mind, and anxiety often puts me in a state of self-absorbed panic about everything I have to get done.
(In my own case, being a graduate student was much more insecurity-provoking, but being a professor is much more stressful; I didn’t realize how many more responsibilities I’d have to juggle once in a faculty position.)
In all honesty I love the graduate students in our program, and meeting with them one-on-one is perhaps the most rewarding part of my job. Depression just makes it hard for me to reach out and set up those meetings. I wish they would reach out to me more. But I suspect that at least some of them also have mental health problems that make it hard for them to reach out as well. God help us…
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Mid-career Prof
Mid-career Prof
4 years ago

Dear young students:
Many of us including some of my senior colleagues are not very good. In fact, I am quite sure that given the same amount of professional time many of you will surpass them in terms of productivity and contribution to the profession. Often academics got jobs because they got lucky or knew someone. This was certainly true in the olden days when the competition was less insane and jobs were (relatively speaking) still available.
Racism, sexism, and bigotry of all forms are common in academia. Petty fights occur especially when resources become limited. We fight for scraps and it can get incredibly ugly. In order to not become a bitter academic, it is important to keep in mind that no amount of professional success in philosophy is worth trading in your souls and sacrificing the things that are really important like kindness and warm connections. I have seen the tenure treadmill (and, really, professional vanity) destroys marriages, ruins psyches, bends moral characters, and grinds down the optimistic curiosity of many young scholars. Your ability to become a good academic depends a great deal on the personalities of your department as much as your inner strength. I continue to be the mentor that I wish I had and I hope you will too.Report

DocFEmeritus
DocFEmeritus
Reply to  Mid-career Prof
4 years ago

Why are academic politics so vicious? Because so little is at stake. Old joke, but points to the fact that academic politics can be petty and vicious, as comment above notes.

I do, however, disagree that racism, sexism, etc… are “common” in academe. If anything, I experienced the opposite – well, maybe not–depending on definitions of such terms– our hiring committees always had members (and this is not just phil committees, I served on psych, English, science, and other hiring committees) who wanted to hire only a woman, African-American, Hispanic, or other member of a group regardless of a fair evaluation of qualifications. This is discrimination, too; reverse discrimination. Academe ought to apply fair and equal consideration to all applicants and not focus on a trait someone wants: don’t hire candidates who are white just because they are white, nor African-American candidates just because…, a woman or man just because they are.., etc.

The downside of applying affirmative action in an unjustified manner is Donald Trump and his ilk. It creates the atmosphere in which true bigots gain credence with the public, which in turn, hurts academe in doing the right thing when fostering diversity. Knee-jerk anything is surely a mistake.Report

DocFEmeritus
DocFEmeritus
4 years ago

I would say that philosophy and teaching are a great life, but do get ready, should you go into teaching, to find that philosophical questioning and being the one who questions administration policies, outside consultants brought in by the administration, and not being a “yes-person” will be a trial and tribulation for you, at least with administrators. It gets to the point where you might be designated “persona non grata” and perhaps locked out of some things because of this — the usual comment being, “X is too negative and confrontational.” Can be very frustrating and can even affect promotion and tenure. Been there, done that.Report