It is the first week in school
August 29, 2000 11:50 AM   Subscribe

It is the first week in school for a lot of students. What can I say - some obviously handles the change better than others ;-)
posted by joedrescher (9 comments total)
Ugh...I've been too close to those people, too close to BEing those people, too close to that situation, to be able to give it a ;-). Not criticizing joe, just commenting on my own reaction. I've seen the perpetual grad students aimlessly taking course after course. I've seen the callous professors. I admit that I've felt homicidal rage towards my advisors.

If any of you are grad students, don't let ANYone tell you that you'll look back at this period as the best time in your life. I'm damn glad I made it through, damn glad it's over.

I s'pose maybe I should sign this one DRmoonpie....
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:15 PM on August 29, 2000

TEN YEARS of courses and he still didn't get the degree? Is that normal for doctorates?
posted by aaron at 12:18 PM on August 29, 2000

When I was in college, every few semesters someone would go nuts in the Electrical Engineering building. No violence towards other people while I was there, just incoherent rambling, confused wandering in the halls, maybe smash some lab equipment. After the "men in their clean white coats" came to take the student in question away, everyone was extremely quiet in the EE building for the next few days. I'm pretty sure every single one of us was thinking, "I could be next."
posted by harmful at 12:35 PM on August 29, 2000

> just incoherent rambling, confused
> wandering in the halls,

Shee-it, that sounds like me on a good day.
posted by ratbastard at 1:03 PM on August 29, 2000

I recall my grad school years fondly. It was hard work, and we got paid next to nothing, but I met lifelong friends and learned how to drink heavily on a budget. :)

I remember the month or two before I finished, holed up in a room writing a 100 page thesis, sending it to committee, getting my hour long presentation ready and then being questioned privately for another two hours by my advisors. To say it was the most stressful I've ever gone though is still putting it mildly.

A few colleagues were in for 7 and 8 years before getting their PhDs or quitting altogether, but a story like this popped up at least twice while I was in grad school and everyone wondered who in the program could do something similar.

But grad school's not all bad...
posted by mathowie at 2:02 PM on August 29, 2000

I live in Fayetteville and was a graduate student in the English Department at the U of A from 1991-93. I've kept in touch with a number of the faculty (though not Dr. Locke, whom I had for only one class when I was an undergrad). Dr. Locke was about the last English professor I would imagine someone wanting to off (though I can imagine a few of his colleagues might be on some short lists). He was a bit kooky (and I know a few women who thought he was a little creepy, but I never felt that way about him), but he was very helpful and understanding, and really seemed to care about his students (unlike some of his colleagues).

The shooter was obviously off-balance. He had been in the PhD program in Comparative Lit for 10 years, and had repeatedly registered for classes and then dropped out without explanation. He was finally dismissed from the program about 2 weeks ago, and Dr. Locke --- who had also been his faculty advisor --- was on that committee that recommended the shooter be dismissed.

It wasn't the typical graduate school stress that did it to this guy, which isn't surprising, since thousands of us graduate from grad school yearly without killing anyone (not that the thought doesn't cross our minds...). He had been given plenty of opportunity to get through the process (which is normally supposed to take no longer than 6 years). If anything, that department is quite lax about letting people take forever to finish a degree. (and, on a side note, if you think grad school is stressful, try law school --- it's MUCH, MUCH worse!)

It's a real shame when anyone is murdered, but, for me, this case wasn't like most anonymous shootings. John Locke will be missed.

posted by sjarvis at 2:39 PM on August 29, 2000

Ah; another tenured grad student.

Has anyone noticed that we call him a shooter... just like we call FBI snipers that? Just a tool... just a tool...
posted by baylink at 3:50 PM on August 29, 2000

It's not just a job; it's an indenture.
posted by plinth at 6:06 AM on August 30, 2000

As a former college prof (and as an even more former college grad student), I'm saddened but not surprised by this story.

Teaching is a crap shoot when it comes to the mix of teacher/students. You never know who will be in your class or what the interactions between students (and between students and teacher) will be. I've had a few students who were on that pyschological edge. They were pretty scary. One was a convicted murderer who was out on work furlough. I was teaching on a sabbatical replacement at a university and someone failed to apprise me of this fact. Only after I'd gotten into a heated "academic" discussion did a grad student let me know just who I was talking with. Scary.

Academia is not the ivory tower I was led to believe it was as a grad student. Teachers often are ready to stab other teachers in the back. And administrators treat teachers like they were children. Conventional wisdom in the academic circles I found myself in stated that the smaller the pie, the bigger the fights for any resources available. I found that to be true.

Students often expected pie-in-the-sky with little or no work (or more importantly, thought). Not to say that it was all bad (I left almost 3 years ago). When you interact with a student who has an inquisitive sense, who questions and who thinks things through, that makes all the crap worthwhile. Unfortunately, there weren't enough of them to keep me in the biz.

What always got me were the students who would come up to you on the first day and say: "What do I need to do to get an A?" After years of hearing this I came up with the following:

If you listen to what I say, I'll give you a C. If you learn something, I'll give you a B. If you teach me something, I'll give you an A.

That usually shut them up. But I was held to that last part of the axiom when I told a student he'd taught me something. He got his A.

Teaching technology, as I did, you have to leave your ego at the door. Traditionally, teachers were figuratively in front of the class, as experts in their fields. Today, students often know more that the teacher. I enjoyed that. But many profs have a problem with that.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:24 AM on August 30, 2000

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