Thursday, March 16, 2006

Broken: Academic advisorship

It's hard to understand just how powerless you can feel as a graduate student unless you've been a graduate student. Standards for admission to the club can seem pretty arbitrary, so much depends on the good will of your advisor and others in the club already. While many of those "grown up" scientists are serious about helping graduate students learn the skills they need -- to do science and to navigate the waters of institutional politics -- others take obvious pleasure in playing the "gatekeeper" role, and in being jerks about it. Power over others is a reality for academic scientists; not only to they control the fate of their grad students, but those working for tenure know that their own fate is in the hands of the tenured faculty. ...

From this sensitive post by Janet D. Stemwedel (aka is Dr. Free-Ride), who explores some of the sad consequences when the advisors take their graduate students for granted, and behave in inconsiderate ways. She certainly seems to have touched a raw nerve in her readers, who pour their hearts out in the comments.