Liz Lemon: But we're not the worst...
Jack and Liz: Graduate students are the worst.
- 30 Rock Episode 3.01 "Do-Over"
One of the most exciting things about moving away from the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area is that I will again be free of grad student culture. I have many wonderful friends who are in grad school, but grad students en masse are just plain awful. Here's why -
They Throw the Lamest Parties Combining social awkwardness, alcohol snobbery and incessant shop talk, grad student parties are super boring. And what's with the themes? I've encountered every theme from "Lloyd and Ally celebrate the fact that they will never get married" to "Jackie's Birthday/ T-shirt Decorating Party!" (isn't Jackie's birthday enough?). I once asked my grad friend L why they feel compelled to attach a theme. She supposed that most of them don't really know how to "party" so they need to couch it in a unique occasion. I trust L's perspective because she has actually lived and worked outside of academia as an adult, which reminds me of my next gripe...
They Whine About Their Paid Labor Resembling Other People's Jobs To be fair, I firmly believe that grad student instructors/TAs/ whatever-you-want-to-call-them are some of the most exploited workers around. At schools like Michigan, they tend to do the real teaching while the profs get the propers and the great pay. That's why I'm glad that the UM GSIs have a kick-ass union with awesome health care bennies (which I enjoy as the spouse of a union guy). I appreciate the complaints at the heart of collective bargaining. I don't appreciate the following complaints (all true stories)
Having to work a full week before getting paid.
Having to work in the summer.
Having to go to work at 9am. When I recently heard this one, I got a big kick out of the facial expression on my young coworker, who has two jobs, regularly gets to work at 6am and had just finished a thirteen hour shift
They're Self Important Of all the self important grad student debates I've ever witnessed, my favorite was, "Is it morally superior to avoid Wikipedia or to improve it?" I think this example speaks to the average grad student's sense of their impact on the world. All of us humans affect our world in our own little ways, perhaps some more so than others, but I assume that few of us make an enormous difference. Similarly, I find Wikipedia somewhat useful and informative (usually as a starting point for a subject I want to explore further), but I assume that much of it is inaccurate and I don't put a lot of stock in it. Wikipedia is not that important to my life. A grad student is the only sort of person I know who would think that their choices about Wikipedia are actually important. This line of thinking signifies delusions of grandeur, and it's creepy.
They're Passive Aggressive Corrective In my line of work (catering at a pricey deli), I often encounter customers who mispronounce food words. The most common example is when someone pronounces the word crudite "crew-dyte". I never correct them. Even when I repeat the order to make sure I got it right, I say "veggie tray" because no one likes to be made to feel like a bumpkin. Grad students always correct me when I misuse a word, and they do it in the most obnoxious, semi-subtle way. For instance, I once wrote an email to a grad friend in which I said something like, "I'm weary about where this job is going." He simply couldn't help replying, "I can see why you are wary about where your job is going" Oh, brother.
Truly, I think that grad school must be a torturous, humbling, soul-shredding experience and the only way to get through it is to hope and pray that someday all that work will pay off in the form of a fancy, tenured position. But I also see how the pursuit of that goal has a way of pushing students further away from reality, to the point where these seemingly reasonable people can't pick up on the absurdity of their own words and actions.