Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Grad School Advice #4

This one might seem obvious, but it's one I wish somebody had said to me:

When you enter grad school, you're also entering a bureaucracy.

That means that there are meetings you must attend and a godawful amount of paperwork that you must do and all sorts of office business that you went into grad school to avoid, but alas didn't. Do everything you can to avoid departmental politics- they're poisonous. But, you cannot avoid the mindless form-filling. Not even by hiding in the library.


W. S. Cross said...

These are good rules. Anyone who wants more detail should Google "The Invisible Adjunct" or go to my site and follow the link from there. She has tons of info about the downside of grad school and the academic life.

It's not for everyone. Knowing whether it's for you is key to success or failure in that very rarified world.

Rufus said...

I enjoyed the Invisible Adjunct quite a bit. She really made the best of a nightmare scenario. I think part of the problem is that people expect a bit too much out of their graduate education. They think you get the PhD and go straight to a tenured position, and that's never the case.

But, the other problem, and one you've addressed in your book, is that you have a deeply exploitive work situation in which a good deal of university teaching and administrative work is done by people who have no job security and who make less money than a stock-boy at Wal-Mart. Literally- your average Wal-Mart stock-boy makes about $20,000 per year and most teaching assistants (who quite often are the sole course instructor) make about $16,000 a year! Ironically, it's a situation that is quite happily supported by professors who, otherwise, consider themselves to be quite "progressive".

To be blunt, if you don't think that there is some intrinsic value to education in-and-of-itself, or even think that teaching is a sacred duty, you won't last. Because it's not a position of great prestige or income. But, the upside is, it beats the hell out of Wal-Mart to get to study what you love on the job.