Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Was his name... Fek?

It's one of the eternal ironies of graduate school that despite the close association of faculty and student, they often experience the same department in radically different ways. This comes out in a number of venues, ranging from the qualifying exam process, which is often seen as a ridiculous hoop by faculty and an imposing challenge by students, as well as in regular meetings with one's advisor. It is this last experience with which I identify most strongly.

Yet, in another way, grad school provides deep insights into human nature if you are observant enough to notice. Some students may spend years neglected and virtually forgotten by their nominal advisors, only to be showered with attention when said advisor needs someone to do grunt work like writing statistical code. Despite our frequent distaste for economists and their rational actor models (Tom Bozzo being a notable exception who, doubtless, remains crunchy in milk) they do sometimes fit the bill rather nicely.

Alternatively, some students may find themselves toiling on a faculty project for years, logging such a vast stockpile of research hours that their own skills in the area become razor-sharp. Yet, when it comes time to publish, their name has somehow dropped in the authorship list from second, to third, to god knows what, or even into the accursed limbo of the acknowledgements section.

Finally, there are those students who find themselves constantly buried in the sisyphean task of teaching. The grading, and lesson plans, and office hours surrounding them so that some ambitious younger faculty member can publish, while at the same time guaranteeing that their poor advisee shall perish.

Such thoughts have been swirling through my mind since I saw the new Star Wars movie with its emphasis on the Sith Lords. I wonder if grad students and faculty have something in common with Sith Lords and their Apprentices. Like Sith Apprentices, we grad students obey our lords faculty because we hunger after their wisdom, and knowledge of the ways of the force (i.e. "Funding"). Similarly, those same Sith Lords faculty employ us because, despite their vast power, they require someone to do the actual dirty work to carry out their vicious schemes. The parallel seems not entirely inaccurate to me. I do, however, wonder about a further parallel: like Sith Apprentices, must we too assassinate our masters in order to become Lords ourselves? Must we lie, cheat, steal, or perhaps use telekinetic powers to crush the windpipes of our foes, if we are to, dare I say it, graduate? I'm not sure, one way or another, but I will tell you this:

If my advisor starts wearing flowing robes and referring to me as "Darth Drek," I'm fucking dropping out.

UPDATE: Does Jorge Cham read my blog? Judging by his newest strip you might think so. If we came up with this comparison independently, however, I think it says some disturbing things about grad school.

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