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.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Okay... well... that's interesting.

Followers of this blog know that I have been a graduate student for a fairly long time now.* This isn't that shocking in that the average time to finish has risen far beyond the "four years" many programs list in their catalogs. However, what it means demographically is that I've reached that unique academic status: the wisened old grad student.

Doubtless we all remember them from when we were in our first years of graduate school. We were fresh, excited, and a little scared. Graduate coursework was overwhelming, our advisors were terrifying, and some of us were having a hard time realizing that, while they call it graduate school it's really more of an on-the-job training program than anything else. During this first year we can also remember them. You know who I mean: older students. They stalked around the department, lost in conversations that were far too advanced for us to follow. When we spoke with them, they asked questions that were beyond our ken and, when they criticized, it was like getting slapped around by faculty- only worse, because they were supposed to be like us. They were in an odd way far more alien and terrifying creatures than faculty because they were similar to us and yet so very different- a sort of academic uncanny valley.

Given how I remember those older students it's odd to me to discover that I have, apparently, become one of them. Sure, I've been here a while. Sure, there are students younger than me and, sure, in many cases I have no idea who they are because I just never interact with them. To be frank I've really reached a point where I don't care all that much either- they're there, they'll always be there, I don't need to worry about it.** Still, it didn't really hit me that I was one of those older students until the other day when another, younger, grad student remarked to me, "You know the first-years are afraid of you."

"What?" I asked, "They're scared of me?"

Indeed, he responded that they were and attributed the information to a first-year who spends a little time in our office working on a project. When I asked her about this she admitted that it was true, although it was perhaps less fear and more simply uncertainty about what to do with me. To be frank I'm not sure that they need to do anything with me since I rarely have contact with the first-years en masse. So, you know, a plan of action seems fairly superfluous. All the same I appear to have followed the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli without ever intending to.

This raises an interesting queston: How am I to deal with this revelation? I could go out of my way to try and reassure the first-years, convincing them that I'm really a nice guy and that they should feel free to talk to me. On the other hand, I could use this as an excuse to confirm their worst fears. If I follow the first course I might win myself some new friends but, at the same time, will have to face the inevitable upswing in random questions about statistics and STATA- in other words an increase to the existing time-suck. On the other hand, if I demonstrate that their fears are warranted I won't get any new friends, but man will it ever be fun. I could be, essentially, the Janitor to their J.D.*** Who wouldn't enjoy that?

So, obviously, I'm going with the second option. I will become the nemesis of the first-year cohort much as I was the nemesis of my freshman year college roomie.**** As such, I'm taking suggestions: how would you suggest I torture the first-years for maximum fun and amusement? Surely someone will have some ideas!

* Indeed, there are no indications that my tenure as a graduate student will end any time soon. Damnit.

** I should probably also note that I'm not really all that friendly. This is not to say that I'm hostile, just that I'm not the most inviting character you're ever going to meet. Big shock, eh?

*** Although, I personally think I'm more of a Dr. Cox.

**** Among other things, I stole a pair of his shoes every day and hid them in different places around the room including, believe it or not, on the ceiling. Ah, duct tape, is there anything you can't make better?

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Blogger brayden said...

If you're going to be the janitor to their J.D., will you please ductape one of them to the ceiling of their office?

Thursday, February 22, 2007 9:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice, now I've not only inflicted the Time Cube on your unsuspecting readership, but I've also generated a nemesis for the first years. Even if I accomplish nothing else this year, I'll have done something.

And consider this a second for the duct taping one of them to the ceiling. Now it's just a matter of selecting the right one...

Thursday, February 22, 2007 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Volscho said...

I think you might keep some distance because of the time-suck of answering STATA and other quantitative questions can drain your time spent on dissertation, etc. STATA is so damn easy to use so I never understand why people are so confused about it. reg y x, hc3 is much easier then find menu in spss, point-click, check off options, and find syntax on the internet to do huber-white standard errors.

But I guess a lot of people who were never doing very well in math do join sociology and in fact the non-quantitative stuff has the most impact on public consciousness.

Start telling students that you use R and maybe that will scare them away. Or be very straightforward and say, "I can only help you for fifteen minutes" or tell student to go on the web as the online documentation of STATA is wonderful. No need to be scary I suppose, since we are all in this together and grad school is very stressful especially for students who as undergrads may have been told that they were the "cream of the crop" while in the first years of grad school they are told that they are only the "little people" of sociology.

Friday, February 23, 2007 3:41:00 AM  

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