I really, really, really want to write about the politics at Big Ag U and my feelings around of betrayal and frustration around academia in general. I’m not sure I can do this without revealing more about myself and the U. than would be wise. One thing I’m trying to learn as a grad student is how to practice restraint, but I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet.

Since starting at Big Ag U I have experienced a number of incidences in which faculty members have said one thing, and done another. (I know, surprise, surprise.) Some of these have been small, like not getting papers returned to the class on time. No big deal, things like this happen, who adheres to strict deadlines these days? Others have been not so small…

Last week a key faculty member in my graduate program announced his retirement effective Jan 1. This person will be leaving several courses untaught because of his sudden departure. When I heard this I assumed that someone must be sick, that there was some unexpected event that precipitated this, but he claims not, that he had received offers for more interesting work elsewhere. This is a full professor who directly stated to his department last year that he had no plans to retire.

In light of earlier betrayals by other faculty members in that department I’m starting to wonder if the majority of faculty at Big Ag. U are so two-faced or if it is something particular to that department. I really try to understand how to deal with politically charged situations, but there is some part of me that just has trouble with people who don’t tell the truth. Just be honest.

I’m frustrated because it seems everywhere I turn someone is being dishonest or not following through on their commitments. I just don’t understand why people can just say what they mean. So here are somethings I would like to say to folks…

Coworker in a related department: If you aren’t going to answer my repeated emails, phone calls, and other requests for a meeting just tell me that. No problem, I can then go back to my supervisors and let them know that your department doesn’t want help on that project.

Adviser:
1. Last winter I explained to you very clearly who I was working with and that we were going to try to get some more data from folks in Midsized City using your research protocol. Why did you act surprised when the people that organization called you? You told me that you were fine with my plan. I stated several times and in writing what I was doing.

2. After all that why did you then go back to my research site and begin using it as a site for one of your class projects while excluding me from any involvement? Didn’t you know I had been working all year to build a relationship with that organization? Didn’t I explain to you that I was trying to develop trust between myself and the organization? Why not include me so that I could continue to work with them after your class had gone?

Big Shot Professor: Why did you claim that I could complete a dual degree with your department and then fail to do anything to support me when, after several years of work, the U. claimed I couldn’t?

Literature Professor: Why bother conducting an independent study if you aren’t going to actually read or comment on student work? When I wrote you several months later to request comments on my paper because I was considering submitting it to a special issue of a journal why not write and say “Sorry I don’t have time right now?” rather than promising to look at it? Stating “I’m sure its great” does not inspire confidence.

Grad Student Coworker: Why do you say you are frustrated and confused by the data coding when we talk privately, but then turn around and claim that everything is great when discussing it with Adviser? I know you are angry at me because my desire to get some research done made it clear that almost nothing had been accomplished in almost a year of “work.” I wasn’t trying to ruin your gravy-train, I just need to write my thesis and couldn’t do that when Adviser thought that all the work had already been done. I can’t write up research I know to be based on incomplete data entry and sloppy, unclear coding.

Sorry, I had to rant. I could go on, but those are the big ones. Although I have met some great people in academia and learned some interesting things, I’m starting to believe the the system rewards people for being co-dependent, narcissistic backstabbers and that all others are the exception to the rule. Seriously, I’m trying to have compassion for these people, but at the moment, I’m failing. I don’t see the harm in being truthful. You aren’t sparing my feelings when you lie to me, you are just lying. I don’t mind hearing NO. Really. Just say it and I will move on.

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