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serenade

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  1. Thanks, everyone. You guys are so supportive. AP, I think you're right. These are two different issues (though they often seem to conflate in my mind). On the learning how to improve front: I've initiated several conversations with my advisor about what gives him doubt about me progressing through the program, and I think I've learned where my weaknesses are and how to take small steps to improve. Still incredibly difficult and stressful, but not entirely opaque, so that's good. However, what's more upsetting for me is that I feel like my advisor is indifferent when he says he doesn't know if I'll stay in or not. The fact that it doesn't seem hard for him at all really gets to me. On the one hand (and the most important hand), he is my advisor and has to be able to say these things dispassionately. I get that. But on the other, it's hard to see that someone with whom I've cultivated a close relationship over the past two years seems completely indifferent to whether I stick around or not. Herein the dilemma of understanding the advising relationship as both professional and personal. The personal side can sometimes sting. What is everyone's opinions about talking about this with him? I have a fairly close relationship with him (there are other professors who I would never dream of discussing something so personal with). At my last meeting with him, I briefly discussed how it can be hard for me not to take it as a personal reflection of myself when i feel like I'm underperforming. He was sympathetic (but then we got cut short because it was time for his next appointment). But I've thought about brining up the issue specifically of having a difficult time not taking his own assessment of me personally. Do you think that would be a good idea? Fwiw, I've also been seeing a university counselor to discuss these types of issues and I also told my advisor that and that I'm not attempting to confuse talking with him as the same thing as talking to a trained counselor but that for certain issues (like why I feel like I'm failing academically), it was helpful to talk to him as well in the role of advisor.
  2. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry for you, OP. That is a horrible thing to experience. It's most certainly sexual harassment and you have every right to be upset and expect others to take the situation seriously. It's something no one should have to deal with, especially within academia. But sadly it is so common. Your advisor's reaction is absolutely terrible. I can hardly think of a worse way to respond. It sounds even worse coming from a fellow woman as one would expect a female supervisor of all people to understand. Not that this is in any way an excuse, but I do wonder how old she is and whether she comes from a generation where this type of behavior was so common among women in academia that it almost seems like a rite of passage to her, hence the "suck it up" comment. Even if so, this is a mindset that most definitely needs to change within academia. There is no excuse for anyone treating a victim of sexual harassment that way. As to talking to others at your university, I would recommend definitely doing so. Sexual harassment/assault is such an underreported crime for this very reason - victims who are afraid to speak up after one person tries to silence them/tell them they're overreacting. That's another thing that needs to change within academia (and society in general) and while the burden is on those who are in authority to change the way they respond to sexual harassment/assault, part of the change can come from victims who choose to report their experiences. Also I'd say that while your advisor's reaction was awful, don't assume that everyone else in authority will have the same reaction. At a lot (all?) of universities, there is a Title IX coordinator/campus police person to talk to about these issues specifically. So that's perhaps the first resource to consult. After that you may or may not need to talk to higher ups in your department. But if you do, it can be frightening, but also know that they might be completely sympathetic, and just because they're male doesn't necessarily mean that they won't respond more professionally than your advisor did. So I'd start with the people at your university specifically designated to handle these issues and if that's a no go for whatever reason, I'd seriously consider working up the courage to talk to authorities in your department. And not that my situation is anywhere near as serious as yours or comparable, but just to say that I empathize with you, sexual harassment/assault is indeed terrible. I was sexually assaulted (inappropriate touching) by a stranger at a bus stop while in a foreign city on a research trip earlier this summer. I happened to have a meeting with my advisor (male) scheduled four days later and I told him what happened and that I had filed a sexual assault report with the city police. When I said 'sexual assault' my advisor immediately assumed the worst (rape). (Side note: while I don't blame my advisor at all for assuming this and it's definitely better than not being believed, I do think it's a reflection of the way that society conditions people to define sexual assault as only rape but nothing else - another problem but I digress). After a briefly awkward moment spent clearing up that misconception, he was so relieved to learn that it wasn't the worst case scenario that his unintentionally dramatic exclamation of relief made both of us laugh in spite of the initial tension of the conversation. He was so sympathetic and understanding and even followed up with me about how I was doing with it at our next meeting (for those who read my post from like two days ago, he really is a great person...I make him sound worse than he is). Anyway, this post is not about me, but I say that just to say that sometimes you might be surprised at how sympathetic people can be, even if they're male. Not that this offers legal help, but do consider visiting your university's counseling center if you need support. There are so many emotions that one experiences after this and you shouldn't have to go through them alone. Take care.
  3. Hi all, (Before beginning, I should say that I understand the following: Academia is a world of criticism, it's part of the lifestyle, and one won't last long in their career if they can't take criticism. I really do understand that and have generally learned to handle criticism, but lately I've been having a particular problem that I'm trying to work through). My relationship with my advisor is both professional and personal. By personal, all I mean is that I feel like he cares about me as a human being - not just as a scholar, is a mentor, and that we sometimes talk about things that don't just involve academics. But that's what makes receiving criticism so difficult, I think. Especially when that criticism is about whether or not he thinks I will pass my comp exams and dissertation proposal and continue on in the program. He has told me that he feels unsure about my ability to pass both of those things, and that he honestly doesn't know if I am someone who will continue to completion or be forced to leave this semester. I understand that he is just being honest and doing his job. I wouldn't expect any less, of course. But it is really difficult when someone you respect so much and who you have some type of relationship with as a person tells you those things (or any criticism, really). When I hear him say things like, "I really don't know if you'll progress through the program" what my brain hears is "I'm not really excited about the thought of you being around for several more years." That can be devastating. It's hard for me not to interpret things personally (though I understand this is a problem). While I do think every advising relationship should be primarily a professional one, at the same time I also don't think the answer is to avoid any personal interaction in order for students not to take criticism personally, since there is so much to be gained from the interpersonal relationships that can develop between advisor and advisee. But I guess I'm wondering if other people have this problem and how they've taken steps to deal with it?
  4. I totally forgot that I ever started this thread. But this is great - definitely adopting your strategy from now on
  5. On the surface, I say take the RA for all of the reasons you mentioned. I'd ask to clarify what the expected work hour load is for the RA (mine was 20 per week), but as long as it's not unreasonable, definitely take the RA. Maybe the other person wanted to gain teaching experience and so turned it down? You can always teach/TA later, but for the first year, this sounds like a good deal.
  6. Thanks, guys. You've made me feel much better and given me some perspective here.
  7. No, definitely not the only faculty in this field, but the one with whom I've taken a seminar in this field and thus did some of the reading for this list in that class (though my retention level is obviously abysmally low). Thanks for your thoughts. And you're right - thank goodness they're a one time thing (...unless you fail....)
  8. Ditto for me on this. These were helpful, thanks. That's exactly what I thought too, but it looks as though that isn't going to be the case for me, which brings me to the point of reviving this thread (and hijacking it about my own situation - sorry!). I am planning on taking comps in 3 months (to the week, actually) and I had a meeting with a committee member yesterday (not my advisor) who has been on research leave all year so this was the first face to face meeting we've had. To say it did not go well would be an understatement. I went into the meeting with a list of big ideas/themes that I pulled from the reading list and was planning on talking over those, but he instead wanted to get into more specific information. On the one hand, it is basic information that I should have already known and should have anticipated him asking, but on the other, I was caught off guard by the level of specificity he wanted. Ten minutes into the conversation he told me that as of right now, he could not pass me. He told me that he was very worried that I didn't already know this information and even asked if there was another field that I could consider doing (realistically, the answer to that is no). He was perfectly kind about it, but very firm and honest. I felt humiliated that I couldn't answer his questions and ashamed of myself for not anticipating needing to know this information. Since we'll both be traveling and unable to meet in person this summer, he told me he'd like me to submit weekly reports on my reading so that he can give me feedback (we had already started this actually, though only week before last). I also came up with the idea of including in each of those reports a list of key terms/ideas and what I think they mean for that body of reading so that he can ensure I haven't left anything major out that I need to know. Not the same as being grilled one on one in person (which I think would prepare me better than anything for the oral), but it's better than nothing. The two things that give me some shred of hope is that from talking with a past student who took exams with him, the student told me his questions were completely predictable based on the readings/meetings they had done together. The other is that I took his seminar two years ago, for which he very rarely gives out A's and often gives B+'s even to his own advisees (said student above, who is his advisee, got a B+ in two out of three seminars with him, the other being A-). I came out of the seminar with A-, not because I was brilliant, but I think primarily because I submitted a draft of my paper to him in advance, got his feedback, met with him several times, and revised enough to somewhat please him. So I've seen that with him, hard work can pay off, despite the fact that I struggled through that class. I'm also meeting with another student today who took exams with him to ask for help. But I'm still kind of freaking out about the exam, particularly the oral part. After the meeting yesterday, I couldn't bring myself to do any work for the rest of the day because I was so distraught and humiliated. As to the imposter syndrome above, I can hardly think of a more prime example of feeling "found out" or "discovered" than having a professor ask you questions that you can't answer, then telling you they can't pass you (right now). He didn't realize how off target for exams I was until yesterday, which feels like someone finding out that you really aren't as smart or knowledgeable as they thought you were (I think it's easier to hide in seminars when someone else can chime in if you don't know the answer to a specific question), which makes you feel like an admissions mistake, and makes you question how you've gotten this far and not been found out, which leads to a whole spiral of anxiety and other feelings. I was planning on spending this summer studying, of course, but also working on my diss proposal, literature review, and a paper I'd like to submit for publication. But I've decided to put all of that on hold for the summer and worked out a schedule where I could get all of it done in the fall instead after comps in late August. Ideally, I know should be multi-tasking, but I think focusing just on exams is the best decision. It's only three months and better to do a solid job preparing and pass them the first time then multi-task, not do well, and have to retake them. Does that sound like a good idea? So, other than that, basically, this post doesn't have a specific question...it's more just public commiseration! But any advice or similar experiences are always welcome.
  9. Yes, and one of his questions had to do with a particular hobby/fine arts activity that he knows I've done since I was 5 (for the record, it's ballet...not rabbit hunting). Oh it is so on. Btw, my brother finds it hilarious that he caused me enough consternation that I complained to an online forum.
  10. Ok so just as I was about to call the organization to report that a scammer was posing as one of their recruiters, I find out that it was my brother playing a practical joke on me by creating a fake email address. So the good news is my research topic has not been compromised, but...I told him he is dead to me.
  11. So after claiming for years that I would never be stupid enough to fall for a scam email (I get emails in broken English from fake peer-reviewed journals wanting to publish for a fee all the time), I think I've finally been had. I got an email tonight from someone claiming to be from a research institution/funding organization that does in fact exist and is legitimate. He told me that my name had been nominated as an applicant for a study abroad program in a location that does in fact make sense for my research interests. He asked me for some basic information such as research interests/goals for study abroad etc. I thought that since the organization is actually legit and makes sense given my research, that maybe my advisor nominated me so I assumed the email was legitimate. I answered his questions, the only one of any substance being about my research interests, in which I basically summarized my proposed dissertation in a paragraph. I also asked him for the name of the person who nominated me. After replying at 10 pm EST (I found it odd in the first place that I got a professional email from someone claiming to be in the UK at 8:50 EST, which would be 1:50 am UK time), I get an email back an hour later saying that the chair of the research council was enthusiastic about my answers and promoted me to a finalist. That's when I knew something was up. By the time I got to the questions, I was sure it was a full blow scam. These questions asked me about my appreciation for fine arts; to rank my five favorite animals; my opinion of rabbit hunting; to rank my favorite pudding flavors etc. A complete joke. When I clicked on the name of the sender, he was using a gmail address - not one affiliated with the research organization, which lets me know he is posing as someone from there. He did not reply to my question of who nominated me, which I now realize is because no one did because the whole thing is fake. I plan on calling/emailing the actual organization tomorrow to let them know that a scammer is posing as one of their recruiters. Ordinarily, I would chalk the whole thing up to a pathetic scam, but I'm worried now that I supplied a paragraph basically laying out my entire dissertation topic idea. Of course, one would have to actually do the research to write anything substantive about my topic (since I have not even passed my dissertation proposal yet, my ideas are still in the preliminary "idea" stage - no results yet, though I speculated on some of the big claims my project would make). Do I have anything to be worried about?
  12. Totally agree. This needs to happen. Just to provide another anecdotal example, however: when students who TA for my advisor ask him for a copy of the course books, he tells them that he expects students to buy their own. Seems unfair to me, but just be aware some professors do hold this view.
  13. Thanks, guys. So the prof I'm TAing for left me and my fellow TA to proctor the final today. After it was over, I had four students complain to me that the other TA's behavior during the exam was distracting and they had trouble focusing. I'm curious if the following behavior sounds problematic to you and whether you think it's worth letting the professor know about the students' complaints. During the exam the other TA: -paced the aisles of a relatively small classroom (40 students) for two hours straight...up and down over and over and over -alerted the class at frequent intervals with seemingly ill fitting instructions ("you now have an hour and a half left...now would be a good time to make sure your name is on your paper"; "you now have an hour left...right before you turn it in, say the word 'mississippi' in your head 100 times and then proofread" etc etc) -rushed over to students when they dropped a pencil/water bottle to pick it up for them, even if they were on the other side of the room from where he was pacing at that moment -tried to talk to me or write notes to me on the board while I was sitting at the front of the classroom (I generally tried to ignore him) -before the exam even started, he told everyone he was now going to "put the fear of God in everyone" about cheating and gave a monologue about it -made everyone take off their hats so he could inspect them -threatened not to let anyone go to the bathroom -when students one by one came to the front to turn their papers in at the end, he would try to carry on extended conversations with them without even whispering even though other students were still working Do you think it's worth telling the professor about the students' complaints so that he could talk to the other TA about this behavior for future reference? (fwiw, this prof is both of our advisors)
  14. Just out of curiosity, what do you personally do while proctoring an undergrad exam? Pace down the aisles? Just sit at the front? Do work/read? Remind students at regular intervals how much time they have left (or do you find this distracting)? Also, do you make students bring bookbags to the front of the class? Make them take off hats etc? Co-proctoring an exam with my fellow TA today made me realize how different our approaches to proctoring are. Just curious what other people do.
  15. Thanks. This makes me feel a lot better to know that it's appropriate to be assertive in this way.