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Annoying things early grad students do?


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I think there's a lot of grey areas when talking about professors. Trash talking is not good, but I definitely want sincere opinions and warnings.

It's a difficult edge to walk, I admit, but I don't think unglowing discussions about a professor are necessarily bad. I've definitely warned people about certain faculty member's courses, but those faculty members are among my favorite faculty members.

@sjoh197, I'd like that advisor. :D I think people should be franker. Miscommunication and buttery language is the parent of many problems.

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On 5/21/2016 at 7:44 AM, sjoh197 said:

Lol. All of the things you mentioned drive me nuts and I cant stand people who behave this way.

However, I have found that my generation seems to have some really obnoxious problems that aren't just a matter of poor personality, but poor upbringing.

 

I think most of this is intergenerational. And I also have to stop being so aggravated by what other people do! Or don't do.

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20 hours ago, SymmetryOfImperfection said:

What IS the difference between debate and arguing? I'm always respectful to my advisor but he says I argue about my interpretation too often. I thought I was just airing my interpretation and not being pushy.

It probably varies from person to person, but for me a debate is when all parties can respectfully hear differing views and agree to disagree.  Arguing is when one or more parties becomes rude or disrespectful and refuses to accept that others are entitled to a different opinion whether they like it or not. 

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23 hours ago, SymmetryOfImperfection said:

What IS the difference between debate and arguing? I'm always respectful to my advisor but he says I argue about my interpretation too often. I thought I was just airing my interpretation and not being pushy.

Maybe it's just that different words mean different things to different people, but I don't think debate is generally the right action to be taking either. I agree with what @MarineBluePsy says about debate vs. arguing in terms of respect. 

But I think there are additional terms to consider. For example, debate vs. dialogue (see: https://ginsberg.umich.edu/content/debate-vs-dialogue-vs-discussion). In brief, the main differences are:

Debate is more "combative" and the goal is to show the other party that your point of view is correct. You listen to the other party to seek flaws in their argument in order to strengthen your own.

Dialogue is "collaborative" and the goal is to work together with the other party (or parties) to come to an agreement. You listen to the other party to seek common ground and to learn from their different perspective.

Both of these forms of communication are important in scholarly interactions with our colleagues but they have their own time and place. I think a lot of awkwardness and bad interactions happen because one or more parties mistakenly take the "debate" route when it's not the right time to do that. In my opinion, the majority of interactions in a collegial environment (i.e. everyday conversations with your colleagues, classroom interactions, seminar interactions etc.) should not be debate but instead be "dialogue".

I think that in order for a "debate" interaction to be useful to both parties, both sides need to agree that this is what is needed. For example, if there is a disagreement within the research group on how to interpret X, it would make sense to agree to hash it out and figure out which interpretation is correct. In doing this, both sides agree to a "debate" in order to seek the truth.

Generally, I think it's better to approach interactions as "dialogue" by default and only engage in "debate" when both parties agree there is a need for "debate".

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On 5/25/2016 at 11:42 AM, Neist said:

I think there's a lot of grey areas when talking about professors. Trash talking is not good, but I definitely want sincere opinions and warnings.

I agree. In the laboratory sciences, it's imperative for new grad students to hear about the negative sides of working with certain professors, since we essentially put our future careers in their hands (an advisor's recommendation is required for a large majority of research jobs). While trash talking for petty reasons is obviously wrong, my decisions for lab rotations and my final lab were influenced by what was essentially gossip about professors - who doesn't have grant money, who is never around, etc. There's a very famous professor here who literally will not write recommendation letters for any of his students (grads or post docs)! Thank god I heard about that before I considered working with him.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/27/2016 at 6:34 PM, Kinetic Isotope Defect said:

I agree. In the laboratory sciences, it's imperative for new grad students to hear about the negative sides of working with certain professors, since we essentially put our future careers in their hands (an advisor's recommendation is required for a large majority of research jobs). While trash talking for petty reasons is obviously wrong, my decisions for lab rotations and my final lab were influenced by what was essentially gossip about professors - who doesn't have grant money, who is never around, etc. There's a very famous professor here who literally will not write recommendation letters for any of his students (grads or post docs)! Thank god I heard about that before I considered working with him.

Whoa, I would want to hear about that too. The things I don't want to hear are way farther over on the trash talking side.

For example once two classmates told me they hated our instructor's accent (a US regional one and we are in the US, so it was a rude but not xenophobic thing to say). And that a case study we discussed-- that I knew from working in the field was on point-- was the most boring thing ever! It sounded like they had made a hobby of trash talking her and couldn't even see the value in her class anymore.

People have told me more legitimate stuff about my advisor, like that they find him disorganized and hard to get hold of. All I can really say to that is that I've worked with a lot of medical researchers, he's very normal, and getting the attention of people like that is a skill you need to learn to work in this field. It would be like someone complaining their emails never get a response but they've never tried calling or visiting. So maybe I also hate it because I don't want to be in the position of lecturing or correcting people.

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Definitely agree with trash talking other students. We just got a lab volunteer (undergraduate!) in the lab I'm a Tech in after another volunteer left. The last volunteer wasn't very successful on the project, not having much research experience beforehand, so we put the new guy on it.

One day he came up to me to ask "so what did dumb-nuts do wrong last time?" and a variation of "how he f***ed up" -- this was all before he had even started on ANY experiment, much less the same project, and he was already cursing previous lab members who I had mentored.

Basically he seems to have this entitlement to the lab -- speaking out at lab meetings making suggestions he isn't really entitled to make since, you know, he hasn't done any work yet with this confidence of coming to graduate school here after he graduates.

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This is generally a gendered problem, but I really dislike it when a new (male) grad student ignores, makes dismissive facial/body language, talks over, or makes belittling/dismissive comments about something that another (female) graduate student says during seminar. Sometimes the person being dismissed/interrupted is also male, but the offender is almost never female. This is actually such a big issue in my department that we had a gender task force created two years ago after complaints were registered from a large number of female students, and new policies were created as a result. 

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