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Old 08-20-2012, 03:35 PM
 
14,727 posts, read 33,206,968 times
Reputation: 8949

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Academia has some really dysfunctional, out of touch, "ivory tower" types. I can honestly say that, despite getting As in most of my classes, most of my professors in grad school made me uncomfortable. There was something intangibly weird about them. I did NOT feel this way toward my undergraduate professors.

The reason I bring this up is because of the academic trajectory undertaken by some of my friends. I knew some people with undergraduates in business who proceeded to go to work, becoming disenchanted in a few years, and considering graduate work, typically law school or the MBA. They went off to MBA school. They got through, and some had assistantships. They went to work again. Again, they didn't like it. They returned to get a PhD so they could teach business. Visiting the areas where the doctoral students burrowed and the absolutely geeky research they were involved in would require a defibrillator. I am convinced that they did it for the teaching duties. However, the stakes in terms of a dissertation and continued research are high. These were bright and fun people. One can look them up on university websites and all their articles and committee work sounds absolutely dreadful. Not only that, if you look up "Rate My Professors" dot com, you can see student evaluations. Some of my friends aren't getting great ratings, which is surprising because they were approachable and down-to-earth when I knew them. They must have become depressed, or something.

Seriously, there seem to be weird "cultish" issues in the higher rungs of academia where theses and dissertations are required, be it with the students or the professors. Why do some of these people and departments have such bizarre dynamics?
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Old 08-20-2012, 06:34 PM
 
130 posts, read 363,760 times
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So you come here to complain about professors and how they are? What kind of person comes to a forum to discuss that?
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Old 08-20-2012, 06:37 PM
 
14,727 posts, read 33,206,968 times
Reputation: 8949
Quote:
Originally Posted by sharingan99 View Post
So you come here to complain about professors and how they are? What kind of person comes to a forum to discuss that?
I described quite a few dynamics, if you read the whole friggin post. There are power issues, escape issues, elitism issues, psychological issues, and a lot more in between the cracks. I was looking for dialogue. Evidently, you can't offer much in the way of dialogue.

Next...
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Old 08-20-2012, 08:21 PM
 
Location: San Francisco, CA
15,088 posts, read 13,363,807 times
Reputation: 14266
Quote:
Originally Posted by robertpolyglot View Post
Visiting the areas where the doctoral students burrowed and the absolutely geeky research they were involved in would require a defibrillator. I am convinced that they did it for the teaching duties. However, the stakes in terms of a dissertation and continued research are high. These were bright and fun people. One can look them up on university websites and all their articles and committee work sounds absolutely dreadful.
Yes, some of it may be quite dry and boring, especially to a non-technical person who doesn't have the necessary foundation to understand what they are talking about and why it matters. But just because you and I cannot fully appreciate it does not mean that it is all unimportant. There are valid benefits that can come to light from a thorough statistical approach of certain issues. for instance, using vector auto-regression to predict certain economic outcomes might lead to a breakthrough that could one day tangibly affect the ways that banks and markets operate. Much of what you take for granted in economic and financial theory was produced by people who devoted a lot of detailed time to these kinds of issues.
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Old 08-20-2012, 09:43 PM
 
130 posts, read 363,760 times
Reputation: 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by robertpolyglot View Post
I described quite a few dynamics, if you read the whole friggin post. There are power issues, escape issues, elitism issues, psychological issues, and a lot more in between the cracks. I was looking for dialogue. Evidently, you can't offer much in the way of dialogue.

Next...
well if they make you uncomfortable, then maybe it's you, not them.
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:29 AM
 
14,727 posts, read 33,206,968 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sharingan99 View Post
well if they make you uncomfortable, then maybe it's you, not them.
You know, I was thinking the same thing ...
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:18 AM
 
Location: Boynton Beach / Great Neck NY
233 posts, read 716,889 times
Reputation: 190
It's funny that you found the professors okay for your undergrad but "weird" for your graduate degree. Perhaps it's that your perspective has changed in the years between your degrees. You're a little wiser and a little older. In many institutions, faculty can teach at both levels.

As far as committee work, yes that can be dreadful, but no worse than the boring meetings I had to endure in the corporate world.

ratemyprofessor.com is biased toward negative reviews. I have really good reviews on there, but have colleagues that have miserable reviews. Students are more likely to complain on that site than go on the site to leave a stellar review.

IMO a lot of people become college professors to teach and then find out about the research requirement afterwards. I knew about the research requirements before my Ph.D., but even still, publishing and making tenure is a very stressful process. So perhaps your friends are just stressed.

Finally, a LOT goes on behind the scenes in the Ivory Tower and I think that the perception is that being a professor is a cushy job. Yes, we have a lot of freedom with our time, but it's still a job. I have deadlines, work to do, etc.



Quote:
Originally Posted by robertpolyglot View Post
Academia has some really dysfunctional, out of touch, "ivory tower" types. I can honestly say that, despite getting As in most of my classes, most of my professors in grad school made me uncomfortable. There was something intangibly weird about them. I did NOT feel this way toward my undergraduate professors.

The reason I bring this up is because of the academic trajectory undertaken by some of my friends. I knew some people with undergraduates in business who proceeded to go to work, becoming disenchanted in a few years, and considering graduate work, typically law school or the MBA. They went off to MBA school. They got through, and some had assistantships. They went to work again. Again, they didn't like it. They returned to get a PhD so they could teach business. Visiting the areas where the doctoral students burrowed and the absolutely geeky research they were involved in would require a defibrillator. I am convinced that they did it for the teaching duties. However, the stakes in terms of a dissertation and continued research are high. These were bright and fun people. One can look them up on university websites and all their articles and committee work sounds absolutely dreadful. Not only that, if you look up "Rate My Professors" dot com, you can see student evaluations. Some of my friends aren't getting great ratings, which is surprising because they were approachable and down-to-earth when I knew them. They must have become depressed, or something.

Seriously, there seem to be weird "cultish" issues in the higher rungs of academia where theses and dissertations are required, be it with the students or the professors. Why do some of these people and departments have such bizarre dynamics?
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Old 08-21-2012, 08:25 AM
 
Location: Texas
44,257 posts, read 63,958,129 times
Reputation: 73911
I didn't notice much while IN school, but now that I am a decade out of school, and I have friends who have made it into various academic positions (from medical school librarian to full professor with tenure), I have to say, they do have a different view of the world, and I really do believe they are kind of out of touch with the common person.

I love these guys, but you cannot escape the fact that if everyone around you is freakin' smart as hell and shares a lot of your same beliefs, this taints your view of what the 'average' american is really like.

This part I also learned on my own...when I left the world of academia. I actually miss it. The real world is a vastly disappointing place.

It's not confined to the world of academics, though. Someone like my brother (BS EE, MS applied physics, JD) doesn't deal with 'regular' people, either. He has a skewed view, too. And if the only people you hang out with are toothless bible thumpers, you have a skewed view, too.

It's hard to be the kind of person who truly moves between all the different pockets of society and sees the real overall picture of what it's really about.
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Old 08-21-2012, 09:44 AM
 
Location: Cincinnati near
2,627 posts, read 4,271,832 times
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In academia, and for people with advanced degrees in general, you end up associating mostly with other people with similar life choices. While many people were starting jobs and families in their early-mid twenties, academics were delayed by graduate school.

Many lifelong friendships are made during those years. I noticed that I tended to lose contact with my friends that had kids, and I began to associate more with colleagues from my program as well as other friends in a situation similar to my own.

This thread hits a little close to home. I went on a fishing trip a few weeks ago with my closest cousin and a small group of old friends. Of the six of us, there were two professors, a doctor, a vet, an aerospace engineer, and a lawyer. If you include our wives then throw in a clinical psychologist, another lawyer, and a chemical engineer. However, we didn't sit around and smoke pipes and philosophize about esoteric topics, we drank beer, fished, and listened to baseball on the radio. I think we were just a regular group of guys doing a fairly regular activity. It was handy to have a vet there for when my dog cut her paw, and I did get a lot of free legal advice concerning a huge dead tree in my neighbor's yard near my fence, but otherwise we didn't do anything that I wouldn't do with my friends in college ten years ago.

On the other hand, I have seen dysfunctional departments where every faculty member is an egotistical headcase, and because there are no well adjusted normal people to sit on the search committees for hiring, the 'disease' gets propagated through academic generations. Even if the Dean recognizes this, tenure restrictions and faculty handbook regulations keep them from cleaning house or even controlling the hiring process. As a graduate student I would stay far away from that situation.
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Old 08-21-2012, 10:25 AM
 
Location: Southern New Hampshire
10,009 posts, read 17,870,570 times
Reputation: 35685
Very interesting thread. I grew up in a working-class family and was the first to go to college, then years later I ended up going on to grad school and getting a Ph.D. at the #2 program in my discipline. I say these things just to juxtapose the kind of family I grew up in with the type of people I ended up associating with in grad school. It WAS odd.

Most of my fellow grad students had gone to elite private colleges for undergrad. I hadn't. All of us had gotten great GRE scores; that was THE most important factor in our being admitted that year. (Grad school admissions is a total crapshoot; I got IN to the #1 and #2 programs in my field and rejected by all other programs I applied to.) Virtually all of my grad school classmates had grown up in AT LEAST middle-class families; most had grown up in upper-class families. My point is that this was an odd bunch, not at all representative of the "average person" in the U.S. population. AND ACADEMICS FORGET THAT!!

I LOVED grad school, but I was really annoyed at the pretensions of many of my professors. I especially loathed the Ivory Tower Marxists -- i.e., those who spout Marxism while never having LIVED a working-class or poor life (I especially loathed those who had inherited or would inherit big bucks from their families, and there were lots of those).

I loved doing research, but I have to admit some of the research projects that my fellow students and my professors worked on were SO esoteric I found it mind-boggling. Don't get me wrong, I think that research for the sake of reseach can be fun, but sometimes at big-time universities, you can get so caught up in your tiny, incredibly narrow little world that you forget that 99.9999999999% of people in the world could not care less about your silly little research project -- they are more interested in mundane things like trying to survive.

When I was on the job market, on the flight down to an on-campus interview I had a very nice conversation with a fellow traveler. At the end of the conversation, she asked me what I did for a living. At that time, I was teaching at my grad school alma mater, having finished the Ph.D. a year or two before. After I told her that, she looked at me and said, "You are remarkably down to earth for a Ph.D." I thought that was about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, and I credit my working-class roots for it!
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