Graduate/Post-doc slavery

John Cherwonogrodzky jcherwon at dres.dnd.ca
Wed Jul 31 09:48:37 EST 1996

Dear Doug Stemke and Nick Landau:
     I appreciate your efforts to tell it like it is. Most of us have horror 
stories about graduate studies and academia. Both the public and we have one 
perception and another once we are embroiled (or boiled) in the Mad Hatter's 
tea party. As Joseph Conrad (?) wrote in the Heart of Darkness "the horror, 
the horror". when I did my graduate studies, there were about 40 students who 
went in but only 20 that graduated. The 20 that didn't make it weren't dim or 
psychotic. A lack of funding, departmental politics, profs ready for the 
"rubber room", course loads or crushing demands for married graduates 
forced them to leave.    What a waste!  Talented scientists, projects with 
potential, heavy grant investments that amount to little, theses gathering 
dust on the shelves - all casualties on the academic dung heap.
     During this trial by ordeal, many graduates in the same department didn't 
know what I was talking about. They had good funding, they had an excellent 
supervisor, and they had support for career development. 
     After I graduated, I tried to do something about the situation without 
success. Graduates fell into 2 categories. Those that passed didn't want to 
criticize anyone lest it compromise their position or label them as 
"trouble-makers". Those that failed were either embarrassed or "stressed out" 
and wanted to put this out of their minds. I had to beat a retreat as it was 
obvious that I was the only one complaining, the only one stirring up trouble 
and obviously a crank.
     It seems that this is universal as there was a chap in Germany also 
concerned, also asking the same questions.

     I've noticed that any minority group trying to get basic human rights 
usually gets this by a moral effort by the majority (i.e. action within their 
group is usually a disappointment with too much in fighting). I don't know 
when or if this will ever happen.

     Take care....John cherwonogrodzky  

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