Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hey, Asshole: Your PhD doesn't make you a Ph-Deity, you Ph-Douchebag.

Howdy everyone, its been a while! As some of you may or may not know, I work in University Services (which, I freely confess, is what keeps me busy 5-6 days a week). Some of you also know I've done graduate school already. It wasn't until very recently that I was nearly ashamed of this (and i'll tell you why in a minute).

In my capacity, I spend a lot of time assisting students, many of whom are graduate students who are earning their Doctorates. In the process of this, I've coined a few phrases that you may wish to remember for future reference:

Ph-Duh: The enlightened masses of students who, despite their academic achievements, are unable to comprehend basic tasks, such as reading a complete paragraph.
Ph-Dick: A Doctoral student unashamed of rubbing their academic status in your face by doing things such as mentioning "Doctoral student" in their email signatures
Ph-Douchebag: The upper echelon of irritating graduate students who will, in an incredible display of idiocy and absurdity, exhibit the traits of the Ph-Duh and Ph-Dick simultaneously. Although I don't believe in life after death, if there is a personalized hell, it is undoubtedly full of these people.

Mind you - not all of my work is with these classes of students - in fact, many of them are very amicable, and are glad to receive insights from the likes of me (some are very kind when I can fully assist them). However, I guess its true when someone once said that you don't remember the good ones as often as the bad ones. That being said, the worst conversation I've ever had with one of them took place today, and I feel the need to talk a little bit about it.

I can't go into many details about it for many reasons, but here are a few highlights:

1) The conversation started with the student complaining about my response time. We're in a high volume period in my division right now, so that's the nature of the business. From there, I knew it would be a bad conversation but tried to endure.
2) The student requested a status update regarding a standard procedure my office does. When I advised her of a common mistake she made and what the implications were the student exploded. We've been trained for this and warned, but nothing is quite like the real thing (especially when you're an open misanthrope such as myself)
3) When I tried to explain the situation to the student, she would not allow me to speak. On more than one occasion, the conversation consisted of:
"Ma'am, would you please allow me to --"
"I'd like to try, ma'am, but you won't allow me to --"
"Well, ma'am --"
...Apparently, when you become a Doctoral student, you are exempt from basic conversation with people.
4) The student attempted to swing brass by making statements alluding to their great influence, speaking to the fact that 1)they had an attorney, and that 2) my office was being illegal due to her mistake. As someone well familiar with the Law, I was not particularly impressed with what she had.
5) The 'best' part: After explaining to the student what some students have done procedure wise, explaining to the student the entire process for her request, and enduring what even the nicest people would describe as verbal abuse, the student expressed her appreciation to me by saying that she would be in contact with my boss to tell her about what she described as "our little incident."

I'm not the thickest skinned person in the world, and I'll be the first person in the world to admit that. Still, there is a certain threshold which I have for verbal abuse. Once broken, I can become very outraged. However, on this day I felt myself reaching that limit, to the point that I considered walking away from my office and not returning. Such a thing has happened; in fact, a similar conversation occurred yesterday with a male I'd been attempting to assist over the past month. While their frustration is justified (and I can certainly relate having had to go through procedures as a former graduate student in the past), I could not, in good conscience justify treating people in the way I (and countless other people like me) are habitually treated by some of the so called enlightened students.

I don't know whether or not I'll hear from either of these people again - and I'm fairly certain I'll endure a bad conversation with one of them at least once more, as it is the unfortunate nature of my job. To this point, I humbly submit the following thoughts if you're a student so fortunate to earn college education:

1) Wake up. Your accomplishments may warrant you to more respect as having more academic accomplishments than many, but that's it. It doesn't make you smarter than anyone (Teddy Roosevelt was incredibly intelligent and he was a Law School Dropout), doesn't entitle you to any respect as a hard worker (Andrew Carnegie was industrious and didn't come close to finishing college), and doesn't entitle you to treat anyone as if they are below you.
2) Don't get cocky because of your degree either. For every person fortunate enough to have an experience, there are plenty who were certainly smart enough to be there, but didn't have the opportunity. In that sense, you've more benefited from chance than your intellect.
3) Be careful of who you jerk around, because you never know who you you're doing that to. The world is small, and you never know how your rude treatment of one person could impact your interactions with someone else. Also, Karma's a bitch.

For now, I'm going to sit down and reflect on my own sins as a supposed enlightened student... I would feel bad for making some people dumb, but I do that to everyone despite their education, so...


Nashville PhDeity-candidate said...

As a PhD myself, this article deeply offends me. So much so that I had to read it several times to understand just how deeply it offends me. We PhDs work too damn hard checking emai...I mean surfing the web....I mean doing research to have to take crap from "peions" who chose to live "normal lives" Clearly their jobs aren't difficult at all, so it should be done perfectly every time. Meanwhile we should not be expected to bother with petty things like "civility" and "respect for others" because we're clearly working so hard that we can't be bothered with such things.

Now I have to go to my lab and update my myspace page

Anonymous said...

I agree with this. Honestly I could go on for pages about how retarded my University is. My PhD professors who don't reply to emails even after reading my honest questions (and I can tell when they read them in the "sent" folder too).

But then again I have had to deal with the other people who work at the university. The event organizers, and other such people who have to relate to students. A lot of times the idiocy in some of those people are enough to make me spend as little time on campus as possible.

I think Universities over all are just places where you either grow up or not. That PhD student you talk about will find out sooner or later that her temper will not get her far when she leaves university to a real job, or if she has to relate to students as a proff.

Lynda Savell said...

It’s true that there are people who keeps rubbing other people their PhD degree. I think it would be good thesis ideas to let candidate to know what the true meaning of having the degree. Yes, it can be a sense of pride, but over pride can be too much for other.