Sunday, December 28, 2008

Here I am

Yeah, so I don't know what's going on with me and the blogging of late...I just don't seem to have much to say. There's plenty of drama, but I seem to have made a move away from using this as a tell-all space...My feelings of self-consciousness have finally won out.

So I've been in Home Region. I've been Here, I've been There, I've been in three different cities in the last week-and-a-half. Stayed in five different places. Gotten to know my new piece of luggage really, really well.

Christmas cheer? I have none. (And I don't say this in an embittered kind of way...I just don't feel it...I'm okay...) Though Christmas Day at my mother's was surprisingly nice. A fun Christmas dinner.

Now I've spent the weekend at R's, taking care of the cat. She's away. On Tuesday, my birthday, I move over to A's for the last four days of my time out here.

I've been doing a bit of work. Some of it involved grading for the PhD student described here. Hir final paper. Oy. A disaster. A disaster, I tell you. Over the course of this Directed Studies with hir, I have become more and more appalled by the level of the work. This is someone who needs some undergraduate-level training, I kid you not. And now this paper. It angers me, actually. I don't understand why this person was admitted to this program. And I feel as though hir work and potential were misrepresented to me - someone heavily edited hir proposal, that much is clear. It had a level of sophistication that hir work doesn't have, not at all.

In reading all of this person's work, and now the paper, I've been fighting a certain level of...revulsion. For this person makes some egregiously essentializing moves in hir writing...really egregious. In fact, hir project seems to be based on this. The fact that zie doesn't know better, after the Directed Studies, than to continue to peddle these assumptions, this worldview, is very upsetting to me. I feel as if I may as well have not conducted the course, since clearly zie got nothing from it. What good was the feedback I gave hir? What good was a whol ehost of readings that problematized these assumptions (along with some that reinforced them)? And it's that old thing...fine, you and I can disagree on this issue, as long as you back up your position with thoughtful marshaling of evidence from the literature in the field. But no. Noooooo. This person has naturalized this position so deeply that it wouldn't even occur to hir to treat it as anything other than a given. This does not an intellectual make.

And so I become extremely emotional. Enraged. And this is not good. I haven't let my emotion dictate hir grade on the paper or anything. The paper was terrible enough, aside from the awful essentializing, that I didn't bring it down on that count alone. But it makes me wonder about being on this person's committee. I need to get off. I feel that the work is so profoundly flawed that I don't want to have anything to do with it. This worldview, and the uncritical way it is being espoused - reproduced over and over and over again as if it is 'fact' - is too disturbing to me. I find it problematic that anyone would support this work, actually. But that's not my problem. My problem is that I need to get off, lest I fly into a murderous rage every time I read even a sentence of hirs. I can't be a suitably objective judge of the work. This is an intellectual issue - sure it is, because zie is not providing sufficient (or any) justification for this position. But it's also an emotional issue for me, as I am implicated in what zie is writing about. In fact, I implicitly become a "bad person" because of where my life fits vis-a-vis what zie is working on. Shudder.


Brigindo said...

It definitely sounds like you need to get off the committee and quickly. I haven't tried this (yet) but have wondered about telling a student: "You don't want me on your committee." I'm not quite sure how to say that my expectations are going to be detrimental for you finishing but I think that's a valid statement.

Dr. Crazy said...

I'm not sure what your relationship is with the person chairing the committee (I gather not you? I hope not!) but if it's good, you might have a chat about your concerns with that person, so as to have backup in dealing with this student. From what you describe about this student's lack of critical awareness, zie won't necessarily take the poor grade on the directed study as a strong signal that you shouldn't be on the committee, even if you use that as evidence if you follow Brigindo's approach. In other words, if I were in your position, I would want support in the decision if it's possible to get it. That said, I think that it's entirely reasonable for you to step down from the committee, and better to do it sooner rather than later - not only for your own piece of mind but also for this student.

Belle said...

Crazy has a great plan. I would document everything and then approach the chair, lay it all out and say you're not prepared or wiling, given the evidence (which you've just presented). The student should have been told that long ago; nobody is doing hir any favors by continuing the charade. Well, if zie is paying tuition, somebody's pocketing that I guess.

Bottom line: get the hell out of the situation.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Crazy's plan is a good one. and you are not obliged to sit on anyone's committee. It seems to me that the point of the committee is to support the student in getting the doctorate done and done well. If you are not the right person to do that, then the student needs someone else. And so does the department, because they have an interest in the student completing successfully. (though I agree that it seems weird that such a lack of critical ability would not have been noticed pre-admission)