Intermezzo

I am just going to give myself 10 min to write this post, so whatever comes out, comes out.

I am in a time crunch over a proposal, which also means that every other facet of my life must demand much more from me than usual.

Over the last several days I spent 1-2 hours every day on a video call with a grad student in a progressively worsening mental-health situation. It ended with me calling (over the phone) the crisis line on the student’s behalf during one video call, only to realize that the crisis line is bullshit if a person feels absolutely terrible but aren’t actually in imminent danger of suicide. Basically, “Go to emergency room or make an appointment, otherwise have a good night.” Such unspeakable bullshit. Although it shouldn’t have been a surprise; in this country, anything that you don’t pay though the nose for is a joke.

Since the pandemic started, graduate students in my group have needed much more accommodation, understanding, flexibility.

Since the pandemic started, many more students in classes have needed much more accommodation, understanding, flexibility.

I am supposed to accommodate and understand everyone, be all to everyone. I am tired and angry, and it doesn’t seem fair. Do male faculty have to put up with all these incessant nontechnical demands on time and energy? I bet they don’t.

No one is going to renew my grant because they feel sorry for me. I can’t say, “Sorry our papers are slow to come out. Students have been depressed, and I also have kids at home who constantly interrupt, and I have no peace and quiet to work, and god forbid I have my own dips in motivation or energy or health, ’cause I am a mom and a PI and everyone around me requires endless support which I am supposed to provide out of my apparently bottomless reserves, but of course I would never need or want a break, so I understand that you can’t give me one because you need to teach me a lesson on how real scientists work.”

I’m so angry.

11 comments

  1. It’s the season. Most people are feeling like crap now. It will get better. One foot in front of the next. I also wish I didn’t fall into these funks and had more effective ways to self extricate. You are basically superwoman. Remember that. *hugs*

  2. I’m really annoyed by a recent email from our provost several days after we had a few snow days which was basically, “You are mandated to change all these deadlines, even ones that have already passed, been graded, and had solutions passed out and to accept late work even from people not affected by the storm, to a way later date, but oh, you also have to make up any lost time without using extra days and any syllabi changes must be approved by your dean BEFORE the date we’re letting students turn late work in.” As if faculty aren’t also affected by the weather, moreso because they’re more likely to live in town! How about administration showing a little grace to faculty and not just students?

    They keep giving us last minute (or well after the last minute) conflicting instructions too and not explaining until later. And then faculty bear the brunt of it when students are angry or confused. I have one especially obnoxious white male dude who has very strong Karen energy this semester who told me I needed to apologize to the entire class because I made an off-hand comment that he was sending me too many whiny emails(!) when I got yet another one right after class had started and I’d forgotten to turn off my email so it made a loud bong.

    I hope your student is ok. 😦

  3. … and just got ANOTHER email from the provost emphasizing that we need to be nice to our students… professors have been complaining about his previous email but we need to realize that students have it worse than we do. Which cannot be true for every adjunct or history professor at our school.

  4. Ugh. This has me incensed. I taught in person in the fall and am teaching this spring. I’ve had students who were in class both semesters without ever getting sick; it’s not that hard. On the other hand, there were a few covid-positive students in my fall class and now a bunch more in my spring class because they go to fucking parties. They think covid is a joke, then woe is them when they test positive (we have weekly testing) and aren’t allowed in the building, have to miss classes, and now it’s my job to accommodate their absence with extra hand-holding and extensions and whatnot.
    I have a student who enrolled in my in-person section (there’s an online only one) without ever intending to come to lectures (?!) because of fear of covid, acting surprised that there was a second section (?!) when I said maybe they would do better in there, and now is obviously failing and it’s my job to again accommodate, extend deadlines, give endless time and explanations on the HW which the student has no prayer of completing because of being very far behind already… I hate having to always be the buffer for all emergencies/contingencies/cluelessness/irresponsibility.
    And did I say I have a fucking proposal deadline?

  5. I have had a similar experience with a group member. Multiple meetings over weeks to discuss being overwhelmed. The student put up a strong face, but then ended up deciding to leave without finishing degree and project because of mental health issues. It’s devastating for my group, but I am trying to frame that this is not everything. My path may not end up going the way I planned. But how can you get angry or force a student to do something that they mentally cannot handle during a pandemic? We are all at our wits end, but some are more so. I cannot put science before their health. I feel like some of my colleagues may judge me for this and who knows if this will be brought up in tenure, but I’m picking compassion first. Maybe I’m an idiot woman for doing so, as I truly feel your line of “Do male faculty have to put up with all these incessant nontechnical demands on time and energy? I bet they don’t.”

    I don’t know if this will all spell disaster with future grants. But I feel like I’m seeing labs be decimated by flooding, power outages, etc. in Texas and elsewhere. I know of PIs that are stuck in other countries because of Trump’s visa policies. So I’m thankful I don’t have those issues. Seeing other share their challenges during the pandemic makes me feel like we’re not in this alone. But the groups that are doing well/not facing these issues… will they just get stronger while the rest of us are left behind? Will this all be remembered on grant review panels?

  6. I was contacted by the police yesterday doing a welfare check on one of the students in my class—they had a missing-report case filed by his parents. I spent about an hour contactin his lab partners and seeing if they had any information on him. The student had not responded to email or texts from his lab partner for several days—his parents had been the last to see him (on Sunday). The missing-person report has now gone out over all the media channels.

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