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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


Despite the fact that it is not wednesday, I will whine

In the past month, I have seen the man who assaulted me twice on my train. Both times, he was going after another woman (and he got thwarted both times). According to his probation order, he is not to have contact with me. Personally, I consider being near me contact with me. However, according to the DAs office (I just got off the phone with them) he can be near me - he just cannot talk to me or assault me. That is so screwed up. I told the woman that it terrified me each time I saw him and it made me scared he'd go after me again, she said it was his constitutional right to ride the train. I think that is BS frankly. One thing I have become absolutely convinced of in this process is that the perps rights are far more important than the victim's, and that is totally screwed up.

So then I called the transit authority. I told the customer service agent what happened, she said I needed to talk to legal. I told the legal person what happened, she said I needed to talk to the claims department. I started to tell the claims persoon, and she cut me off and asked if I wanted to make a claim. I said I didn't know what it would mean to make a claim or how that would help. She siad someone would call me in 10 days and ask me questions. I said that I didn't know what that meant though - that I was trying to figure out how I could get this guy to stop going after women. The bitch (sorry) just repeated over and over that someone would call and ask me questions. I kind of lost it and said I had no idea what that meant I just needed help with this situation, and she said, "What do you want me to do?" and I hung up on her. Very mature, I know, but I'm SICK of this.

I was awoken this morning by another potential shrink. I felt interrogated by her on the phone - she asked where I went to school, why i was kicked out, etc., etc. She then said she couldn't do a low fee slot ($50.00 is what I said I could do), but coudl see me for $80.00 an hour. Now, if someone has just lost their funding in grad school and has no idea what they are going to do now, how can they pay $80.00 an hour? She then said she would be willing to see me for $50 a week for a couple weeks as with the goal being to find me a job so I could pay her more. I felt uncomfortable with that (and her interrogations) and I turned her down. I understand where she is coming from - but I feel like she didn't really get that that might be a set-up and that although I am thinking about jobs and money - the issue feels so much huger than that and I feel like I can't commit to just focusing on getting a job - I'mm far too overwhelmed and distressed right now - and that's what I need help with. Frankly, I feel like I have no future anymore and that is why I need therapy right now - I don't need career counseling.

I did find a job I'm interested in - and I contacted the agency to find out the deadline for the job (as there was none posted) and they just emailed me back and said it was still open. But, I need a deadline! I have to create a resume (as opposed to a lengthy vita) and write a cover letter and figure out my references and figure out how to explain why it is I am looking for a job. I need a deadline. I feel anxious every day about this as i know I should be working on getting all of that together, but I havev so much other stuff to do. It's weird, for someone who has been kicked out of her PhD program - I sure do have a lot of work and responsibilities to attend to. It's insane, actually.

Tomorrow morning I leave for my mom's house. I haven't told her yet. I am debating whether or not to tall her right now. If I do, we'll have to talk about it, and she will want to discuss it - and I don't feel up for that at all. I don't want to talk over with her why this happened, or what I am goiing to do, or what my plans are. The only way I am surviving right now is by being in denial - or by compartmentalizing it. That's why I don't want to tell shrinks about this over the phone - I can't control thinking about it if I talk about it (esp. if I do so in a way that is not helpful).

And when I talk to people - they get so focused on what I am going to do now. I feel like they have no ability to try to see this from my perspective - to think about how they might feel after invvesting so much into a degree and being so passionate about it - and then having it all crash. I feel like my life is over - but no one seems to understant that - or they don't want to because it makes them too anxious or uncomfortable.

Did any of you read the excellent article on women in science in the NYT on tuesday? There were a couple things I really liked about it. First, it included women in the social sciences. I think a lot of people think that the social sciences are an easier discipline for women - but what is often not discussed is that at least in psych, there are tons of women students, but few women profs. We thus get the idea that we are expendable, that our work isn't as valuable, that we are not valued, and that we have few opportunities for advancement in the field. We have very few role models - and the female profs are often too busy worrying aboout themsleves to be generous mentors. The second thing I liked was the discussion of the importance of mentors. Women in the sciences without a mentor are very vulnerable. We need people who will stand up for us and fight for us. I used to have a person like that, but she left because she couldn't stand the politics (incl. how students were treated) in the department.

These are the issues that relate to why I was kicked out. Here's the short version: My advisor likes "secretary students." She wants students who will do exactly what she says, who are good at picayune details, and who havve no dieas of their own. She likes to tell her students exactly what to do for each and every project, what to hypothesize, how to analyze (her) data, etc. She does this even for the dissertation. I did that for some of my projects, but not my independent research projects - I think it is important to learn by doing and to make mistakes, and to direct oneself - particularly for the dissertation. The diss should be one's independent research project. But that is not her view.

So, for my diss, I did my own thing. I tried to align it with her research interests so she owuld have a buy-in, but I used data that was not hers, and I made it related to the research area I want to be identified as an expert about. And I think this made her unhappy. And in fact the other student who may bbe getting kicked out too has the same advisor and like me has her own ideas.

Along with this, my department decided about a year ago that they needed to be tougher about how long we all stayed. We ALL were taking far too long getting things done - and the department wanted to crack down on this. A year ago, they intituted a system in which we were to petition for extensions if we got behind. So, last year basically everyone in the department had to petition because except for maybe 2 or 3 students, everyone was behind. Unbeknownst to us, if you didn't meet the deadlines in your petition, you could get kicked out. Thus, this past spring 3 students (all female, all women of color/international students) were kicked out because they didn't meet deadlines in their petitions. None of us had any idea that those were the stakes. I got a small extension I think because of my father's death and because of my publication and teaching record. So, I had to have an approved dissertation proposal before winter semester.

I wrote my proposal and kept sending drafts to my advisor. However, I did not know that she hated it and thought it was ludicrous. She just kept sending me feedback, and I kept working to use her feedback to make it better. When I proposed in September, I learned that she and my entire committee hated my proposal. They failed it, but because I handled their criticisms so well, they said I could do a second proposal and turn it in by november 1 (I had a month to create a whole new diss proposal on a whole new topic). My advisor told me not to go off on my own and "spin [my] wheels" and to keep in contact with her.

Two days later, I sent her an idea for a new proposal (i was proud of myself for working so hard and not letting my feelings of having failed get the best of me). I proposed to replicate and improve upon an earlier study by a really good researcher. She told me she needed more info onmy hypotheses before she could say she liked it. I told her that I was concerned about doing that mugh work not knowing if she might dislike it and I might have to start all over again. But, I did that. I worked really hard, read a ton in this new area, and created hypotheses. She said she had concerns about some of them and that I needed theory to back them up. I asked if she liked the idea, and she said she couldn't tell yet. She also told me that she was really busy and would be out of town a lot and thus couldn't give me much feedback or help with it (what???). I went back to work, but was having a hard time. I then asked her for help as time was running out, I was panicking, and I wanted a good proposal. I asked if she had ideas of theories or if she could give me some help with creating better hypotheses. She didn't respond (this was in email). I then went back to work, and created a full proposal and submitted it to her. She said she didn't really have time to read it, but gave me two things to work on with it (both fairly minor). This was the day before I was to turn it in. In the meantime, I had talked to one of my committee members and she seemed very excited by my topic and liked how I was going about it. She advised me to talk to all of my committee members. There simply wasn't time then - and in hindsight, I really really should have done this - but my advisor had told me I needed to be much farther along with my proposal before talking to them. But with a month to write a full proposal, that really was pretty impossible. It really didn't end up coming together until the weekend before it was due.

I turned it in, and she sent me a nice email in which she praised me for having gotten it done, said it was a really good topic, and that it was clear I had done a lot of work. I thanked her for that and noted that i had been beseiged since turning it in with all the things I had meant to include or things i wanted to revise. She told me that happened even to the best researchers.

I felt kind of good after that exchange - it made me feel like she liked it, and that it would be okay.

And then, a week and a half ago, I got the email from her that they had rejected my proposal because it needed too much work for simple revisions as she said I made misinterpretations of previous research, my hypotheses were not good, and my analytic plan was not good. This makes no sense to me still as I worked so hard to stick to the research and to not make any interpretive leaps. I was so careful to make sure my hypotheses were clearly derived from past research. And I used an analytic plan that was created by some really famoous researchers when they did a similar project in a different population. It just doesn't make sense ot me how I could be soo off-base.

I haven't talked with her since then. I'm afraid to. I also feel so ashamed, like I mist be really idiotic to have thought it was a decent enough proposal.

So, because I was supposed to have an approved proposal this fall, my division recommended to the department that I not get any more extensions and that I be dismissed from the program. I have not been back to school since my advisor told me this - so I haven't gotten an official confirmation that this is the outcome the department decided upon (I think I would get a letter to that effect, but I honestly have nodesire to go to school right now).

Huh, I guess that wasn't exactly the brief version.


At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there are tons of women students, but few women profs. We thus get the idea that we are expendable, that our work isn't as valuable, that we are not valued, and that we have few opportunities for advancement in the field. We have very few role models - and the female profs are often too busy worrying aboout themsleves to be generous mentors.

Couldn't have said it better.

As for your particular story, what the fuck is wrong with your advisor? How can she live with herself after treating you so callously and dishonestly, and providing you with absolutely no mentorship?

I know you probably don't particularly feel like thinking about this or fighting it, but if you do: do you have a union, a grievance procedure, or anything that can back you up? A committee member who would go to bat for you? While there are plenty of other wonderful things in life besides academia (likely many that are better), you have invested a lot and it sounds like you're good at what you do and deserve more respect (if that's what you want).


At 5:49 PM, Blogger lucyrain said...

I agree with Kate. Something seems terribly amiss here. You were given an extension in spring to have a completed proposal by November 1 and received one month to develop, write, and re-submit a new proposal? Did you save all the (paultry) correspondence from your advisor? You've received no official notification of your dismissal? You have a colleague who has suffered similar treatment?

If you ever feel it's something you want to fight, you have a case, shrinks.

As for the department deciding it needed to crack down on slow-goers, it should begun the process with an investigation of whether or not the advisors had anything to do with rate of progress. Perhaps asked the question: How long do advisors take to respond to the needs of the students?

At 6:07 PM, Anonymous c'trix said...

I agree - there are grievance processes in place for these very situations.

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Lucy said...

I agree that you have cause to complain, if you want to.
If there's anything I can do to help (listen/talk about non-what-now stuff, or just read a cover letter or anything) let me know. *hugs*

At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a union, right? You should use it. This is unreasonable.

At 8:00 AM, Anonymous zelda said...

To dismiss someone from a program when they are actively engaged in work seems so extreme and unfair. Maybe your division recommended dismissing you but it is ultimately up to your department - and grad studies - however your school operates. You said you wouldn't fight it because you want good refs. I don't think fighting to stay IN grad school will jeopardize any refs. If you can keep it from becoming too personal (i.e., all about your sup) and they see you are willing to take some responsibility yourself, then fighting it shows the school you want to stay in grad school and finish. That's not a negative.

Anyway, i think everyone is feeling really angry about what happened to you. I'm sorry to hear about your situation.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger Eddie said...

I am so sorry to hear this. An advisor should be helpful and should want to make you look good. Doesn't she see that in having to reject your proposal, she looks unprepared? Ugh. :-(

At 8:09 PM, Blogger BrightStar said...

I know it might not help much, but I do think these professors' choice to not support their students makes their department look bad. Ultimately, if they support and encourage their students rather than kicking them out of the program, everyone looks better at the end.

I am so incredibly frustrated for you, Shrinky. This whole situation seems terribly unjust.

At 6:31 PM, Blogger PPB said...

I know you haven't asked for advice, but here it is:
fight this.
It's fightable. It's winnable.
Would the other 2 women join you in this?

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just now catching up on my blog reading, so I'm coming late to this whole fiasco, or, if I may, clusterfuck. I'm so sorry you're going through this.

This is friggin' unbelievable. I can't believe they did this to you. A department needs to make its expectations clear, in writing. My program didn't have a graduate student handbook until after I graduated (when it was six years old), and that, everyone felt, was ridiculous. Does your department have such a document?

As far as fighting it goes, if you want to stay where you are and if you want a degree from that university, then yes, fight it. If you feel it's time to move on to a nonacademic career track, then drop it, but only after writing a tell-all letter to everybody in an important position. That always makes me feel better, especially if they misinterpret the letter to mean I'll be suing. (I'm not litigious, but it's fun to scare people sometimes, no?)

Whatever you decide, best of luck!


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