Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seminar Blues

I gave a talk last week about my research.  It seemed relatively well received at the time, and the majority of the feedback I've received has been very positive.  Since then, I've heard that a faculty member, with whom I thought I had a good relationship, threw me under the bus while discussing the talk with my advisor.  Apparently this person took exception to how I framed some of my review of the literature and concluded that, for this reason, my hypotheses must be unsubstantiated and/or incorrect.  If this were an accurate criticism I wouldn't mind so much, nor would I mind so much if s/he had leveled this criticism to me in person rather than by proxy through my adviser.

Communication in academic departments is fantastically complicated.  On paper, there really aren't a lot of rules for who should communicate what to who (and how).  Furthermore, the rules that do exist are generally completely ignored.  This results in a huge amount of stress, especially on grad students who are under a tremendous amount of pressure but whose concerns are most often pushed aside or outright ignored in favor of those of more senior personal in the department.

Luckily my situation is a relative non-issue.  The complaint was dismissed by my advisor and I'll face absolutely no consequences.  I'm mostly just annoyed that the complaint even reached my advisor at all.  Usual (unofficial) protocol is that problems (especially relatively minor problems) are leveled at the student first, with the students advisor being left out unless the situation is serious.  My advisor controls a large part of my future, so I'm really not happy that I was heavily criticized in front of her without an opportunity to defend myself.  Not only is this a breach of protocol, but its unconstructive.

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