There is this student who has been emailing me for months, wanting to meet with me and asking to join my research group. He has been very pushy and persistent, which are not necessarily bad qualities. But, I told him time and time again that I didn't plan on taking new students this year and that I was on leave. Never mind, he kept saying, he just wanted a chance to work with me, I didn't even have to pay him right away, his parents would do it the first year. I told him I could not guarantee him funding even next year, but he just repeated that he just wanted a chance to prove himself.
It has been months of back-and-forth via email. This student has been extremely insistent to meet and I have been blowing him off. But then he came up in a conversation with a close, trusted colleague, and the colleague said the student was in his class and seemed to be very interested, asking good questions, and overall to have a good background in our field. So I decided to give the student a shot and we met. I told him I could give him a desk and a computer but that I guaranteed no funding and we'd see how it went from there. This was on Monday. We got him a desk and a key to the lab and discussed briefly his course load, and he seemed most eager to get going on a research project. I had another meeting so we only had about 20 min to talk and I had to leave.
Now, these days I spend very few hours in the office because I am on leave and much more efficient working from home. (I am insanely busy on the grant and paper writing front, it's not like I am eating chocolates on my sofa all day, although that's really all I want to do some days. And sleep). Tomorrow I am supposed to have three meetings so I decided to make the whole day a meeting day. I told the student that I needed to meet with him tomorrow and gave him a 4-hour window between my early-day and late-day meetings to pick a time so we can get him started with a small research project. He responded that he had classes at the beginning and the end of the interval, and that he must go and have lunch between his classes (nearly hour and a half), so he will not be able to meet with me.
Huh? This is from a student who had been pestering me for some of my time for months.
He is not a baby. He will not starve if for once he has to actually postpone his lunch till after the second class. The horror! Not eating exactly at noon! During the work day I eat when I get a chance to eat, it's no big deal. I was under the impression that most busy adults are the same.
This is the second most ridiculous excuse I have ever received from a student for not being able to meet. The most ridiculous one, bar none, is still held by a former student (who eventually left after a MS) telling me he couldn't make the 1-on-1 meeting because he had made a date with some friends to go shop for vegetables! This was in the middle of a work day, e.g. 1 or 2 pm, and was not even an impromptu meeting but rather a scheduled weekly meeting.
Apparently, food acquisition and scheduled consumption are considered to be of top importance by some students. These two students happen to both be international students and from the same country, so perhaps there is a cultural component to all this, who knows... I find these excuses weird and unacceptable. None of my other students from different parts on the globe (including the country these two are from) needed to be told that meeting to discuss research is high priority, so unless they have a class, are sick, or out of town, they should make the time to meet.
The "vegetable shopper" ended up being an extreme disappointment all over, and among other things was caught cheating on one of my exams. We had to redo everything he did for research in the two years with me because I could no longer trust him. I just hope this new student doesn't turn out to be similar. Sometimes a stupid excuse is just that, a stupid excuse... But, if you are a grad student, it's probably not ideal if on day 3 of being with a new advisor you remind said advisor of the worst student they ever had.