Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Must Have Lunch

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.


Anonymous said...

Do you think he has a blood sugar disorder or something? I have one and I know that days where I can't eat lunch until really late, I start feeling pretty ill etc - so I actually do try to plan my lunch if at all possible. But even so, if he has a 90 minute window, he can probably scarf down lunch in 30 minutes, leaving an hour to meet with you... strange.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

You are a sick fucke with your bizarre interactions with the people who are supposed to work with you. If the motherfucker says he isn't available at X time, who the fucke are you to question the shit. Especially given that you are giving him the "opportunity" to be an unpaid slave in your lab, without any real status.

Alex said...

Who is she to question the shit? She's the person that he has stated a desire to work with, the person whose schedule is at least as constrained as his, and he couldn't even clear a portion of a 90 minute window allocated for lunch.

GMP said...

Hehehe, CPP predictably shows up to let me know what a Spawn of Satan I am.

feMOMhist said...

ok maybe I'm crazy but I've have axed the kid immediately. How committed can he be if he can't show up for a meeting? Unless there is some religious imperative that escape me (heck even my kid's diabetic friend grabs her snack on the fly if she is feeling shaky) I just don't get this at all.

Anonymous said...

He may have a religious reason, he may have a health-based reason, his SO may be forcing him to do something, heck he may be on a date. In any case, there is absolutely no justification for jumping to conclusions about his future performance based on his not being able to attend a single meeting.

Let's recap a bit, shall we? The poor fucker isn't being paid anything in return for the privilege of working with you. He was given a 90-minute window to meet with you and a notice of less than two days. He couldn't make it for whatever reason that is really none of your business. Now he's being compared to your worst student ever? All because he happens to be from the same country? Are you racist or crazy or what?

Anonymous said...


Did you just suggest that you fire a student because s/he couldn't make a meeting scheduled at a notice of less than two days? You ARE crazy.

Anonymous said...

@GMP, no comments on your banter with CPP, but although I do admire and respect you, I really hope I never have to work with you or someone like you. You seem like one of these people who are rather selfish, unreasonably demanding and prone to jumping to the wrong sort of conclusions without justification. Note none of this precludes being very smart and reasonably good at your job.

Actually, you remind me of my girlfriend's advisor. That bugger is plain crazy but poor P is stuck with him (though not for long now :-D). I'd have thought you were him except that he's a him.

Cherish said...

I wouldn't make any assumptions. I don't what your campus is like, but getting a lunch during certain times on my campus takes no less than an hour. The student may have an appointment, they may have had other plans, they may have medical reasons for not doing so. (I can't skip lunches...I'm hypoglycemic, and I'm really not a nice person to deal with when I get low blood sugar. Of course, there are probably times I can't use that excuse.) ;-) In any case, the student obviously felt it was fairly important, and I'd guess that it has no bearing on how important or interested he is in working with you. Sometimes schedules just don't work out.

Alex said...

I feel just the opposite of some people here. I understand the importance of personal time, and I think GMP does too, but if somebody has been itching to start a project for a while, and the chance comes along to meet with somebody whose schedule is tightly constrained, you should either clear your schedule, offer a good excuse, or plead a private circumstance but do something to demonstrate good faith. If he said to GMP "I only have 90 minutes between classes and in between there's something personal that I have to attend to and can't move around", and then followed up with some good faith offer (e.g. offering a wide list of alternatives for a future meeting, or pointing to things that he'll do to get going on the project even though he can't meet, or asking if he could get information on the project from somebody else in the group), I would say that he's being reasonable. Sometimes stuff happens. And if he was working with her for a while, and now and then had to reschedule, hey, it happens. But when somebody is trying to help you hit the ground running, and their schedule is tightly constrained by maternity leave, you should be accommodating.

Reverse the situation: What if a female scientist were on maternity leave, only able to come to campus sporadically, and on the rare day that she could make it to campus her male PI said "Sorry, I can't meet with you to discuss [important project that she's been trying to keep going while on leave], I only have 90 minutes for lunch"?

Anonymous said...

If you knew how much this made me chuckle you would treat yourself to a full day scoffing chocolates and taking long naps on that sofa.

GMP said...

He couldn't make it for whatever reason that is really none of your business.

You seem like one of these people who are rather selfish, unreasonably demanding and prone to jumping to the wrong sort of conclusions without justification.

you remind me of my girlfriend's advisor. That bugger is plain crazy

What's funny in threads like these is that it always comes across that advisors can really do no right. We're supposed to give the students attention, money, ensure they graduate quickly, publish well, and get good jobs. At the same time, we are supposed to do all that but we are not allowed to expect anything from the students -- we cannot apply any pressure, we cannot require that they work a certain number of hours, or that they appear in the lab during certain hours, or tell them they need to work more, or tell them that they need to do something differently, or require them to follow literature, etc.

An "ideal" advisor is supposed to let the student do whatever they want whenever they want, no pressure, like spoiled children. And then, when the outcome of the PhD is not what the student envisioned (it takes forever, or no publications etc), of course it's always all the evil advisor's fault, the student couldn't possibly have any part in it.

This is all quite funny.

Alex said...

I know that he isn't paid, and that isn't a completely trivial factor, but what if a student brought his/her own fellowship to the group, and hence didn't get a salary from the PI's grant? should that student be able to blow off meetings with lame excuses?

Anonymous said...

It's an odd response from the student but given his persistence and enthusiasm it does make you think there's something else going on - a medical issue being the most likely. I wouldn't let one incident be a deciding factor but of course a repeated pattern would be problematic.

NonUS FSP said...

I was already concerned by the description of the student's insistence on working with you, and this incident only adds to it.
Could it be that he has a reason to want access to your lab? Special computing facilities?
You could have someone watch over him. In fact, given the constraints on your time, perhaps have some graduate student or post-doc co-advise him?

Anonymous said...

>An "ideal" advisor is supposed to let the student do whatever they want whenever they want, no pressure, like spoiled children. And then, when the outcome of the PhD is not what the student envisioned (it takes forever, or no publications etc), of course it's always all the evil advisor's fault, the student couldn't possibly have any part in it.

Uh, no. But a little respect - in *both* directions - goes a long way.

I'm not sure I can read this blog anymore; my own Ph.D. is way too recent, I am thankful I no longer have to deal with skewed advisor psychology, and don't care to read about it in my "spare" time.

hush said...

His behavior is a red flag. He's violating the unspoken American social custom that first impressions/first days on the job matter a great deal. And there is a good reason it all rubs you the wrong way: because this is, very often, the first step of that certain "I'm an untrustworthy flake" pattern we've all seen a million times. You're worried it will cost you more time and hassle, which is completely understandable.

Anonymous said...

not a firing offense, but definitely weird. i don't know why anyone is jumping gmp. needing 90 minutes for lunch is inexplicable under the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I also wouldn't jump to conclusions. I remember having 90 min for lunch between classes in college, but over 30 min of that was spent walking to and from class, a quick lunch required at least 30 min in the crowded cafeteria, and not eating before a four-hour afternoon lab was not an option. In addition, as others have noted, you gave him *two days* notice. If he's the typical overcommitted type, he might have 5-10 hours in his week for you, but probably not at short notice.

This does strike me as rather imperious of you. My undergrad, PhD, and postdoc advisers, all at top-notch institutions, were generally more understanding in scheduling meetings.

Alex said...

If I have an important lunch meeting I do without the cafeteria fast food and pack a sandwich, precisely to avoid long walks and long waits. This isn't nuclear rocket surgery.

Anonymous said...

What Alex said- has he never heard of brown bagging it? I have a friend who is a fellow grad student who has some sort of disorder, and he has to eat at precise time intervals or else he gets extreme nausea and/or can't digest the food properly. He let's people know about his condition, and makes sure they're okay with him bringing food and eating during the meeting or whatever.

So I'd be weirded out by this excuse as well. I'd give him one more shot, but if he pulled a lame excuse again, then no desk for him.

Anonymous said...

GMP, I'd suggest telling him that because you are on leave, it is hard for you to find time to meet with him. Ask him if he'd like to bring a sandwich along while you two meet over lunch to discuss some research problems.

This meeting aside, this incident and his insistence certainly raises some red flags in my book. Maybe he doesn't quite understand yet how valuable faculty time is and how to behave with faculty and what the expectations are. Many students don't, particularly at an early stage. But you may want to make sure he does soon enough -- maybe put him on a project with one of your other grad students, so that they could talk, and he could watch the other person and figure some of this stuff out?

Massimo said...

GMP, I know what being an advisor entails so, far from me wanting to judge or dispense unsolicited advice. But, as a blogger and blog reader, I have to tell you, if one who does not know you stumbles on your post, and reads:
"This student has been extremely insistent to meet and I have been blowing him off" ... "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 ? "
you just do not come across terribly well. Just my opinion, no judgment implied on my part.
As far as I can tell, the student made the sole mistake of giving you a reason, when none was needed -- he should have just said "sorry, I cannot".

Doc said...

Ooooo. I agree with Massimo as this was not your best blog moment.

It's easy to jump to conclusions. It's harder to investigate and prevent later problems. Maybe have a post-doc report back on this kid's activities. I've certainly had my share of bad advisees, but I refrained from judgement until they had dug themselves a nice big hole to sink into (or redeemed themselves and became great students).

Anonymous said...

Why do some advisors seem to think their students are on a leash or something? Poor guy hasn't even started working in the lab yet! -and you're upset he can't make the *next-day* meeting you just called for him. Maybe he has classes until 12 and a lab class 1:30-5:30 and waiting until 5:30 for lunch is not an option. Undergrads have dorm rooms and not apartments, and are on prepaid meal plans and have to battle crowded cafeterias at lunchtime to get food... which can be unusually time-consuming. (And students are poor, especially when you don't pay them.) Maybe his mom and dad are in town tomorrow and he's meeting them for lunch. Maybe he's on the newspaper staff and they've got a deadline and he's already committed to being there for lunch tomorrow. Maybe he needs to hit the post office between classes tomorrow to send a birthday gift to his grandmother for her 80th birthday. My point is, if he can't make a meeting on a day's notice - and he doesn't even really work for you yet! - he did have the right to make other plans for his lunch break, whatever those plans may be. Bottom line is, he already has a commitment, but apparently hasn't learned the adult art of "Sorry, but I can't make it tomorrow", full stop. Give him a second chance.

Seriously though, why do advisors think that students are nothing but their minions without lives of their own? Would you demand that one of your professor colleagues drop everything and meet with you tomorrow on one day's notice, in a four hour window? And be this upset if the professor said he couldn't make it tomorrow? And then compare him to another professor you didn't like because they are from the same *country*?! (Talk about racist!) I didn't think so. I mean, seriously. Just because he's a student doesn't make him subhuman, he's not sitting around waiting in his little storage unit for you to pull him out when you need him.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps he doesn't realize that it's really hard for you to get to campus most days?

I totally get why this rubs you the wrong way.

And I know what it's like when you feel like you are working your ass off and going out of your way for people, and your are trying to manage a million different things, and then you ask someone to do one simple thing and they won't do it because it's a minor inconvenience for them. It is maddening. That said, I suspect he just doesn't have the perspective you do, and doesn't realize all of the things you are dealing with. I would gently ask him to bring a sandwich and meet with you anyway, as someone else suggested.

Another Anon said...

"As far as I can tell, the student made the sole mistake of giving you a reason, when none was needed -- he should have just said 'sorry, I cannot'."

Bingo! Remind you of another recent discussion on this blog? Really, the irony is killing me....

Anonymous said...

To those commenters suggesting she ask him to bring a sandwich and meet with her anyway - so you're suggesting something like this:

GMP: "I want to meet with you tomorrow at this time."
Student: "Sorry, I can't make it then."
GMP: "Yes you can. Bring a sandwich and we're meeting then."

Since when is being an advisor an excuse to fundamentally disrespect another person's life and schedule, even if the other person is - gasp! - "just" a student? Especially someone you're supposed to mentor on the road to independence.

Anonymous said...

"To those commenters suggesting she ask him to bring a sandwich and meet with her anyway - so you're suggesting something like this:

GMP: "I want to meet with you tomorrow at this time."
Student: "Sorry, I can't make it then."
GMP: "Yes you can. Bring a sandwich and we're meeting then."", I was suggesting that she ask if it is possible to meet over lunch, or if he can find some way to make it work. It is not unreasonable to at least *ask* if he can find a way. If he says no, then fine.

The only irony here that I am seeing is this: he wouldn't take "no" for an answer when he wanted to join her group. Now some of you are suggesting that she take "no" for an answer about lunch. There is absolutely no harm in GMP pushing back about this one more time. At the very least she will get some clarity about whether he really cannot meet or if he just doesn't want to be minorly inconvenienced.

Requin said...

I find the reactions here to be very bizarre - I totally get why GMP has been unable to schedule meetings with this student (given maternity leave). Also, the blog entry seems to be about potential - *potential* - red flags that this student is throwing up. I got the impression that GMP was not doing anything about it other than filing this (admittedly odd) incident away for future reference, and that she would wait to see how things pan out with this student. I'm surprised at all of the hypercritical reactions. Have you never worried when a new student shows signs that he/she might be an enormous time suck, for which you'll have nothing to show? Hell, I do, and I don't have time for it these days. I am willing to give students the benefit of the doubt for quite a long time, but at some point, I can't keep allocating my time to students who aren't working out for whatever reason. It takes time away from the students who are working hard, from my research, from my teaching, from other service, from my personal life... Life is too short.

jenny said...

What Requin said about the virulent comments - huh? Having had many students waste my time, having been on maternity leave and knowing how hard it is to schedule a full day of meetings in such a case, I understand (and share) GMP's expectation that her students will set very high priority on these meetings. Most very busy, high-profile advisers that I know have that expectation. Heck, I even worked with the nicest, but busiest man on earth for my (highly-independent) postdoc, so when he wished to schedule a meeting on Saturday at 8 am I made sure I was there if I was in town at all.
My feeling is, however, that this student just has no freaking clue how busy a professor is and is a bit of a blockhead. I would tend to reply to his out-to-lunch-message that well, then I won't be able to meet with him for three weeks or something of that kind. Most likely he won't take the hint and at some point you'll need to spell out to him that really, you don't have a lot of time and he should respect that. Is he worth your energy to spell out the etiquette of the adviser-student relationship when you didn't want the guy in the first place? Probably not.

Alex said...

Say a female student or postdoc is out on maternity leave. She is still doing a bit of work from home, but is not on campus regularly. She comes to campus one day to talk to some collaborators, and her male PI refuses to spare a portion of a 90 minute opening on his schedule because he needs to eat lunch. It is not easy for her to make a trip to campus while the baby is so young, and she wishes her PI would be more accommodating. She doesn't feel supported.

How many people here would side with the PI?

Anonymous said...

Maybe having a good lunch break is a good sign.

I always take about 1hr off and have a nice lunch. This gives me the energy to be productive until dinner time. In top american universities this can be seen as odd, but I do it anyway, often citing the episode of Fermi breaking for lunch during the test of the Chicago pile:

Another Anon said...

@Anonymous Nov 17, 1.24 pm:

If you don't see the irony, then go read GMP's post "Random Irritations -- Episode III."

And if you still don't get it, feel free to consult Meriam-Webster.

Anonymous said...

Another Anon @ 9:29 PM -- yeah, claiming not to be able to meet with your new adviser because you need 90 min for lunch is totally the same as going to a grant review but not being to stay the whole time because you have to get back to your 3 kids plus husband. Long lunch vs family obligations -- totally the same.

Another Anon said...

The larger point, Anonymous@10.08, made several times in the comments to that post, is that people don’t have the right to judge how others spend their time or schedule their lives. You don’t have the right to say, “spending time with my kids is more important than you making your basketball game, so you, childless person, have to work late again.” GMP’s meeting coordinator might think, “what’s the big deal, the father’s with the kids.” GMP thinks, “what’s the big deal, skipping/postponing lunch.” But she doesn’t know *why* the student needs to do this.

As I said, Massimo is totally right: The only mistake the kid made was in providing a reason, when he simply should have said, “I’m sorry, I can’t make it.”

GMP said...

Another Anon: Massimo has a good point and has been consistent about emphasizing it: when you offer people a reason for something, be ready to have it judged and/or dismissed.

Having said that, the question is which interactions are such that a statement "Sorry, I cannot make it" is sufficient and acceptable. I do not think it is universally OK to not give a reason. If a relationship is that of equals, such as between two faculty colleagues, not disclosing details about why you can't meet is fine. But, when the two people have very disparate positions in a hierarchy and/or one has some power over the other, then it may not be a good idea for the person lower on the totem pole to appear dismissive, which giving no reason does. For instance, I do not feel that simply blowing off a program manager, who I would like to continue to give me money, without an explanation is acceptable. I find it less acceptable and more disrespectful than offering an explanation (and taking the risk of having its validity judged).

Similarly, I find it more disrespectful/ less acceptable if the student just says "Sorry, can't make it" to an advisor he'd pestered for months when said extremely-pressed-for-time advisor attempts to schedule a meeting, than it is to offer a lame or weird excuse.

Obviously, people's mileage may vary.

Anonymous said...

we cannot apply any pressure, we cannot require that they work a certain number of hours, or that they appear in the lab during certain hours, or tell them they need to work more, or tell them that they need to do something differently, or require them to follow literature, etc.

I don't know what you mean by "applying pressure", and the rest appear to be fair game to a certain extent provided they're done in good faith.

Good job extrapolating from not acting mad over being unable to meet you at a very specific time on short notice to all of the above and giving lots of yourself pity points, though.

CAPTCHA: monste

Anonymous said...

BTW, there was a perfectly reasonable way to handle this situation. Write to the student explaining that you are very busy and also have a time slot free for a meeting on that day and could you (the student) try to find a way to meet during this window because you don't know when you'll be able to meet next. You could encourage the student to bring his lunch and eat it with you.

If the student blew you off after that, that MIGHT be a POTENTIAL red flag.

Blogging about this was never a good idea and seems rather unprofessional to me.

Namnezia said...

Wow, I'm surprised that such an inconsequential post caused such furor. I mean the grad student knows GMP is on leave and can only meet a very limited time, so its reasonable to expect some flexibility. I think its reasonable for her to ask him to compromise and to expect him to do so. He can just bring his lunch to the meeting.

GMP said...

Blogging about this was never a good idea and seems rather unprofessional to me.

No graduate students were harmed during the making of this post.

Btw, Requin and Jenny summed it up well. The fact that I am writing on a pseudonymous blog about a strange episode with a student in no way affected said student. He will still get his chance to prove himself. And I bet most advisors are very sensitive (I sure am) to potential red flags that a student will be a failure. Advisor's opinions on students are not formed in vacuum; advisors are human, they have past experiences on which they base their decisions (as in "once bitten, twice shy"), they have all sorts of impressions about students, and not all of them perfectly nuanced or devoid of all bias. (Again, see about advisors being human).

Anonymous said...

This post, strangely enough, confirms a point of view I am slowly coming to: never really inconvenience yourself for a student. They don't appreciate it and and they don't make the most of the opportunity. It's not worth it.

Some things are important, like recommendation letters, etc., and I'll make sure to get those done. Other things, not so much. My new policy: if I had decided to go to the gym at 4 and a student can only meet at 4 that day, we'll meet next week. 3 out of 4 times the student doesn't show up and emails later to say, well I figured things out so I decided not to come. And what did I do? Sacrifice my one hour of exercise over four days and get really grumpy. It's better if I just prioritize myself first.

Anonymous said...

I'm Anon @9:30 a.m.

My point is mostly that what might seem like a minor logistical shift to us might not be to the student. At my college 10 y ago, I had no options for fast food or brown-bagging anything--there was no student center, my meal plan was for the dining halls, and only a few lucky students had the ability to do food prep in their dorms. I regularly had >1 mile to walk between classes during lunch. My time was carefully scheduled. So was my adviser's--one of our meetings was scheduled for his walk from his office to his car before he drove to the airport to catch a flight.

It's thus not particularly telling to me that he might not want to meet you on short notice. To me, this is a borderline case of "Your failure to plan is not my emergency." Clearly, you are kindly trying to accommodate him in your lab, but he probably didn't think he was signing up for moment's-notice availability. A more informative test would be to see if you can schedule regular meetings (maybe over lunch!) that start more than a few days in the future, and then see if he shows up prepared.

DRo said...

Anon 9:30am: are you implying that with 2 days notice the student really can't figure out a lunch alternative? There's more than one way to do things.

Kids, this whole thing is stupid. If you don't see that his glib response was unreasonable, then you have some growing up to do.

Jenny said...

DRo: hear, hear.

BTW, CPP's comment is nothing short of bullying. If you really are a professor, I am worried about your students. Neither they nor GMP's blog readers need your coarseness, your profanity and your anger. Really, you should to go have your head checked.

Another Anon said...

GMP, I give you credit for recognizing the parallels between the two situations, which apparently eluded Anonymous up-thread. I do hope you realize that one of the reasons you received such a sympathetic response to your previous post is precisely because people in general hate to see the less powerful member of a power hierarchy infantilized or disrespected. I realize that you’ve actually said nothing to the student (“No graduate students were harmed during the making of this post”), but your interpretation of the situation as expressed in this post makes it clear that you have turned into the program manager that you complained so bitterly about before.

“He will still get his chance to prove himself….”

I hope this is true, but I have to wonder, given this post. Advisors are, of course, human; I have always considered the advisor-advisee relationship similar to a marriage in many ways. Marriages don’t work without trust. When you enter into a marriage with the “once bitten, twice shy” mentality, it has a tendency to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My unsolicited advice is this: either give the student a *real* chance, or just end it now, before you waste your time and his.

Thoreau said...

If a grad student can't figure out a way to scrounge up enough food to make it through a meeting and an afternoon class, then Generation Veal has jumped the shark.

Another Anon said...

@Dro: "Kids, this whole thing is stupid. If you don't see that his glib response was unreasonable, then you have some growing up to do."

Wow, talk about infantilization and disrespect!

Jenny said...

Another Anon: truth hurts. Do you really expect a private employer to accept a "90-minute-lunch" excuse?

(Hic - choking on computer-side lunch)

DRo said...

Another Anon,
Here is one reason why the situations are not directly comparable. GMP actually put forth a reasonable compromise -- she agreed to go to part, but not all of the program. Most reasonable adults realize this is a good faith effort. The student did not attempt to make any sort of compromise. A "not my problem" attitude will get you nowhere.

Also, I find that many millenials are obsessed with the idea that they must be respected by everyone at all times. You seem to be one of those people. You really need to get over it. Adults do not go around thinking "so-and-so was disrespectful towards me, boo-hoo." Really, they just want to get shit done and do a good job; and they expect everyone who works with them to do the same.

Another Anon said...

Get a clue, Jenny! As someone with 20+ yrs experience as an engineer in private industry, lunch times and break times (for the union employees who get official breaks) are sacred. It’s not just good business practice, it’s the law – go look it up! And FWIW, I don't give a f*** where you have your lunch.

DRo, you presumptuous twit, how dare you lecture *me* on what it means to be an adult! The adults I regularly interact with understand that different people can have different views on certain topics, and that does not entitle one group to belittle the other based on supposed age. Stop pontificating about millenials and try to add something useful to the conversation by engaging with the issues people have raised, as opposed to throwing around stupid, petty insults.

GMP said...

Another Anon, you are completely out of line here. Insulting other commenters and calling them names is unacceptable. If you submit another comment like that I will delete it.

NonUS FSP said...

The student does not have to "jump to" any meeting suggestion made by GMP.
GMP does not have to supervise him, either.

In my experience, the graduate students who took the most from me, were the students who felt least thankful to me at the end of their studies.
The students who contributed immensely to our collaboration, were the most appreciative.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous who first suggested GMP ask the student to bring a sandwich along. I must say I find all this angry exchange extremely weird.

I completely understand where GMP is coming from, and I think she is being completely reasonable. If anything, it is very likely that the student does not understand the value of faculty time (many junior students don't) and had he known how busy GMP was and how this will delay things, he would probably skip lunch and go to the meeting. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that he would have felt the kind of anger at the "violation of his personal time" that some commenters are displaying on his behalf. If I were in GMP's place, I'd just ask him if he'd like to bring along a sandwich.

If he refused, no big deal. I'd just be a bit wary and would give him a project I didn't care about too much. :-) But hey, he's the one who brought it upon himself!

Another Anon said...

@GMP: I give as good as I get. Referring to someone as a child in what is a conversation among adults is an insult. But maybe I should add an “e” at the end of all my bad words like CPP so they will pass your smell test.

GMP said...

Another Anon: no, calling one of my commenters a "presumptuous twit" does not pass the smell test.

I give a lot of leeway in what people call me, but I will not have nice people turned off reading my blog and commenting because someone is abusive to them, calling them names. Take a minute to consider why saying "you presumptuous twit" is worse than saying "this is an unflattering observation I have of millenials, you may be one of them".

Having said that, I think you have brought up valid points in this thread. Let's just all calm down so we can all continue to discuss stuff like adults.

Another Anon said...

@GMP: "… this is an unflattering observation I have of millenials, you may be one of them".

That is *not* what DRo said and you know it! Had s/he made that simple observation, I would not have responded the way I did. (That is clear from the fact that I have not insulted others on this thread with whom I disagree.) DRo called me (and others) a child/kid, told me to grow up, and then proceeded to lecture me on the way that “adults” behave – all in a very condescending tone. This is *not* how a “nice” person behaves.

Now if I look at it from the perspective that DRo is your blog-friend and you’re just mad at me because I slapped your friend (even though the slap, in my opinion, was well-deserved), well then, that’s another story….

GMP said...

Another Anon -- you have ended each of your last few comments with a jab at me for telling you that you wrote something insulting. That's a telltale sign of a troll -- acting all upset and wronged when someone tells them they are being inappropriate or abusive. You have been one of the most aggressive commenters on this thread and I think I have been more than patient with you. But I am done now.

Anonymous said...

I have a severe chronic (but invisible to outside observers) medical issue, and sometimes there are unrescheduleable things that are truly no one else's business. When I was in grad school, I did tell my advisor about the general issue and that I would sometimes have appointments, but I didn't tell other faculty I worked with (and, if I had just started with a new person, I might not have gotten to it yet). I'm sure I might have had a few moments in which I seemed rigid or unavailable, but in the long run, I was extremely productive and did high quality work, so it didn't matter and no one ever said a word about it.

Anonymous said...

(oh, by the way, sorry to add another anonymous into the mix, but the private medical issue is even private on the internet. so, anonymous at 5:31 is a new anonymous).

GMP said...

Thanks, Anon at 5:35. You can always post a comment under the option "Name/URL" without giving an URL, just give yourself a temporary name, like Green Bunny or whatever. You don't have to link to your online persona in any way.

Alex said...

If you have a medical issue that you'd rather not discuss, here's a perfectly fine way to decline the meeting:

"Thanks for offering to take the time to meet. Unfortunately, I have class for most of that time interval, and between classes there's something personal I have to take care of and really can't reschedule. Could we schedule another appointment? Or, if you can't schedule another appointment, is there somebody else in the research group whom I could talk to in order to get up to speed on the project?"

This response does the following:
1) Establishes that you have a good reason, that you aren't just being a flake.
2) Follows up the declination of a meeting with an offer to find another productive way to move forward.

Most professionals would respect that response. It's much better than "No, I was going to eat lunch."

inBetween said...

Yeh, you are right this is a stupid excuse and doesn't bode well for this dude. I don't think you are weird at all for being peeved. I would totally have been too.

Alexandra (Ola) Jacunski said...

All in all, I agree with you, GMP. This could definitely be a red flag -- although it could just be a failure in communication. I can't ever imagine turning down a meeting with a PI because of wanting a long lunch, ESPECIALLY if I had just begged my way into the lab.

That being said - remember how you said "once bitten, twice shy" about forming first impressions of students? I can't help but wonder if the student has had a (...I can't think of the word I'm looking for, comparable isn't right...) experience with a PI. What if the PI they previously worked for was extremely demanding of their time and utterly ungrateful for it?

Becca said...

*Don't make fundamental attribution errors- one instance of behavior is not identity.
*I think it would be wise to tell the student you are busy and were somewhat taken aback with his response.
*That said, if I were describing an ideal reaction for someone in your shoes, GMP, I'd say it would be assuming a valid issue is in play (e.g. a medical issue) and not worrying about it. It doesn't do to go into a new working relationship suspicious... self-fulfilling prophecies and all that.
*As long as we're talking ideal, it might have been worth suggesting (not mandating) eating lunch together and even offering to buy him lunch (parents being able to fund you to go to school != ample lunch money).

*I agree with Alex that the student's behavior wasn't ideal and I would try to adopt his approach if I were in the student's situation.

*I also found DRo's behavior to seem presumptuous and condescending (but I wouldn't call DRo a twit, because, well, it would undermine my first point, wouldn't it?)