Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Academic Urban Legends

I've been thinking about doing this post for a while now. The idea is, there are these urban legends that float around in academia for which there is no proof but which nevertheless persist. I figure I'm not the only person sitting at my computer trying to finalize syllabi, so this should be a nice way for people to procrastinate, right? I'm going to start the list, and feel free to post any additions in comments.

Academic Urban Legend (AUL) #1 - That person who went to your grad program in recent memory - but of course who finished before you, or even the people who've been around for years and are still in the program, arrived - and who finished the MA and PhD in three years AND got a job immediately upon defending.

13 comments:

Jenn said...

The student (sometimes grad, sometimes otherwise, depending on the telling) who submits a paper to a prof and is kicked out for plagarism. The paper he or she has submitted was written by the very prof it was submitted to, many years earlier either under a pseudonym or, more commonly, before she got married and changed her name.

Kate said...

This probably isn't exactly what you mean, but it's an academic urban legend in my neck of the woods...

That if you are to be a successful professional scholar, you cannot take action on things you think are morally right. Stories abound of those grad students and junior faculty who have stood up to other faculty or administrators and been kicked out. More stories of women who have filed sexual harassment grievances, only to be shamed into leaving academia.

The thing is, I know some people for whom these legends are true, and some for whom they are not. For those who fought, won, and are now successful academics, the keys were the follow-through and having resource (like a student group, faculty committee or labor union).

Dr. Crazy said...

Anything goes, Kate, no worries.

And I've totally heard that one you described, Jenn!

kfluff said...

How about the one (which may be a version of your #1, Dr. C) where the brilliant over-achieving grad student is a shoo-in for a job at Big Ivy U., but then goes batshit crazy at the interview and ends up driving a cab?

[Ironically, the word verification I'm asked for here is xfimPHD. Spooky.]

Dr. Crazy said...

Ooh! I thought of another one! A version of Kfluff's

What about the one where the over-achieving grad student either graduates with the PhD or leaves the program to become a writer for a primetime drama/a soap opera/saturday night live? And they make millions of dollars and everything?

chutry said...

I went to grad school with someone who qualifies for Academic Legend #1, but he basically had a job waiting for him at the small private college he had attended.

As much as I envied him for that, I don't think I would have wanted the path he chose.

kfluff said...

I hope this one isn't just a product of my grad school--young, not-so-bright-or-hard-working grad student seduces hapless tenured professor and blackmails him into giving her the degree? Comes with two different endings: A) she goes on to use similar tactics to get tenure B) she marries said prof, or better, a different one.

I'm having far too much fun with this.

Salome said...

* Bright young scholar wears something with fur collar to MLA interview and does not get the campus visit because of wardrobe choice.

* After years of trying to maneuver a dual-career hire, academic couple successfully land jobs in same place only to have marriage fall apart within the year.

* Some variation of "I took my comps/ defended my dissertation/ went on campus visits while I was in labor because I didn't want people to think I wasn't a serious a scholar"

USJogger said...

An undergraduate student figured out that if they sign up for the high level graduate courses, no one ever checks prerequisites and no one ever takes attendance and everyone gets A's. Until they accidentally sign up for one with Professor X, who has his students do actual work.

Flavia said...

Love this! Here are some more:

1. Grad student applying for a job has her application sabotaged by a nasty letter from her advisor--with whom she'd only had the best possible working relationship.

2. Grad student/new hire manages to finangle a deal wherein he will be teaching only 1 class per semester, even though the official load at his new school is 2/2 or 3/3.

3. Purely on the strength of his/her personality, a candidate with a degree in one field winds up with a job in another (English to History, let's say).

4. 35 years ago, grad students in English at my institution finished their degrees in 4 years, with no teaching preparation, and emerged from the MLA with 6 job offers. Oh, wait: that one's actually TRUE.

Mel said...

(1) the ABD grad student who received two job offers while actually AT the MLA convention
(2) the grad student who was invited to drinks with two hiring committees at the same time, so met them both at the MLA hotel bar and just kept walking across the room back and forth
(3) the amazing grad student who was the favorite pet of several star profs, got an awesome Tier 1 job, but crashed and burned and didn't get tenure because he was too busy sleeping with his undergraduate students.

Mel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MommyProf said...

Brilliant grad student in math or computer science or something who solves great problem in the discipline and graduates with a 1-page dissertation that is the proof of the problem.