Posted by: thediygeochemist | August 9, 2010

my buddy

My department has a “buddy” program which matches incoming grad students with people who know the ropes. This is a great program from the administration’s point of view, because it keeps them from being bombarded with questions like, “When is the department’s orientation?”

I didn’t take too much advantage of this when I was a newbie; I think the only thing I asked my buddy was which areas of town were too terrible to live in. But now the tables are turned and I am buddying an incoming student.

I met this girl when she visited as a prospective student, and I really liked her as a person. As her buddy, however, she seems to be a little bit…clingy. For example, she asked me to walk her through the process of registering for classes. (This is done online, and I thought it was pretty straightforward. But I guess she couldn’t figure it out.) She has asked me to deliver her housing application to the appropriate office. And so on.

I think the hardest question she’s given me, though, is the following: “My temporary advisor is Dr. X. Do you know him?”

Ah, yes. I know him. I love, like, or at least respect and admire, every professor in the department, except one, and that would be my buddy’s temporary advisor. I think he’s a pain in the butt. My best-friend-at-grad-school is Dr. X’s student, and she thinks he’s the world’s biggest jerk.

I spent a long time agonizing over what to say to my buddy. Finally, I emailed her back to say that I didn’t know him well, but I knew of him. And I said no more. I didn’t want to bias her opinion of him: she will be finding out soon enough that he’s a bastard. But I still find myself wondering if I took the wimpy way out, if I should have given her the heads up.

If you’re a current grad student, what would you have done in my shoes?
If you’re an incoming grad student, would you have wanted to know that your temporary advisor was going to be a pain in the butt?



  1. I tell incoming and interviewing grad students who to stay away from. If they choose to disregard and go into a jerk’s lab then that is there problem but at least I never have to feel guilty about not speaking up.

  2. I think I tend to not say that they are a jerk or a bastard, but definitely emphasize an unbiased characteristic of the teacher. I dont exactly know how this teacher is a jerk, but in my dept its that some teachers are on top of everything that you do. If a new students loves people hovering over them, then you telling them the personality of the teacher might make them like them better.

  3. She sounds like a jittery newbie . . . very much like myself. Although she sounds a bit over-the-top, if you ask me. She made you hand in a housing form for her? What are you, her slave?

    I’m an incoming student and I’m not so sure I’d want to really know that my advisor was a prick. Different people can have different relationships. I know some of my favorite professors in my life have been the ones that other people think are total jerks. If she goes in knowing (or at least thinking) he’s an asshole, then maybe she’d never get to have a good relationship with him. However, if she goes in totally clueless, then maybe they’d hit it off and he’d become a great mentor for her.

    Also, this adviser is only temporary, right? So if they don’t hit it off, it’s not like she’s stuck with him forever. But if she’s really as nervous and jittery as you say, then she’d probably start freaking out about her asshole adviser and not enjoy her first moments of grad school. Ignorance is often bliss.

    • I’m not her slave, but she is an international student so mailing things to the housing office takes a lot longer than it would from the US.

      Her advisor is only temporary from the department’s viewpoint but he has a track record of bullying his “temporary” advisees into staying with him…until they get fed up and leave.

      • Yeah, but there are other ways than to bother you, someone who clearly has better things to do. She could express mail it, for instance. Or there is also this wonderful invention called the fax machine. I hope she’s at least thanked you properly for your help.

        As for the adviser thing, maybe what you could do to be nice is remind her that this adviser is only temporary. She can always switch to someone new if she would like to.

        I’m still of the opinion that ignorance might be a good thing in this case, as it’s not something she can immediately change. However, maybe I’ll feel differently in a year or so.

  4. The first thing I would have done is given as much honest information to the incoming student as I could. Unless you are the competitive kind, there is no reason not to tactfully warn a newbie about her impending doom. There are a couple of things I wish my mentor had warned me about, and I told him so. All grad students are pretty much in the same boiling vat of radioactive poison. The least you could do is give someone an honest hand.

    The second thing I would have done is probably not posted about it since she will probably eventually find your blog, unless you are OK with her reading that you think she is [edited].

    BTW I don’t mean to sound overly critical, I have been a fan of the blog for a long time, I just had to speak up about this šŸ™‚

    • Well, you were right about the second thing. I edited to be a little kinder.

  5. […] grad student I was hosting would have been working for Dr. X, who, as I have posted before, is a real jerk. On the way home from the airport, she told me this, and also how excited she was […]

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