Graduate Students

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Nov 16 14:51:08 EST 1995

What is the MAIN EVIL of the American/Canadian
Graduate Student system ? 

The following is a copy of comments from the graduate 
student from India (now in N. American university).
My additional comments are below.  

Dear Sir,

I read an article forwarded by you, regarding 
funding to grad students etc.

In India, at the Indian Institute of Science as 
well as the Indian Institute of Technologies, this is 
how funding is done:

Admission to these places is very tough and is based 
on an entrance exam (for eg. to get into the Masters 
program I wrote a 6 hour entrance exam!) and usually 
for the PhD programs there is also an interview.
So only the top students get in there and it is not
"admission-for-all". Once a student gets in there, 
everything is taken care of: a monthly stipend, 
ridiculously low tuition fees, heavily subsidised food 
within the campus, hostels within the campus, so much 
so that after one spends for all this, we still have 
money left over from the stipend to save!

And when a student gets in, they have the choice of 
which professor to join under: in other words, the 
stipend is directly to them and not to the professors. 

After being in this too-good-to-be-true place 
for 5 years, its difficult to get used to the funding 
situation in North America!


All the above advantages are unimplementable in
the present American/Canadian system. And the main
reason is clear from the above G-student's letter:

"... stipend goes directly to them and not to the
professors.....  (and): ... students have choice
of what professor to join ... " (meaning to 
work WITH a professor X, not "FOR professor X", as 
people used to say here : small [ but implicative ! ]
difference in adjectives).

Why did it happen that in America G-students (and
Postdocs) are almost unexceptionally paid THROUGH the 
specific professor (and hence slaveowners attitudes 
on the part of the latter are encouraged to 
flourish) ? 

I don't pretend to give an exhaustive answer how
this effect came into being at first place, but 
suggest that one reason may be that it is a leftover 
of pre-Lincolnian mentality, which after been defeated 
in social and political sphere, somehow (curiously) 
survived in Academia (!) and is presently endorsed 
and cemented by the entire NSF/NIH/NSERC-plus funding 
machinery of "proposal peer evaluations". 

Interests of G-students (except as pegs) are not 
natuarally accomodatable by such perverted system,
and only exceptionally good and fair professors
can make it bearable to their students. 

Any other explanations/hypotheses ?

Alexander A. Berezin, PhD
Department of Engineering Physics
McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7
tel. (905) 525-9140 ext. 24546


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