John Cherwonogrodzky jcherwon at
Tue May 16 15:43:37 EST 1995

Dear Colleagues:
     There has been a posting on this network that I either missed or forgot 
the background to. It deals with graduate studies and I believe it might be a 
response to a request from a student about to enter graduate studies (I recall 
responding to one such student on the email a few months back, same student?)

     Graduate studies... what a jungle. Perhaps it's made so in order for the 
strong to survive an even tougher jungle in academia or other research 
facilities. About half those I have talked to in the past have had happy 
excellent memories of an ideal environment to pursue their creative talents. 
The other half have been traumatized, impoverished, disappointed and broken. 
Each group seems to view the other as weird, not knowing what they're talking 
about. A few points to consider:
- use of graduates and post-docs as under-paid slave-labour (3 of my 6 years 
as Ph.D were unfunded and I had tough financial worries; one post-doc had to 
do research and run a lab, he was paid $24,000, a technician with 
a highschool degree got $29,000). the former Alberta Minister of Education 
(Gogol) said that graduates should pay about $25,000 a year for the 
priveldge of doing research

- chance and unique opportunity to improve oneself

- despite time limits, due to "exceptional circumstance" loophole, one MSc 
student took 7 years, one Ph.D took 10 years before he left unfinished. I 
spent 3 years for an M.Sc., because I switched universities and had a project 
that didn't pan out it took another 5-6 years for a Ph.D.

- those that know the system and have the grades can either get a Ph.D 
(without a MSc) in 4 years, some can get a combination Ph.D./M.D. in 6 years

-funding is so erratic. Without support you are still judged against those 
with every support.

- of 40 graduates, about half didn't make it, and most were more talented than 
I was. One prof had 10 graduates and none completed their work (he was 
complemented on having high standards, I think he was a jerk)

- despite the tough economic times, the higher the education level, the better 
the chances for either finding some reasonable employment or being able to 
apply to other positions (MacLean's magazine)

- after years of struggle, and about $100,000 for a thesis, the work is put on 
a shelf to gather dust and is forgotten.

- under the right circumstance, publications occur to initiate one's career

- no rights, few priveledges, no worker's compensation for accidents or 
benefits. There used to be 3 groups exempt from minimal coverage, prisoners 
doing machinery work, mentally handicapped doing government work, and 
graduates (perhaps because the third group was considered a combination of the 
other to)

     I also recall a colleague who had a real rough time, not in graduate 
studies but in articling for a law degree. When I asked him if the experience 
would make him more sympathetic to those that might article under him, he said 
"No way. I'm going to screw them like I was screwed". 
     Some systems perpetuate themselves.

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