personal life (was homophobia)

nishir at ohsu.edu nishir at ohsu.edu
Mon Jan 17 14:01:01 EST 1994


In article <2h9d45$oi7 at ysics.physics.sunysb.edu> Anne Savitt
<asavitt at sunysb.edu> writes:
>re: homophobia
>
>As I have been following this thread, it seems to me that there are many
>aspects of ourselves that we are forced to hide.  For example, when I
>started graduate school, my daughter was two and a half.  She is now
>nine, and I am still in graduate school (although, finally, nearing
>defense).  I have found it necessary, in general, to pretend that having
>a child does not affect my work, does not interfere with my time. . . in
>short, does not make me an undesirable graduate student.  For part of the
>time I have been in graduate school (more than two years! worth), I had
>the additional responsibility of caring for a mother with Alzheimer!s
>disease (she lived in my home).  I had to pretend that that, too, had no
>effect.  In fact, when I was told that I may have to apply to the
>graduate school for an extension of time to defend, I was told that it
>needed to be for scientific reasons - experimental problems, etc. 
>Personal lives don!t count.  One day recently I was supposed to proctor
>an exam and my daughter had 104oF temperature.  I was almost ready to
>send her to work with my husband rather than admit that I couldn!t get to
>school because I had a sick child (fortunately, common sense prevailed -
>I will not be guilty of child abuse to satisfy some stupid, unwritten,
>unacknowledged policy).  Needless to say, there were no overt
>ramifications of my calling in on that day.  I have a friend, however,
>who will under no circumstances admit that she has a sick child - she
>will claim her car broke down, she is sick, etc., rather than admit that
>her children interfere with her graduate work. 

<edited>
>
>The point I want to make, however, is that unless you fit into the
>pattern of the traditional student/postdoc, etc., it is very hard to
>openly discuss your personal life in an academic/professional setting. 
>There is always the fear of reprisals of some sort.  

>So my advice is to make your decision about openness carefully and
>deliberately, weighing the advantages against the possible ramifications.
> Once you take a stance for openness, you can!t turn back.  Good luck.
>
>Anne Savitt
>Department of Microbiology
>SUNY at Stony Brook
>Stony Brook, NY   11794-5222
>email:  asavitt at sunysb.edu
>
I was surprised to see these things about hiding your personal life being
expressed.  Is this a common perception amongst graduate students?   I wonder
to what extent this is assumed to be the case, and what are really the
attitudes of the faculty etc in control.  You might be pleasantly surprised. 
For example, I am an associate professor (with 3 grad students) and I sit on
the Graduate Council that decides whether grad school extensions, leaves of
absence, etc should be granted.  Personal reasons are perfectly acceptable
(eg., child care responsibilities together with taking care of a parent with
Alzheimers, or lengthy illnesses) if they are interfering with progress toward
the degree (ie., your ability to do science).  I certainly would not look down
on a student who had to stay at home with a sick kid (since this happens to me
on occasion, too).  The reality is that these things happen. Our university is
now trying to work out a more flexible tenure schedule that acknowledges that
some people will take longer to become tenurable due to personal circumstances
(eg., raising a family or taking care of sick parent(s)).  Anyplace that thinks
that everyone should operate as though they had no personal life of their own
is in the dark ages and must be run by neanderthals.  Is this paranoia
justified?

Rae Nishi
OHSU
Portland, OR




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