Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dear Annoying Student

I understand that scheduling one's comprehensive exam is a stressful and important matter, which is why I was happy to discuss with you several months ago any constraints on when I could be present for the oral exam in the fall. In this meeting, I was crystal clear that the only month that would cause me problems was November as I will be gone for a large chunk of that month. This was no problem, because you thought September would be quite lovely. I agreed.

Then, this summer, you sent me an email explaining you had changed your mind and wanted me schedule you for November....the one month this fall I had said I could not do. You begged, you pleaded, you bullied, but I do not understand how you think that changes anything...did you really think I would cancel a trip (to work with collaborators, no less) that has been planned for months so you could have your oral exam at some specific time and day? I finally suggested that you remove me from your committee if you were determined to conduct your exam in November. When you did not respond, I assumed the matter was closed.

Imagine my surprise when you popped up this week to ask if I had found a date in November that worked. We had to have another 20 minute conversation (while I was desperately trying to get something submitted) where I once again explained why that month still will not work.

So, I am writing this letter (which you will never read) so I can express myself (in as nice and supportive a manner as is possible)that you are an annoying little shit who is really pissing me off. I do not know what you think is going on, but I promise I am not making stuff up to keep you from taking your exam during some magical alignment of stars that will brainwash me into passing even the most gibbering of idiots. The fact that you ignore me every time I say something you do not want to hear (a pattern that has occurred more than once during our interactions) does not make me more pliable, it aggravates me. And while on this subject, I have noticed that you have not been badgering the male professor on your committee whose schedule prevents us from doing this in the later part of November. Perhaps you think my travel must be less important than his, or that I'm more likely to be bullied into doing what you want, but I have news for you - you are sadly, fucking mistaken. I do not understand what part of "out of town" you do not understand, but it frankly does not bode well for you passing your exam. In fact, the more aggravated I become, the more likely I am to rough you up during your exam - not because I am a bad person, but because I am only human and I really don't like you very much right now.

So, when you come back again (and I know you will) to see if I have changed my mind on November, please forgive me when I contact your supervisor and tell them that I will no longer be able to participate on your committee. I am a busy woman and I really do not have time to waste on annoying little twots.

With love,

Dr. Tam


Nat Blair said...

First of all, WTF, who are these people?

Secondly, this warms my heart:
In fact, the more aggravated I become, the more likely I am to rough you up during your exam.

There's nothing like the thought of self-important jerks being taught an obviously overdue lesson.

PhysioProf said...

We had to have another 20 minute conversation (while I was desperately trying to get something submitted) where I once again explained why that month still will not work.

Frankly, I don't understand why that conversation lasted more than 15 seconds:

"I already told you November is not possible. There is no purpose served by us continuing to discuss whether November is possible. Please leave my office. Goodbye."

yolio said...

I am with PhysioProf on this, you can't give bullies your time like that, it only encourages them. One effective strategy is to simply stop responding. You've said what you have to say, let them talk, give them a stony face until they stop talking. Eventually they will get uncomfortable at your non-responsiveness and leave. A related strategy is to simply repeat yourself, word for word: "I am not available in November."

River Tam said...

I know, I know. Students are my Achilles Heel. I just hate being rude to them - makes me feel like I'm kicking puppies - but Annoying Student is reminding me that even students can be jackasses.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, you can beat their snot out in like, uh, 1 punch. NO. Maybe 2. go away. If PP, then 4. Go the fuck away.

20 minutes? you ARE a busy woman remember... so get crackin'

The lesson here is don't give snots the time of day. period. Whack the damn mole so hard it doesn't take any time to whack and it never comes back.

yolio said...

"feel like I'm kicking puppies"

Yes, kicking puppies, I understand. It's important to remember that the ultimate source of social awkwardness is HIS rudeness and not yours. For these situations I use my big-doe-eyed confused stare: it is a blank, confused expression that says "I don't understand why you are still talking." Then I repeat myself, like someone re-pressing an elevator button that won't light up.

It is sort of mean, but it is funny mean.

River Tam said...


LOL! I really like that approach and it's one I can totally see myself implementing. Thanks so much for the suggestion!!