Thursday, November 09, 2006

Second-years see things my way

Had a great chat with two second-years, Nechama and Ada, who are in my cognitive therapy class. We were shmoozing in the student lounge -- sometimes it's more important to reality-check with your peers than to finish all of your reading.

After talking about their frustrations with their externships, we got on the topic of how the faculty is treating me. A classmate of mine walked into the lounge and told me that Dr. Jerk hadn't approved her term paper topic; I said, "I thought I was the only one whose topic he didn't approve! That must mean he doesn't hate me as much as I think he hates me." I then related Dr. Jerk's many unkindnesses, criticisms, and harsh actions toward me.

At first the second-years were shocked. "Dr. Jerk said that students in your classes sigh and roll their eyes when you speak?" said Ada. "That's really weird." Neither of them thinks this phenomenon occurs in our cognitive therapy class. (For that matter, neither does Dr. CT. Unfortunately, she's an adjunct, so she doesn't go to faculty meetings. And Dr. Freud hasn't yet contacted her, as he promised he would, to get her opinion of me -- and I don't think he's contacted Dr. Stats either.)

"I get along with Dr. Jerk, but I can't stand Dr. Octopussy," said Nechama. I won't go into the ugly details, but suffice it to say that Dr. Octopussy unfairly flunked her in one class and has caused her almost as much grief as Dr. Jerk has caused me.

Nechama was also warned by the faculty that her contributions were too plentiful and personal; her behavior, tone, and speech were too offensive to others; and she was in need of therapy. Deja vu all over again. I told her how the faculty is crucifying me for contributing personal matter about my knee injury at the guest lecture, and she exploded.

"Ayelet, what you did was right! What you did makes you real. We should be drawing on our personal experiences to illuminate clinical phenomena. I can't believe the way they're framing it -- as you being needy and trying to get attention." They talked about another student in their class, who excelled academically but was similarly castigated by the faculty for expressing a personal opinion in a public forum.

Like me, Nechama was warned that her admission could be revoked, and has been trying to keep a low profile ever since. "The way to succeed in this school is to keep your head down and don't stick your neck out," she said. "Which is a shame, because they should be encouraging us to think for ourselves and take intellectual risks."

I guess it makes me feel better to know I'm not the only student the faculty treats this way. And to know that my behavior is being criticized by very biased reporters. I've definitely decided to re-apply to other schools; if I get in, even if the faculty here graciously decide to let me finish, I don't want to. It's worth losing a year, even at my advanced age, to be in an environment that really supports my intellectual development.

I'm supposed to talk to Dr. CT later this morning (I doubt she's in the office at 4 a.m.; damn terminal insomnia!) about the tenured faculty's criticisms of my classroom behavior. But she's already agreed to write me a recommendation for my reapplications. Which is a great comfort, because I'm sure the schools I'm re-applying to will wonder why I want to leave this school.

I'm really pissed at Dr. Freud for not following up with the adjuncts, and for taking Dr. Jerk at his mendacious word. I'm angry at Dr. A for agreeing with Dr. Jerk. I'm angry at Dr. Octopussy for assuming they're right and I'm wrong. And I've cautiously asked a few other first-years whether my classroom contributions really inspire such exasperation among my peers.

None of them see it.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Misery loves company, or so the saying goes. At least now you know you're not the only one who has been unfairly singled out of criticism; unfortunately, that seems to be the pattern there. Good luck reapplying!

  2. Hey sweetie -

    So your findings have proven that this is the faculty's MO whenever anyone dares speak up.

    That's appalling, but it should give you some degree of comfort to know that it's not about you. It's about anyone who rocks the boat, even slightly.

    However, I think that your following up with other students and other adjunct faculty members--essentially to bolster your case and disprove or damage that of the faculty--is counterproductive. No matter how many statements or affidavits you gather, their opinion isn't going to change. You're a live one. The only way to move forward is to join the drones.

    You should be secure in the knowledge that they're assholes. You don't need more confirmation. And you should re-apply to other schools with all due diligence. But in the meantime, I think your efforts are best spent on schoolwork and readings, and excess energy on recreation and entertainment to make you happy and give you outlets outside of school.

    Just my $0.02. Love ya.

  3. I agree with Carmen. Talking about people always gets around, and generally comes back to bite you in the rear. Make a conscious effort to find the positive in ANY situation, and it will reflect well in countless ways. I was so impressed yesterday when a friend told me about her flooding toilet and focused on saying "Thank G-d, no one was hurt. Flooring can be replaced, and no one was hurt." She found a way to be positive instead of complaining about the hassle, the cost, the mess, etc.

    One other thought -- from my experience as a patient in therapy, it is the norm for the therapist to be a blank slate, a neutral entity. Perhaps the program is concerned about overly personal comments because they are trying to train you for a future as an unbiased, neutral listener and responder, not as an opinioned advocate. They may not convey their objects clearly, but perhaps their motivation is your long term success.

  4. Anonymous 3 is unto something. Why expend so much energy on being angry. Concentrate on your work and having some pleasure. Now that you know others have had similar experiences, perhaps you may not need to discuss your situation with so many people -- the student body and all the faculty do not need to know. You really can't fight City Hall until you establish yourself. Get that degree, and then institute changes. Certainly apply, but how do you know you will not encounter problems at other places. Training and mind sets are similar in a specific field (psychology, biology, etc.).