Saturday, August 9, 2008

It's Not Hazing, It's Mentoring

It wasn't too long ago that fellow graduate student Daron Williams contributed an insightful, yet hilarious, piece on the upcoming Olympic games, which began yesterday. After speaking with three other fine graduate students (two of which were bloggers Alexander Bea and Evan Serge) in my department at a great local establishment that encourages such intellectual discussion, it's obvious that we need to develop some sort of first-year graduate student Olympics. The word Thunderdome was mentioned...

Unfortunately, Virginia Tech decided that hazing is a bad thing. Of course, this wouldn't be hazing — we'll just call it mentoring for now. VT's hazing policy says:
"Hazing has historically been associated with obtaining acceptance or membership in and organization or a team. Virginia Tech represents and institution of advanced academic study. The university is unconditionally opposed to any situation created to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, or ridicule."
OK, wait a minute. Under that definition, graduate school in itself should not be allowed at this "institution of advanced academic study." Mental discomfort, BIG CHECK (see: rhetorical criticism). Physical discomfort, check (see: carrying 80 students' folders to class after lugging them around grading them all day). Embarrassment, check (see: everything you just said being immediately discredited by a professor). Ridicule, check (well, if you knew the group of graduate students in our department, you'd understand... of course, I've heard of some students being ridiculed by a certain professor, but I'd never discuss such accusations here — not until I have my degree, anyway).

So it appears our little "mentoring" week may actually be less harsh than the first semester of graduate school itself is in the long run. That sort of just takes all of the fun out it. Thanks a lot, profs.

Have ideas of your own for so-called mentoring opportunities with new students in your department or ones we could use in ours? Any personal accounts of being a victim of such an event? Discuss in the comments, or contact me about doing a guest blog post!

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