Thursday, April 03, 2008

My Thanks to Brian Leiter

I cannot emphasize more the message that Brian Leiter gives here. I know that there are one or two individuals who read my blog who are trying to make decisions about graduate school who have contacted me to understand better the perspective of someone who failed to be successful therein. There aren't a lot of public voices to be found coming from that perspective, and I'm (kind of) glad to be one of them.

Follow Brian Leiter's advice. Even if you ultimately decide to go to a department that has one or some of the kinds of faculty he describes, you should do whatever you can to find out which specific faculty members those are so that you can avoid taking their classes or adopt strategies to compensate.

Here are the parts of the descriptions he gives that I experienced from one or more faculty members at UCSB. Anyone considering going to that school who might be concerned about these behaviors, might want to contact me or any current graduate students there to identify which professors match each of these descriptions. Please note that any particular faculty member at UCSB may or may not be aware that one of his or her colleagues meets this description. I encourage the faculty there to address these issues amongst themselves if they agree that these behaviors are a problem. So, the list:

  • "the failure of faculty to return graded papers"
  • "their general lack of interest in mentoring the students"
  • "faculty openly express doubts about the competence of the graduate students and their ability"
I'm not aware of any sexual activity between graduate students and the faculty, but there are several faculty members who are known for being rather lecherous and I have strong suspicions about professor-undergraduate sexual relations in one or two cases. Either of these might be worrisome to those concerned about what Leiter calls "The Sexual Predator Faculty".

Finally, I should note that I don't think UCSB is any more prone to these problems than most other departments. There were definitely several professors who were nothing but positive influences (including most especially Professor Tony Brueckner). But students who are applying there might want to identify the professor(s) that might give them problems. The graduate students currently attending there will know who those are.

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