Stingy grad schools


in Economics, Geek stuff

The New York Times has an interesting article on the sad story of Jason Altom – a chemistry graduate student at Harvard who committed suicide, leaving notes that blamed the graduate supervision system for his suffering.

I was surprised by a few things in the article. I knew graduate students were expected to work long hours for little pay, but didn’t realize that meant $1000 a month for 60-80 hours of work a week. I would have expected schools like Harvard to at least pay enough to live with a bit of comfort.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

betsy August 6, 2010 at 10:05 pm

From my observation, the most prestigious schools are often the worst for taking advantage of grad students and post docs.

R.K. August 9, 2010 at 2:53 pm

The motivation behind this might be a bit similar to hazing. Today’s professors remember, in an exaggerated way, how they suffered as grad students and then impose those conditions on the people working for them now.

Antonia August 11, 2010 at 6:34 am

Rich schools know they can hold onto and still attract students despite such conditions. Poorer schools can’t afford the greater risk of putting people off.
The wealth of a school doesn’t mean it has spare money – its just spread over more, sometimes more expensive, demands and commitments (or sometimes tied to particular aims).

I don’t know the details of that case but grad students can do easily over 50 hours a week on their own studies and student work – the figure you give doesn’t say whether those are the job and study hours combined or what the proportion was. Having to work a job over and above (50hrs plus?) a week on studies is always going to have a serious impact.

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