Yesterday’s post on “Mentors and mentoring: whose responsibility?” got Sisyphus thinking about her grad school days, and the ways in which gender and class work in relationships between students and their mentors. In a post called “Don’t just ask, insist on help (even if it makes you feel weird),” fourteenth in our popular series, Lessons for Girls, Sisyphus writes that a roommate of hers, “Brilliant Grad,” was in the same program as she but he appeared to have a totally different relationship with the faculty in their department because of his attitude of entitlement:
Brilliant Grad knows he is brilliant. People have told him so, and he has wildly succeeded in everything he has ever tried. And he works damn hard so that he can do what he wants to do. . . .
Brilliant Grad and I loved to talk and would constantly share stories. It was through him I realized that my parents’ working-class upbringings flavored a lot of my experience, and through me that he realized he was not middle class, but upper class. He went to an elite east coast prep school. I learned that there is an entire east coast class of people who think “everyone” goes to east coast prep schools. . . .
Brilliant Grad also went to a top-of-the-line liberal arts school, one you’ve all heard of I bet (I hadn’t, heh). I know he didn’t work through school; I don’t think he ever worried about how it would be paid for. He constantly told me stories of the cool things he and his friends did, created, wrote, filmed — everything. And he seemed to have strong, even intimate relationships with all of his professors.
So when he would come home and tell me something that Professor Wonderful said to him in his office, or how he had had this idea and knocked on his door to run it by him, if not daily, then every few days, I was confused. “Wow, how often do you go see him? Aren’t you … bothering him?” I’d ask. “No — isn’t that what he’s there for, to mentor us? What?” he asked as I continued to stare at him with an eyebrow raised, shocked. Profs are here to do $hitloads of research, not shoot the breeze with their grad students. I know I don’t go to my advisor unless I have a specific problem that I need her help with and I have already tried three different ways of solving it on my own.
So, what was the result of BG’s breezily peer-like–or brashly demanding?–relationship with the faculty in his and Sisyphus’s department? Continue Reading »