A Grad Student’s Lament

A guest blog:

“I am an underpaid international PhD student in one of the engineering departments from which I will graduate (hopefully) soon. Although I said it as if it is important, I don’t give that much damn about being “underpaid” and I don’t ask for half of football coach’s salary to be divided equally among all GA/TA’s (but man, that would be a relief!) or any other actions that will reduce the money spent on sports. My only concern is my research, variety and richness of resources that I can access. I don’t even ask for a reasonable office with windows so that I will know it is raining before I go out from the building, or proper air conditioning that will not make me sick because of extreme high temperatures in winter, or icy cold deep freezer environment in summer that cannot be adjusted due to the age and technology of the equipment. My desk and my computer is enough. In brief, I am very modest and expecting the least from my university.

My only concerns are slight increase in university rankings and academic reputation of the school so that I may be hired by universities that I have heard the names before. If that does not happen, that’s still fine, because reputation is not something that you can buy from Amazon.com and related to what I (and the others in the university) produce as well. At the end, companies will not hire according to the football team’s ranking but the academic reputation, so I have to do my marginal part to reach the level, so that people coming Rutgers for the new stadium can also have better chances when they graduate.

But to do what I ought to do, AT LEAST, I would like to be able to download academic papers from Rutgers Libraries online directly, instead of trying to catch my friends from other universities (no need to mention names, their football team is not even ranked) online at various IM tools to ask for journals that Rutgers used to have access, but do not have anymore.

I was complaining until very recently. However, solution is very simple, of course, thanks to our university administration for showing the way: WE HAVE THE HARD COPY VERSIONS AVAILABLE AT THE LIBRARIES!! How lazy I am… I want to download a paper in few seconds and understand whether it is what I am looking for and continue searching for more. Hey! I can do the same by going to a library, spend hours to go over the journals and papers trying to locate what I really need.

For only couple of hours more, what the hell, right? Couple of hours more so that our university administration can spend more hours to find out more funding opportunities for the stadium (I am sure it will finance itself, no doubts!), instead of spending their precious time to find some funds to provide access to online resources (at least recovering the ones that are cut) so that a lazy grad student will save approximately 1-2 days per week. We are a research university, so we must research it by all means, with all pains, walking in between the aisles, hoping on&off buses to reach to the sources, get wet under the rain… so that university will fulfill its mission, right?

I really pity myself for my lazy nature, which I happen to understand lately, and I want everybody reading this blog to support our university administration showing their academic excellence priority in a crystal clear fashion, working hard to find funding for the stadium and giving so much to make our university’s name known “worldwide” with its football team, so that everybody in the nation will distinguish the university Rutgers and the cartoon Rugrats without a moment of hesitation.

As clearly stated in the Rutgers website, Rutgers is “one of the nation’s leading public research universities”. Read it again and think once more: Even without the proper academic resources! I cannot even think of how our reputation will be after the stadium is completed and our football team has 4 wins in a row. That is beyond my imagination…”

12 Responses to A Grad Student’s Lament

  1. John Lister says:

    You obviously have your priorities wrong. The state didn’t spend its money so that you (and all the other students in the state) could have access online to a wide variety of journals and scholarly articles, it’s saving its money so that it can bail out the stadium expansion and the Poo Bahs can have their toy team.

    Get out of your office and go cheer! Bah!

    Seriously, that the University both has cut the number of subscriptions and online access to some of them is a real worry. But I would bet that Bill Howard doesn’t know this and even if he did, he wouldn’t care!

  2. Richard H. Ebright says:

    A university without comprehensive online access to research literature is not a reserach university.

    Rutgers currently has effectively no access to the arraty of scientific journals published by Wiley Press.

    Last January, Rutgers nearly lost access to the array of scientific journals published by Nature Press, Oxford University Press, and other publishers.

    This January, Rutgers again may be at risk of losing access to essential scientifiic journals.

    The fact that our laboratory building has failing plumbing, broken drains, leaking pipes, and, for much of the last three weeks, has had no research water supply is disturbing. But the loss of essential research resources would be worse. It would be disabling.

    Unfortunately, the university is led by a Board of Governors that does not understand, or does not care about, research and educataion (and that, instead, obsesses on watching young men in tight pants run around a field).

  3. RUSupporter says:

    Oh yea, and dropping football down to Division 2 will go a long way toward fixing these problems. *end sarcasm* Can we PLEASE look for solutions instead of scapegoats?

  4. Huck Finne says:

    Without evening considering the financial savings of dropping down to DII, perhaps if President McCormick were less busy hanging out with Schiano, he would be able to do something about the academic problems. There is clearly a zero sum game with regards to money and the attention of university leadership.

    RUSupporter,
    Go read the Wikipedia article on zero-sum, and perhaps you’ll begin to understand why dropping down to DII football would be part of the solution to fixing the problems outlined by this grad student.

  5. John Lister says:

    …and dropping football down to Division 2 will go a long way to fixing this problems…

    Take athletics down to Division 2. Stop paying $2M/year for the football coach. Stop paying $1M/year for the women’s basketball coach, stop paying $300K for a useless athletic director, stop paying for gold-plating in the athletics center, stop paying for all the academic support the athletes need to remain eligible to play (because their replacements will be real students) and, yes, you go a long way to fixing the library, which should be the center of a research university.

    No sarcasm in this entire post.

  6. mm says:

    RUSupporter:
    The solutions have been repeated here ad nauseum. They just aren’t satisfactory to you. Big time college football and basketball are unlike people. For unlike people, in D1 football and hoops, if you’re not a virgin, you’re a whore.

  7. RUSupporter says:

    Huck Finne, it is far from a zero sum situation, if you account for the external benefits of successful athletics programs (see Michigan, USC, Texas, Florida, UNC, Duke, Cal Berkley, the school you people said you want to emulate).

    John, you also fail to account for the benefits of athletics… namely, the $20 million in revenue generated by football alone last year according to Mulcahy, which he also stated was $5 million greater than the expenditures. How can you have a problem with something that is turning profiltable?

    Mod please do not delete… if you really want a balanced discussion on the subject, you need to let the other side have its word.

  8. John Lister says:

    mm:

    Don’t forget the Wikipedia articles on Dollar Auction and Escalation of Commitment, which are all about why Rutgers will never have a great football team, despite RUSupporter’s high hopes.

  9. grad student says:

    RUSupporter: (I guarantee that no sarcasm will be in this post)

    As mentioned by others, I came up with a solution (maybe not stated as clearly it should) which is determining the priorities of the university clearly. According to the university administration’s claim, Rutgers is a research university, so people in the administration must spend their time FIRST to maintain and THEN to elevate the academic level, if possible. I really don’t mind the money spent for any sports activity (if you call “sports business” also “sports activity”) as long as university’s PRIMARY functions are flawless.

    I think you will agree that university is experiencing cuts in academic sources. I am sure (or shall I say “I hope”) there are people in the administration that are looking at funding opportunities for library to restore the resources. But while going through such an economic recession worldwide, any time spend for SECONDARY priorities of the school is not acceptable. And i don’t think the decision for stadium expansion is made in few minutes in a meeting, to save the remaining hours to discuss the problems of academic resources.

    It is clear that before the stadium expansion, there are many problems to be clarified and yet, there is no solution offered for many of them. The only information I received from the administration about the library cuts are the emails that tell about what is the level of resource reduction, the alternative ways to access the resources (basically go to library or use interlibrary loan) and some GOOD WILL statements to restore it. Not a single, concrete solution. I have no idea of university’s plan to repair the university facilities either. On the other hand, I have been hearing about stadium expansion, how to finance it, what was the profit last year etc. over and over. I know, the stadium expansion has been a popular and controversial debate in the university community and media, so hearing about it more is expected. But don’t you think that the cuts in library resources’ not finding any place in any discussion means a lot? Isn’t Rutgers a research university? How come there is no big opposition and debate about the decrease in library resources (as far as I know the library issue dates back more than the stadium expansion)? Why those students that stand up to support stadium expansion are not saying anything about the library? Maybe they rarely use it, or do not even care? Can you expect them to care if they come to Rutgers for the football team’s success and media coverage, and not for the academic reputation. Or, from another angle, can you expect Rutgers to keep its prestige (maybe the reason why you are here) while you are supporting stadium expansion project instead of supporting the people who wants time and money spent for academic priorities FIRST, then for secondary issues?

    I won’t discuss the economic details of the investment because I do not have adequate information and knowledge to assess the long term impacts of such as capital spending. But one thing I know is, while the companies that did record high profits few years ago are going bankrupt, talking about profitability of athletics is not a dependable issue to justify the money that is spent (again stressing: especially when academic resources are seriously cut) . As a matter of fact, I think the terms “profitability” and “education” does not go along well in any context in any ways. Other point is we are talking about a profit (if there is really one after hidden costs including the opportunity cost of not using time for restoring the library) that is from a highly successful season. Will it have the same profit this year? From what I see, the parking lots were way less crowded after few losses.

    There is another discussion that why having a team that loses or wins, or playing in a higher league matters that much. At the end, you are in a university, -ideally speaking- in need of the best learning environment and resources. The athletes are also students, your colleagues, friends from the class that happen to be talented in a sport and play under Rutgers jersey against other teams. Do we need spectacular wins to support the team? Why not just go to matches for the sake of watching sports, that the players happen to be people like you? Do we need business minded profit seekers to hang around and make your team a profit source to be interested in the game? How can we still talk about “school spirit” when I see less and less people in the stadium after each loss?

    Anyway… This is becoming very long, I have to get back to work.

    Oh! my friend from X university is online, I can ask for the paper that I am looking for! – I know, I said “no sarcasm” but take this like the university’s promise that the stadium will finance itself. Couldn’t help it ;) -

  10. Jeff says:

    RU Supporter: Do you honestly believe Mulcahy’s claim that Rutgers Athletics grossed 20 million last year and made a 5 million dollar profit? This is absurd. If this were the case, why would the athletic department jump through a million hoops to avoid offering their financial records? Many newspapers and independent research groups have filed public financial records claims to see the books of the athletic department. Why would the athletic department avoid revealing their books if they were not seriously in the red?

    Did you believe that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction because George Bush told you so? I’m almost more inclined to believe George Bush.

  11. RUSupporter says:

    I’m more inclined to believe Mulcahy’s claim than your claim that publications are requesting the athletic department’s financial records and the athletic dept. is actively avoiding making them public. I have heard nothing of this. And tell me how many colleges do make their financial books public?

  12. jeff says:

    All PUBLIC colleges are required to make their financial books PUBLIC. Why would this be the case? Because they are PUBLICLY funded. It’s in the OPEN RECORDS ACT, a law which requires all public institutions to open up their books to the public. You can disbelieve my claim all you want. Just ask the writers of the Star Ledger columns how many Open Records claims they had to file.

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