Grad Students are Ruining Everything

Here is a list of skills that, as a grad student at one time or another, I’ve been expected to have with absolutely no offered training whatsoever:

  • Creative writing
  • Public relations writing
  • Typesetting
  • Sound engineering
  • Videography
  • Photography
  • Graphic design
  • Web design
  • Film editing
  • Institutional procurement
  • Professional event catering
  • Conference planning and management
  • Brand representation on social media
  • Copy editing
  • Public speaking
  • Managing a grade book
  • Learning content management systems
  • Advanced settings and features of Excel

These skills are not optional for me. I cannot expect to be competitive in the Ph.D job market without possessing at least three quarters of these skills. Through trial and error and the mutual aid of fellow grad students and sympathetic junior faculty (who know what its like and help in spite of the fact that this kind of service won’t go towards tenure) it all gets figured out, but there’s a serious, unsustainable problem here. Don’t get me wrong, there are much more egregious workplace abuses happening around the world, and enjoy an immense amount of privilege in society just by saying that I’ll probably have a Ph.D in a couple of years. I am not claiming that my challenges are the same caliber that fast food workers and Wal-Mart employeeshave recently started to fight against, but there are some important intersectionalities at play here. Namely, the ill-defined role of the grad student replaces well-paying jobs with privileged students that can afford to work for little money until they are credentialed enough to maintain a destructive status quo. 

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