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Tips to Squelch Ivory Tower and Grad School Gossip

Posted in Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on March 23, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhy does grad school gossip (and academia gossip) seem worse than office gossip? Because, when you get to grad school, you assume that people are smart and above something so petty and nasty. But you’re in a closed environment, and people are going to get on your nerves.

The Tao of Grad School nails the circumstances that make the ivory tower so ugly sometimes:

Competitiveness + high intelligence + psychology background + neuroticism + poor coping skills + long distance relationships + insecurity + extreme stress mediated by a small, cohesive cohort predicts interpersonal disaster. (That was my awful attempt at a regression equation to predict grad school drama. But you get the idea.)

So, what do you do about gossip in the academic environment? Gossip is hard to stop, especially since it is often the glue that holds communities together. That said, you can reduce gossip and cushion its impact with these tips, which appear after the jump:

If You’re the Gossip

  1. Try to keep your mouth shut. Wasn’t that easy?
  2. OK. That wasn’t so easy. So, if you must say something, ask yourself if you would be willing to say it to the person’s face if they called you out on it. If you’re not, then don’t gossip about it.
  3. Accept that people screw up. Don’t be so hard on everyone.

If You’re the Subject of the Gossip

  1. Let’s repeat: Accept that people screw up. So you heard someone talked trash about you? It stings. It’s horrible. People screw up. If they apologize, accept it, and keep being friends. Some people gossip so they feel like they belong, and the need to belong occasionally overwhelms one’s common sense.
  2. What if they don’t apologize? Then they’re not your friend. Just steer clear and let them hang themselves on a long, gossipy rope.
  3. Don’t try to one-up a gossip. Fighting trash talk with trash talk will make you look bad. You don’t have to turn the other cheek, though; simply tell others the truth, and the gossip will be the one who looks bad.

The Tao of Grad School: Grad School Gossip
Image of gossips in the Altstadt in Sindelfingen, Germany, by Rebecca Kennison, from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

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4 Responses to 'Tips to Squelch Ivory Tower and Grad School Gossip'

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  1. Arnold Pan said,

    You’re right, grad school gossip seems worse because you can’t get away from it/with it. People go to class together, hang out together, even live together sometimes. There’s literally no space for any privacy. At least with office gossip, you can go home and maybe can avoid your colleagues outside of work.

    Of course, when you’re done with grad school and all your friends and community are spread all over the country, you miss the drama of gossip!

  2. Susan said,

    Excellent ground rules. What would academia be without gossip? It’s the counter-narrative to Redbooks, institutional (institutionalized) histories, and “suptionpremises” (lovely Jane Marcus’s term for all activities of the language police). It’s a means of redefining virtue — by being bad with the noblest intentions.

    If it delights the senses and rattles complacency, if it’s sincere in spirit if not matter, gossip can be the breath of justice. As long as you can stand fearless and back that thang up.

    • Yancy said,

      Thanks alot – your answer solved all my problems after several days srtugignlg


  3. Can we just take your last paragraph, paste it into a post, and say that’s the final word on grad school gossip? Because that was delightful!


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