Post Academic

Grad Student Stereotypes and How They Affect Fair Pay

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionGrad students at the University of Chicago are trying to organize because they are making wages under the poverty line and are not making as much as their peers in similar positions.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Teachers have unions, so why not grad students?

Oh, the backlash that met this idea was gnarly, and it was in the article itself. Deputy Provost Cathy Cohen said of the low wages, “We’re talking about students who will soon no longer be in this situation. We should be very careful with the imagery we’re using …. That’s not to say that they are not technically making wages below the poverty line, but just to say that a lot of people would jump for the opportunities they have.”

True, people who are smart enough to make it through grad school are smart enough and likely have the social support and networks to find another job. They do not have it as bad as those who have been in poverty all their lives.

But what does she mean by “students who will soon no longer be in this situation?” Has she seen the academic job market? Many of these students are going to be in this situation for a long time. And she can’t deny that the University of Chicago is benefiting from cheap grad-student labor.

The underlying assumption here is relates to the assumptions about professors and grad student “coffee jockeys”—that they are whiners who feel entitled, and it seems as if the provost is capitalizing on that.

More after the jump! First prize of the “Deutsche Barista Chanpionship 2009.” Image by Augenohrenmund, from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.


Can We Ban the Connection Between Grad Students and Coffee Jockeys? Please?

Posted in Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on April 7, 2010
Tags: , , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionIn a recent Gawker post on how more students from other countries are entering American graduate programs, commenters immediately linked grad students to coffee jockeys. Grad school clichés follow:

“One of the tiny, tiny comforts of being a science grad student as opposed to liberal arts is that you know after it’s all said and done and you got a little more stipend than the others you can at least get a post doc…maybe. And what will the English grad students do? Coffee shop most probably.”

“Hey look at me, I’ve got a pony-tail and made $3000 last year.”

“When I went to grad school, I remember that students returning to their countries had some pretty effin cool gigs lined up whereas those staying in the U.S. were scrambling for the last few teaching jobs/starbucks barista positions.”

“I’ll have a grande caramel CPA, thanks. Hold the core classes.”*

Fair enough that grad students don’t get jobs easily, nor do they tend to get lucrative jobs, but I don’t know anyone who worked in a coffee shop. Most of the people I knew in grad school tutored or taught SAT classes. Where did the coffee shop idea come up? And what’s so bad about a coffee shop?**