Editor’s Note: Gavin Schlissel is an Intramural Supervisor at Princeton University. He doesn’t actually hate grad students as much as he purports to, but he really is sick and tired of them taking intramural sports a little too seriously.
I wanted to get a do-nothing library job, but my dad thought it would be good for me to work with kids as a tutor or a babysitter. He said that it would help my people skills.
I looked for library jobs and I looked for babysitting jobs but I found neither. Instead I landed a spot as a Recreation Supervisor for Princeton Intramural Sports (IMs).
In some ways the job is like a jail cell. There are few opportunities for advancement (also known as a raise), the hours aren’t always flexible, and people seldom say “Thank you” (except the Colonial teams—they are really nice).
Still, there are times when the job is exactly what I was looking for. It pays, and it’s more interesting than doing homework. Also, I get extreme pleasure from sorting through the names of the various players who have signed in to play and assigning names to previously anonymous faces that I’ve seen around campus. Sometimes when no one is watching, I stalk the players on Facebook.
Working intramural games isn’t quite the people-skills lesson my dad wanted me to have, but it has taught me a lot about people. From my perch above the dodgeball courts, or through the scorer’s box window at Baker Rink, I can watch all sorts of people locked in friendly athletic competition. And sometimes all it takes is a friendly competition for people to show who they truly are.
The rest of this article will basically be a long tirade against one particular class of people that I despise categorically.
Seriously, if you play IMs, or if you know someone who does they’ll confirm. They are actually the worst. I’m talking, of course, about graduate students. Let me first enumerate the ten things I hate most about graduate students (in no particular order), and then let me attempt to explain why they are the way they are.
Why Grad Students Suck
1. They wear knee pads and elbow pads to play broomball.
2. They complain if you show up late to your shift.
3. They complain if their opponents show up late to their games.
4. They complain if their opponents don’t have the proper gender balance.
5. Sometimes they agree to forgo the gender balance rule to be nice to their opponents, then they complain after the fact if they lose.
6. They make annoying criticisms about things I can’t control.
7. They make annoying criticisms about things I can’t control, but they phrase it in the form of a question. For example: “Does it really count as a hit if the blocker drops the ball they block with?” or “Is the wall really out of play?”
8. They scout the opposition.
9. They stay after games to practice.
10. They never forfeit (I get to go home if they forfeit).
The question is: what accounts for the high concentration of douchebags on graduate school IM teams? I would like to propose a model to answer this question.
The process, I think, is analogous to the process of selection in nature.
In nature, there are certain traits that give an individual an advantage in reproducing, so those traits become more prevalent in the next generation. Similarly in academia, certain traits are selected for with each successive round of schooling.
When considering applicants to private elementary schools teachers consider a child’s communication skills and sharing skills. At the best private high schools, educators look for motivated students with a pension for hard work. In the next round, the best universities select for future leaders in government and industry.
As far as I can tell graduate school applications may well consist of only a stool sample, because graduate schools select exclusively for those individuals with the best smelling shit. Actually, I think that’s highly unlikely. But I’m quite sure that there is a question on the application that reads: “What do you think your shit smells like?” and the highest scored responses are typically “Like roses,” or “Like fresh-baked croissants.”
Graduate students are an interesting breed. They are the ones who since their first day of kindergarten have been told that they are better than their peers. They’re well practiced at all the things that let them stand out in the eyes of their teachers—the subtle self-promotion, the thank-you-sir-can-I-have-another attitude, the off-handed comment that restates an entire conversation in one sentence, without actually adding any new information.
By the time they actually get to graduate school, grad students are awash in self-pity because their youth is slowly wasting away. Maybe they’re balding. Or worse, maybe they’re married. Maybe their friends all went to Wall Street and they post pictures on Facebook of the super chic clubs they take their clients to. Whatever the reason, graduate students are consumed with a desire to do something to help them feel young.
The solution: sign up for intramural sports. It’s a great way to keep the old knees moving and to meet hip young underclassmen. But, with their being graduate students and all, they inevitably try to apply their graduate-student-social-awkwardness-and-unwarranted-seriousness to friendly competition, and they end up acting like prepubescent boys playing co-ed pickup basketball. Even the girls act like prepubescent boys playing co-ed pickup basketball. Don’t ask me why, but they do.
They take things way too seriously, and it pisses me off.
I hope by this point you all feel slightly better informed about one of the biggest problems in the Princeton University community. I don’t mean to sway you to my way of thinking, merely to warn you about the possible dangers of associating with that other class of student here at Princeton. If any of you have had a good experience with graduate students, then please disregard everything you’ve just read. If any of you have had no experience at all with graduate students, please take this tirade as an admonishment, and avoid all contact with grad students in the future.