Hello everyone. I am new here and I need to vent and see if other people have any similar experiences to mine.
I am a 4th year PhD student at a Canadian university, and even though I love my supervisor and my research topic, I am so disgusted by my department and my discipline that I am ready to quit even though I’m ABD. I do disability studies work (qualitatively looking at how disability brings positive things to people's lives) but I’m in a small off branch of medicine. My work, and thus me, is completely dismissed by my department (except my supervisor). It would be like doing critical race theory work inside a eugenics department.
This has led to me feeling kicked by the department repeatedly and I’m miserable. They have repeatedly done things which are against university rules, but I can't report them higher up for fear of retaliation. Here are a few examples: I took over my supervisor’s master’s courses while she was on sabbatical. When negotiating salary, etc. for the position (essentially a temporary faculty position), they told me they didn't value the content, instructed me that they would not pay me more than a measly "honorarium (less than 10% of what I should have been making) and said if I didn't accept that, or if I went to the union, they would simply cut the curriculum content (which my supervisor has spent 20 years developing) and it would be my fault.
Another example is funding. The admin is constantly hounding me to get outside funding, and yet they refuse to send my funding applications outside of the department (in Canada most outside funding I could get has to pass a round of vetting by the department first). I have spent so many hours compiling these applications, and they have repeatedly passed along every other applicant except me, even candidates who have no publications and no conference presentations (I have 2 publications, over 10 conference presentations and I’ve been an invited international keynote speaker) (cont. below).
...After finding out today that the department secretary (who doesn’t like me because I once questioned her and brought it higher up) has been tasked with recommending certain students for funding over others, I was nearly in tears. This is so wrong on so many levels, but if I bring it higher up and get them in trouble, they most certainly will not recommend me for funding. I have felt so bullied by this department I am close to throwing in the towel. I normally work from home in order to avoid people who have labelled me a trouble maker (because of my work). I have never felt so hated as when I walk down the halls of my institution. I got through a 4 year undergraduate degree and and a 2 year masters and during all of that I was in such good graces with the profs and staff that I was labelled the teachers pet. Now i'm in this PhD and feel bullied by grown adults. I could handle critiques directly of my work, or bullying masked as academic rigour, but this is straight up administrative bullying.
Anyways this has all led to extreme demotivation. I like the work I do, but I constantly have to put it on hold and deal with the department mess. This has turned me from a highly productive, optimistic and self-confident person to someone who is often yelling and crying in frustration, and then of course I just want to hide from the work and then all productivity stops. I question every single day why they would accept me into the program, just to turn around and treat me like this.
I’ve read a lot online about people who quit their PhD because they don’t like the work, or their supervisors/committees are nasty to them, but this isn’t exactly my experience.
Anyways, I really just needed to vent about this. I hope none of you mind. If anyone has any similar experiences, I would love to commiserate with you.
A lot of unethical things happen in academia, unfortunately. On your thesis: please hang on. You just need another few more months on that bloody dissertation and then you are done. Don't quit and let those bastards/bitches have the last laugh. Pardon my language.
On your bully case: Do you have the courage to go up against the system? Do you have sufficient evidence, eg. emails, witnesses, voice recordings, witnesses, etc? If you have no evidence, you have no chance of winning. Better stay low until you have collected sufficient evidence. You could then submit your thesis, and lodge your case and let all hell break loose, if you so wish. Could you speak to your student union? Every university should have one. See what they advice. Understand that if you lodge your case, you are in for a roller coaster ride in terms of your emotion because those higher ups will try to "silence" you in ways that may be completely unethical (but perhaps unprovable - eg, telling you off at a corridor with no one present, threatening to ruin your reputation, spreading rumours, etc).
This is where your motive is important. If your motive to protect only yourself, you might have insufficient "stamina" to fight. If your motive to protect yourself and others who have and will be bullied by these ppl, then you may find the courage and perseverance to fight on. I find that the culture of bullying is well rooted in academia based on my own experience. Most people stay silent for fear of repurcussions. And the system seems to protect these bullies as well. However, I believe that the truth and justice will prevail, albeit after a long time. Someone just has to take the first step. Problem is, most people don't want to be that someone.
You did not mention what your supervisor said about this. What was his advice to you? Could he give support?
This sounds like an awful situation to be in. However, from what you have written it seems to me that you are establishing a good reputation for yourself in you (niche?) field, and that academically your work is strong. Politics at university level suck, especially if you are hoping for a job at the same institution, but it sounds unlikely that you would even want to stay there now after all that has happened. Finish your PhD as swiftly as possible (remember, this is only your first work in academia, not the 'magnus opus'), and then apply for jobs at other institutions, with a glowing recommendation from your supportive sup. Sometimes things don't pan out the way you expect when you first start, but especially in 'niche' fields (I work in one of them), unexpected job opportunities occur often.
I would not pursue the bully case - more effort than it's worth, and challenging these things often leads to a bad outcome for the challenger. Act professionally and calmly, finish your thesis and then leave the mess behind holding your head high, pursuing your dream job elsewhere.
Politics eh! Going to get them in any and every walk of life. Everyone has their own style, some people like it some don't. But one thing I will say is the closer to the top you get the more there are.
I don't want to give advice on what you should do now as I have not been in your position.
My style? If this had happened - "When negotiating salary, etc. for the position (essentially a temporary faculty position), they told me they didn't value the content, instructed me that they would not pay me more than a measly "honorarium (less than 10% of what I should have been making) and said if I didn't accept that, or if I went to the union, they would simply cut the curriculum content (which my supervisor has spent 20 years developing) and it would be my fault. "
I would have simply answered "ok.. can you just drop that to me in a mail please". Nip it in the bud at the beginning. People can only bully you if you let them.
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