grad skool rulz

Truly: if you are a graduate student and feel this way about it, quit. Now. Also, if you have a blog about exposing classism and have no more perspective than this on the privilege of being in the academy versus the bottom of the labor market, quit. Now.

(Well, except for #1. #1 is a good point. And #14.)

UPDATE: The question arose in the comments of whether this is satire. I think, sure, it’s satire in the sense of “this person is trying to be funny and is likely not claiming that, as a factual matter, working at McDonald’s is a fully superior job than being a grad student.” It would have worked better, though, as a satire-parody of that small proportion of graduate students who take the real difficulties of student life and transform them into delusional levels of self-pity.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

17 thoughts on “grad skool rulz”

  1. Wow. I understand it’s a joke, and I’d expect such a mindset from a lot of grad students – especially those on the market, but I can’t believe it’s at a website devoted to exposing classism.

    I wonder if Jay has ever worked at a McDonald’s. I did in high school and stayed on after graduation. After getting promoted to manager, and seeing more opportunity up the line, I decided that it could be my career. It didn’t take me long to realize that even my junior-management level pay – $7.25 an hour – wasn’t going to buy me the American Dream in an affluent suburb and to get bored with my McLife. I was enrolled in community college within the year.

    I can honestly say that through it all, I’ve never, ever wanted to go back. The maltreatment by the customers, and the assumptions that people had about the employees’ capabilities and aspirations, among other physical and mental drawbacks, are a burden that far outweigh the truth of #1.


  2. Wow. As another person who has worked in the service industry, maybe we can compare these career paths another way:

    Option 1: Working about 10 hours a week as a TA for barely a living wage with health care and upward mobility to boot.

    Option 2: Working 39 hours a week (anyone else been victim of this before?) as a cashier for barely a living wage with no health care and really no upward mobility to boot.

    The article really should be taken down, particularly given the stated goals of the website. Given the site’s stated goals, I’m actually struggling to make sense of this post as anything other than satire. It certainly doesn’t read as a deep, meta “gotchya” form of satire though.


  3. ^^^ on second reading, agreed. It’s the easiest way to make any sense of it. Of course, then we run into the problem of who the audience for this satire is, which is probably limited to some grad students, friends of grad students who wish they’d stop bellyaching, and profs who happen to be feeling annoyed by grad students. This seems like a pretty insular group to be targeting with satire on a website that appears to be interested in reaching a wider swath of people (on first glance at least, it seems the site is down now).

    Either way, there may be few things that are less productive than the “is it satire or not?” debate that pops up in the comments sections of soc blogs from time to time. I’ll just be agnostic on if it’s satire or not and conclude that either way, it doesn’t work.


  4. It is a good exemplar of [some] grad student whining. I have often seen grad students complain about their pay and the cost of their insurance when their hourly pay is exactly the same (or in some cases much higher) than the secretary in the main office. They are totally clueless about the economic realities of the people working around them. (OK so are the faculty, who have been known to whine about their salaries while making 2-6 times what the office staff makes. Bad, bad taste to do this in front of people making a lot less than you make.) Back to the students, I have actually heard grad students proclaim themselves to be the most disadvantaged employees on campus! Some people who think they are radicals need a big wake up call. Other activists, of course, are not so ignorant and do make a serious attempt to understand the conditions and issues relevant to other people.


  5. In my pity rankings, the plight of sociology graduate students is second only to starving children in Africa, and well ahead of political prisoners in China, people with cystic fibrosis, and people who have had their face bitten off by someone else’s inappropriate pet. The horrors…


  6. Agreed olderwoman.

    Speaking as a grad student (branding myself with the Scarlet “G”, oh well, out with it), I can recount several occasions in which my peers reached these same preposterous conclusions from their “sensible” complaints (e.g. “I was better off when I was at Togo’s/Macy’s/etc. than now when I have to deal with [the backbreaking indignity of]…”. Of course, it’s always a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but usually not enough so to be entirely comfortable. This is why on first glance I just assumed the writer was one of these grad students (who I unfortunately know a little bit too well).

    fwiw being a grad student is hands down the best gig I’ve ever had, and not only because at some points it has afforded me the leisure time to engage in myopic and senseless complaining in the moments when I forget how great I have it. ;)

    Sorry for the likely misread, and thanks for the “update” on the post, Jeremy.


  7. As a grad student I spent a lot of time (especially in the first few years) contemplating life in various other professions, such as delivering mail or digging graves (a friend who did this one summer claimed it was the best job he’d ever had). Of course, I always decided that I DID want to be in grad school, but I imagine that if I had these thoughts in a department that treated its students well there must be a large number of grad students who take these thoughts to greater length. I can’t blame them for trying to find some humor in the situation.


  8. Just to be clear, as a professor I found about 80% of the post to be a funny commentary on the academic life in general. Grading papers, dealing with students, and dealing with comments for revision does not exactly stop when you get a PhD and I thought there was some real wit in the way some things were said.

    The problematic aspect of the post is blindness to class and hierarchy and making a joke out of class inequality. It’s kind of like trying to draw parallels between grad school and slavery because in both cases people tell you what to do, or between getting critical comments on a paper and rape because you feel violated. The thing you are trying to compare yourself to is so completely different in the actual reality of things that you are by implication indicating that you are clueless and ignorant about the world. Um, to be clear, I’m not saying that a low wage job is the same as slavery or rape. I’m trying to give extreme examples of analogies that offend not because there’s something wrong with the complaint itself (about being told what to do or get criticism) but because making the comparison trivializes others’ experiences.


  9. I’d encourage my colleagues on the faculty to give the writer some credit. Satire lives off exaggeration. Hence the lopsided comparison with fast food workers. But since we’re on the topic of style, another thing that’s really, really bad style is for highly paid people with power (i.e. faculty) to to lecture those who have neither on the etiquette of humility and gratitude. Let me be specific: it’s OK for grad students to ridicule faculty in general on little known blogs. It’s quite a different matter for faculty to lecture specific graduate students, as grad students, in their proper place on widely read blogs.


    1. Hmm. Honestly, I have no idea who Mr. Classism Exposed is or how widely read the blog is. I guess since it had links from more than one person in my Facebook feed, I didn’t interpret this in the frame of some poor young student writing a little joke post for his circle of friends. I mean, “Classism Exposed” is a pretty ambitious title, and the blog was hosted out of its own domain and had its own banner and such, so it seemed like a seriously intended enterprise (even if satirical).

      So I responded with my true thoughts about the post, and I think others in this thread responded as though we were having an adult-to-adult conversation. But, sure, I wasn’t looking to unleash my vast faculty power and Scatterplot’s enormous readership to crush some budding student satirist’s soul, so if I misread the situation and we ended up doing that, I’d feel guilty.

      My vision of blogging is that people are putting things out there publicly and should want other people to feel free to give their authentic responses, but I recognize that various power dynamics make that more complicated. It’d probably be easier if the various augmentations to my paycheck that have come since graduate school had made me less cranky, rather than more.


      1. Oh, man, rugstudy makes me feel all guilty and then I look back and it’s a full fledged site with a “DONATE” button and a “STORE” tab. So, seriously, yes: if you are going to start a Classism Exposed blog and ask people to donate to it, don’t think you are being a good ambassador for the evils of classism by writing a satire post about how being a graduate student is worse than having the prototypic bottom-labor-market job. Boo!

        And, in any event, if you are a graduate student and you recognized the original post as satire but it was a satire that resonated really strong with you as seeming to mock the wicked truth, I would urge you strongly–for your own well-being, not on my account–to consider another line of work, or at least take some time off.



  10. People gripe about their work, even people with good jobs, even people who have no desire to quit their jobs. (I thought there was some classic sociology of work article about griping — its forms and functions. Maybe not. Maybe I just imagined it. Maybe I thought it was an essay I should have written.) This guy is certainly not trying to make the point that McD employees don’t know how good they have it and that McD is good place to work. He is griping about his job, and trying to do it with some humor, (I kinda like the line about the IRB), and he’s using McD because it’s common knowledge that McD jobs are bad jobs.


  11. Jeremy, nothing escapes your eagle eyes. The “store”–priceless.

    On the topic of dropping out of grad school. I’m with you on that. Grad school isn’t for everybody, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes that realization gets projected into an overblown sense of entitlement or oppression (though sometimes it’s born out of very real disadvantage). In my department, it drives me crazy that faculty (I’m faculty, btw) by and large resist having this kind of conversation with grad students. I could (and do occasionally) point to a few lost souls among our grad students who’d clearly better grab that terminal MA and seek a better life elsewhere. I feel very strongly about protecting grad students from all sorts of things, including wasting years in a program that’s not for them. But we’re not having these–caring!–conversations. A sad state of affairs.

    Come to think of it, maybe this fine blog could have a conversation about when to drop out of grad school, and what the implied obligations of faculty in stewarding the decision might be?


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