Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Does Crotchetiness matter?

An article today at Inside Higher Ed describes a discussion of historians, wondering if it is helpful for prospective PhD students to know the "crotchetiness" factor of their faculty.

I decided to look up the definition of "crotchetiness" to make sure I understood where the discussion was headed. According to dictionary.com, "crotchetiness" means:

crotch·et·i·ness, noun
—Synonyms 1. fussy, eccentric, grouchy.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Of all the things I want to know about a PhD program, this is interesting, but not critical. I've had crotchety professors--I've learned a great deal from some of them. I've had pleasant professors, and have learned little or nothing from them. I've lived around academics long enough to know that they are all fussy or eccentric or grouchy. There are no perfect personalities in any work environment--the more important measure for a PhD program is whether or not you will get the knowledge and tools you need to be successful in your chosen career.

I think what is most important is having
  • clear expectations for performance
  • clear timelines for completion
  • support to achieve those performance and completion goals

We are adults by the time we've reached a doctoral program. We don't need you to be as sweet as our kindergarten teacher nor do we need you to hold our hand each step of the way--we just need you to be honest about what you expect from us, and to make sure we are able to meet those expectations without putting up too many barriers in our way.


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