Someone with a PhD about two weeks old, and not from the most prestigious institution at that, and a publication or two said to me, “I know you think you have caught a big fish by hiring me, so I am going to take the role of center forward here.” It was not the right thing to say, and the reason it was not is not that I see myself as the local “center forward” (I could not). Let us therefore review a few things people in general should not say when the term starts at their new universities.
If you are scandalized at your new university and want satisfaction, you should perhaps bring problems up to established faculty in the form of questions. “Is there a reason why…?” “Is it possible to…?” “Would you be interested in…?”
If want actual help figuring out how to escape, talk with someone else. If you only want to vent — don’t, it is boring. Here in particular are some conversations to avoid with the people who hired you, and also any other friends you would like to keep:
1. Excessive criticism and complaints. Even if you are right, and you probably are on most things, we are already very familiar with the problems and do not need to be taught about them. Don’t waste time, make yourself useful. For purposes of chatting, talk about something fun and interesting.
2. Threats to go on the market if you do not get the things you want right now. Cut the drama and work on your vita, then. Many are on the market. It is normal, and it does not mean they do not also do their jobs with as much dedication as those who are not.
3. Sentences like “My favorite yoga class is at 11 AM and you keep assigning me to teach then. You are not accommodating my health needs.” This is a job, and you are being paid. Be quiet.
4. Sentences like “I cannot attend that event because I have to write these stupid letters of recommendation.” I understand the frustration with overscheduling and the tedium of bureaucratic writing, but do not call these letters stupid. They are about peoples’ futures, and many such letters were written for you.
5. Paragraphs like “The University is forcing my boyfriend and me to work heavy schedules and to be in different places at different times. I only get to see him evenings, and sometimes not even then. It’s mean.” Once again, this is a job and you are being paid. Be quiet.
6. Sentences like “The University does not allow these rent subsidized apartments to be sublet, so I have to cover summer rent for a place I am not even staying in.” You are paying a low price for a stable address, a place to keep your things, and a place to come home to; welcome to adult life. Be quiet.
7. The sentence “You have no idea how hard it is for me to do research in our library, the holdings being what they are.” Fuck you then, really. I do not wish to retain a colleague who does not realize that the rest of us also use libraries to conduct research.