Joke isn't funny any more

May 27, 2010

My dislike of Piled Higher and Deeper predates its appearance in THE, and further exposure has done nothing to alter my opinion.

The cartoon on 20 May, "How grad school is just like kindergarten", undoubtedly represents the apotheosis of Jorge Cham's constantly repeated amuse-bouche: to represent PhD students as children and their behaviour and work as infantile.

This may reflect his own experience but it certainly does not reflect mine. Neither does it reflect my understanding of colleagues at Queen's University Belfast or elsewhere. Indeed, in the context of the professionalisation of postgraduate research across the UK and beyond, I'm fairly sure it cannot be the experience of many PhD students at all.

In the current funding environment, propagating such misperceptions, even in joke form, seems ill-advised. Universities derive a lot of benefit from doctoral students and their hard-won research activities.

Having now achieved the "perfect" rendition of his "insightful" joke, perhaps Cham would consider early retirement, a return to his studies or simply find another topic to draw pictures about? (No Cham, it isn't very nice when someone deliberately belittles and infantilises your work, is it?)

Nathan Emmerich, PhD student, Queen's University, Belfast.

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