How common is it for professors to yell at their students?

  • #1
352
41
It doesn't have to be just yelling, but any other kind of abuse-- talking down at them, shaming them etc.

When I say students, I specifically mean the graduate and undergraduate students who do research under the professor. While I have never personally encountered such a thing, I've heard of numerous accounts of certain professors, doing so. I, of course, think that this is completely wrong and should never be acceptable in any situation; but I was curious, how widespread is it exactly, in academia?
 
Last edited:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Dr Transport
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,449
590
My PhD advisor and I yelled at each other on occasion, but he never yelled at me and put me down or abused me in any other way.
 
  • #3
Choppy
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
4,635
1,777
I'm sure it happens.

There are going to be stresses and conflicts in any employer-employee or trainer-trainee relationship, and there's no reason to expect that academics will be immune from them. And professors are human. So while there is an expectation that they'll behave in a professional manner, regardless of the conflict or stress or circumstances, you're going to get a few people who abuse their authority.

I don't think it's very common though, in my experience.
 
  • #4
jrmichler
Mentor
1,398
1,537
I have never seen abuse, but it's common for a professor to manipulate graduate students into doing extra work outside of their research. My PhD advisor tried to order me to take an extra year as a student for just that. So I called a meeting of my advisory committee, presented everything I had done to date, and asked if it was enough to get a degree. It was.
 
  • #5
352
41
I have never seen abuse, but it's common for a professor to manipulate graduate students into doing extra work outside of their research. My PhD advisor tried to order me to take an extra year as a student for just that. So I called a meeting of my advisory committee, presented everything I had done to date, and asked if it was enough to get a degree. It was.
Mentor note: Profanity edited out.
That's kindda messed up. What do you mean by "advisory committee"? I thought the only people involved in a PhD program are the professor and the student(s) and maybe the Physics/Astronomy department of the university.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #6
Dr Transport
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,449
590
That's kindda messed up. What do you mean by "advisory committee"? I thought the only people involved in a PhD program are the professor and the student(s) and maybe the Physics/Astronomy department of the university.

You have a PhD committee, which signs off on your dissertation in addition to your advisor. It's a peer review internally to assure that you did the appropriate work for your degree.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Like
Likes Phys12
  • #7
jrmichler
Mentor
1,398
1,537
At my university, and in my major (mechanical engineering), all doctoral students had an advisory committee consisting of their advisor, two professors from the department, and one professor outside the department. The committee decides when your research is sufficient for a degree.
 
  • #8
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,358
9,841
I've heard of numerous accounts of certain professors, both inside and outside my university
I think you should either make an accusation, or don't. Claiming that UT Arlington - you've made no secret of where you go - is doing something wrong without specifics is not very up front. Accuse. Or don't.
 
  • Like
Likes Phys12
  • #9
352
41
I think you should either make an accusation, or don't. Claiming that UT Arlington - you've made no secret of where you go - is doing something wrong without specifics is not very up front. Accuse. Or don't.
It's not the university all together, but only specific people. I've deleted that part anyway (although not sure if that makes a difference)
 
  • #10
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,358
9,841
To quote Yoda, "Do. Or do not."
 
  • #11
352
41
To quote Yoda, "Do. Or do not."
I'm not making one. I said that it may not make a difference since there's already a quoted version of what I originally said.
 
  • #12
Charles Link
Homework Helper
Insights Author
Gold Member
2020 Award
4,860
2,187
@Phys12 It has been my experience that many of the university professors were simply amazing, and there was always a couple who proved to be extremely difficult people. I think it was probably like that long before my university days (40+ years ago), and it's likely to be quite similar presently. You are not going to make any impact of any kind on how it is. I recommend you simply work with what you have, and you might find you can even get a smile out of the most difficult ones on occasion.
 
  • #13
352
41
@Phys12 It has been my experience that many of the university professors were simply amazing, and there was always a couple who proved to be extremely difficult people. I think it was probably like that long before my university days (40+ years ago), and it's likely to be quite similar presently. You are not going to make any impact of any kind on how it is. I recommend you simply work with what you have, and you might find you can even get a smile out of the most difficult ones on occasion.
Oh no, I'm not complaining or anything. Like I said, I've never personally experienced. I was just curious what the stats were
 
  • #14
727
168
We had a professor here some years ago now who would shout at and denigrate his students. To be fair the students gave back in kind, those students that fought back gained respect from the Professor. His behaviour would not be tolerated today.

Cheers
 
  • #15
jlaw
I'd say too much belittling happens in the name of character-building or under the pretext of guarding against pride and complacency. Professors sometimes take this too far. They do not offer due credit, choosing instead to play down student achievement. It only creates tension, or worse--students who need validation lose confidence.

Forgive me for being general or vague, but I'm sure some of you can see what I mean, if not agree with it.
 
  • #16
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,358
9,841
Oh no, I'm not complaining or anything. Like I said, I've never personally experienced.
So your original accusation claiming this was going on at UT Arlington was just gossip?
 
  • #17
russ_watters
Mentor
20,238
6,809
We had a professor here some years ago now who would shout at and denigrate his students. To be fair the students gave back in kind, those students that fought back gained respect from the Professor.
To be more fair, there is nothing fair about that. It just means that the students learned the abusive style, it doesn't make it less abusive.
 
  • Like
Likes HAYAO, Phys12 and Vanadium 50
  • #18
352
41
So your original accusation claiming this was going on at UT Arlington was just gossip?
I'm not sure if I'd call it gossip. My main motive of the post was not to make accusations, but to get to know the prevalence of the practice in academia, especially after reading an article on someone from MPI engaging in the same (https://physicsworld.com/a/max-planck-institute-for-astrophysics-hit-by-bullying-allegations/). I should've probably not included comments about my university or any other that I had just heard about from someone else.
 
  • #19
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,358
9,841
I'm not going to let you out of this so easily. You could have asked what you asked in question #18, without accusing anyone at Arlington of anything. The question is, "why diodn't you?". Indeed, you could have used the link in your thread starter, but instead you leveled some accusations at your university, accusations that you aren't backing up.
 
  • #20
352
41
I'm not going to let you out of this so easily. You could have asked what you asked in question #18, without accusing anyone at Arlington of anything. The question is, "why diodn't you?". Indeed, you could have used the link in your thread starter, but instead you leveled some accusations at your university, accusations that you aren't backing up.
Hmmm...that's a good question (it wasn't at just my university, but another one as well, but whatever). I'm not sure why I did that, maybe because that was the example that came to mind the quickest? I had read that article several days ago
 
  • #21
352
41
I'm not going to let you out of this so easily.
Just out of curiosity, am I not allowed to not answer any question that I don't want to? Also, that sounds like a, "I'm gonna teach you a lesson!" is that what it was intended to do?
 
  • #22
StatGuy2000
Education Advisor
1,815
914
I'm not going to let you out of this so easily. You could have asked what you asked in question #18, without accusing anyone at Arlington of anything. The question is, "why diodn't you?". Indeed, you could have used the link in your thread starter, but instead you leveled some accusations at your university, accusations that you aren't backing up.
@Vanadium 50, you are unfairly picking on @Phys12 on what is ultimately a trivial point. @Phys12 is asking about the prevalence of abuse of students in academia, not about specific accusations at his/her university. How he/she initially worded that question at the start of the thread is irrelevant.

If you don't have anything to say that is substantive to the discussion at hand, I suggest you not bother even responding.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #23
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,358
9,841
He edited what he originally wrote. He wasn't so much asking a question as claiming that it was going on at his university. That's an entirely different kettle of fish.
 
  • #24
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,358
9,841
Just out of curiosity, am I not allowed to not answer any question that I don't want to? Also, that sounds like a, "I'm gonna teach you a lesson!" is that what it was intended to do?
No, it's saying you need to take responsibility for what you wrote. You have made the claim that your university was doing something unethical and wrong. That can have lasting damage to people and institutions. If true, this damage is earned and justified. You can't simply unring a bell.
 
  • #25
StatGuy2000
Education Advisor
1,815
914
He edited what he originally wrote. He wasn't so much asking a question as claiming that it was going on at his university. That's an entirely different kettle of fish.
Ahh I see. I had only read the edited version of the original thread from @Phys12 , so I felt that you were giving him/her an especially hard time over such a trivial affair, as I had the general impression that @Phys12 was asking about the prevalence of abuse towards students in academia, rather than make a specific charge against specific faculty members towards students.

I do agree with you that if someone is making a specific allegation about a specific faculty member in a specific institution, then it is important to call out on this. However, in that circumstance, I don't feel that PF is the right forum to do so, mainly because the audience here on PF is fairly niche. Specific allegations (if they can be backed up) may be better placed for social media sites like, say, Reddit or Twitter, which have a broader and much wider reach.
 

Related Threads on How common is it for professors to yell at their students?

Replies
37
Views
3K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
32
Views
46K
Replies
24
Views
5K
  • Last Post
3
Replies
52
Views
9K
Replies
89
Views
9K
Replies
19
Views
2K
Replies
12
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
163
Top