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

  • Thread starter Phys12
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  • #1
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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?
 
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  • #2
Dr Transport
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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
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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
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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
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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.
 
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  • #6
Dr Transport
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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.
 
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  • #7
jrmichler
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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
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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.
 
  • #9
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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
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To quote Yoda, "Do. Or do not."
 
  • #11
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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
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@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
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@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
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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
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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
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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.
 
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  • #18
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
 
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  • #23
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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
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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
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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.
 
  • #26
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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.

Yes, you are right, bad choice of words.

Cheers
 
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  • #27
Charles Link
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I do think @Phys12 being somewhat anxious about what it can be like to advance in academia and find oneself doing research and/or a research project with a professor is somewhat justified. You do your best to roll with the punches if the professor is not as congenial as you would like him to be. If you are lucky, you get a professor who is very easy-going and easy to get along with. With the nature of this type of research, I think in quite a number of cases, the boss is not always as congenial as you might like.
 
  • #28
HAYAO
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I, as well as my colleagues, have been severely abused under my advisor. You can think of any abuse, with the exception of anything physical. Three of my colleagues (both planning for Ph.D. course) changed advisor. Others got ill. I am his/her first student to graduate masters (despite him/her being in the post for 6 years at the time) and of course Ph.D.

I swore I will never become anyone like him/her.

The lab PI did not take action until the last of my colleague that changed advisor. The department didn't do anything neither.


So yes, it happens and the chance is, they get away with it.
 
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  • #29
f95toli
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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?

Whether or not this would happen would probably have more to do with culture than anything specific to academia. That is, if you work/live in a culture (and I use the term in in the widest possible sense) where it is common (or at least not unheard of) for someone in power to yell/abuse/ talk down to people then it is likely to happen in academia as well.
That said, one difference between academia and industry is that the former is more international. Hence, you might come across situations where a person does not "conform" to what is considered acceptable behavior simply because he/she comes from a different culture. The latter is -in my experience- more likely to happen if there are several people from that culture present, and most of the time the "unacceptable" behavior will be aimed at people from that same culture.
 
  • #30
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Never happened to me, and never saw it happening to be honest.
 

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