When i am bored and have nothing better to do, or when i want to avoid work, or at times like these when I can't sleep and no book helps, I log into my old univ account to check out whats going on in lutom, in my old department. I still get mails addressed to the listserv, and while its mostly "does anyone have a little bit of such-and-such i can borrow", sometimes there are small discussions that can be fun to watch as an outsider. :)
Right now there is an upcoming recruitment weekend going on. Basically, prospective grad students for this Fall semester are flown in from all over the country to interview and be shortlisted for admission to the grad program. This was one of my least favourite events in grad school. It reeked of superficiality, an over-enthusiastic attempt to sell ourselves and reminded me of some stupid promotion event by a company. Imagine the slight amount of stress one has when one is entertaining guests: you want to make a good impression, you want everything to be tip-top, AND you are slightly inconvenienced by it all but cannot show it. Well, recruitment weekend was like that, only worse. Anywhere from 15 - 20 students are invited, and are put up at host students' places for the weekend or at the campus lodge. A huge effort is made to make the weekend fun-filled and activity-packed- they have to get a good feel of our research, or town, our social fiber and basically be convinced that this was the best school to go to. There would be breakfasts and dinners organised, everyone was bullied or emotionally blackmailed into attending and showing up in big numbers. The pressure to put up your best side was just annoying. Faculty would be dripping with saccharine sweetness and extra bright smiles all weekend long. Now i am all for being a good citizen in a community and partaking in such activities. What put me off was the overkill, the whole "Show" that was put on. Frankly, social activities in our department were pretty limited to faculty/student recruitments and an annual retreat of some kind. God knows that people tried at various times (including me) to extend this kind of socializing to happen more regularly, but it met with varying degrees of success. Typically, the same crowd showed up to all dos and the ones that remained holed in their labs working on their experiments never came out. The few that spearheaded the efforts soon got tired of it and so...it was never sustained. Now, given this very rare social interaction, when a bunch of people (Scientists, no less), are forced to spend time together outside work and be all schmoozy, they run out of things to talk about pretty soon. So we are left with really bored to death people who'd rather be doing their own thing or working away in the lab. Instead, they have to put up this whole show about being a super-friendly department and the charade just begins to stink at some point. Then there is this huge pressure to go out of your way to be nice to the recruits, no stepping on their toes, watch everything you say...blah blah blah.
The sad bit was that our dept was a great place to work in. People are generally friendly, helpful with your science, good buddies, and the town was a nice place to live. There was really no need to put on an act because we were pretty cool the way we were. I never understood the reason to go out of our way to prove it to these kids in that span of two and a half days.
This rant really had no point, but I was just reminded of how much I hated this dog and pony show of a recruitment weekend.