Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You Bet

How do we feel about graduate advisers betting with each other on the progress of their students?

I am not talking about a vast gambling ring involving misuse of grant funds. I am talking about one professor saying to another (from time to time) something like "I bet you a medium caramel macchiato that Student X will not finish the next draft of the manuscript by next Tuesday" and then the other professor says "OK, I think Student X will finish that draft by next Tuesday, but I don't want a medium caramel macchiato, I want a large extra-hot pumpkin soy chai latte."

Despicable and unprofessional behavior that Student X would find deeply troubling were he/she to find out, thereby preventing the completion of the manuscript draft by next Tuesday owing to emotional turmoil?

Harmless fun between professors who are seeking ways to stay sane after years of graduate advising/cat herding?

I personally do not find the revelation of these professorial gambling habits at all shocking or disturbing. In fact, I think that the Student X's of the world should start to worry only when no one is willing to bet on them because no one believes they will meet their deadlines, ever.

34 comments:

William said...

Personally I'd feel great if my advisor was betting on me, and not so great if he was betting against me.

Quill2006 said...

Heck, professors can stop betting on their students when the students stop betting that their professors will, for example, keep them late after class is supposed to end AGAIN.

As long as neither the professors involved nor the students manipulate the bet's target to try to win, and as long as we aren't encouraging high-stakes gambling based on student work, I think I'll just laugh, and enjoy my iced mocha. ;)

Krazy Kitty said...

Well, we students make bets on whether or not Professor X will have replied to our email by next Tuesday, so I don't see the harm.

Although our bets seem to involve more beers and less caffeinated beverages. (Because we're smug and only drink espressos.)

Anonymous said...

"I am not talking about a vast gambling ring involving misuse of grant funds" --> haha, funny you.

Janka said...

For me, it would be ok if all the people involved (advisors and student) were in warm relationships with each other and it would be in good fun. I would probably personally find it a good laugh if my advisor did something, but I know of some other advisors from whom it would feel like they were being mean.

Anonymous said...

...caramel macchiato....
pumpkin soy chai latte...

The above is the most disturbing bit in your post, are there actually people who're drinking these tortured sorts of coffee??

I couldn't care less about my professor having bets on my writing (though I'd love to know, so I can help the nicer professor in his bets), but the prospect of highly intelligent people having such a bad taste for coffee is the most disturbing bit in your whole post. What is wrong with a normal cup of coffee, or betting for a beer??

EliRabett said...

Depends if I win or lose

Gingerale said...

I think these bets are fine. They're a way that faculty deal with faculty life.

I also think the info on bets should be kept away from the grad students -- not only the grad students being betted on but all the grad students.

Of course, after they graduate, they can find out post hoc about all the lattes their advisor won or lost over them.

Alyssa said...

I think it's in the "innocent fun" category, as long as it's done in private. Students should know that their advisors discuss them with other faculty...just like students talk about their advisors with other students (and take bets!).

Genomic Repairman said...

You'd be surprised what profs bet on. Heck its usually the professors that run the biggest betting pools around campus: who's getting married, fired, promoted, or demoted. Mine bet me a case of beer on experiment results. Lets just say I got drunk on the big guy.

anon said...

According to the official betting rules, I don't think you can bet if you have a stake in the results. Sorry. Well, you can, but it's illegal. You'll end up banned from your sport for a year or something. Since these rules haven't been extended to academia then it's your call.

I bet it wouldn't be nice to bet on whether a certain student would fail out of the program though.

CrankyMathGuy said...

Student X to Student Y: "I bet a double tall mocha that my advisor won't read the draft I submitted Tuesday before next month."

Anonymous said...

Well as a graduate student, I find that fairly depressing and demeaning. However, I tend to have similar (although internal) bets about undergrads who I TA/supervise. Just don't let the student find out please.

Genomic Repairman said...

Sorry I should have elaborated, we were betting if the results of a certain experiment were valid. He said he thought my controls were bad, but they were actually valid. So it was all in good fun.

female Science Professor said...

The names of the beverages were changed to protect their anonymity.

lost academic said...

I can see it being potentially harmful, but only in a way you can't control, which would be the (excessive) level of sensitivity of the student. At some point in grade school we all (should) figure out that our teachers spend a ton of time gossiping and complaining about us, they really don't have nearly as much to talk about since they're stuck with us for too many hours in a day. Realizing that everyone is really part of the same world can be painfully eye opening, but unless some level of malice is involve, I don't see a real problem with it.

k8lh said...

I'm all for this!

As a fifth year grad student, I think I'd even see my prof betting against me as a challenge. Some of the asinine and inane comments I get on manuscripts and grant reviews are waaay worse than this. I'm working on getting a thicker skin.

aceon said...

As long as both the stakes, and the object of the bet are mostly inconsequential I am all for betting. I was, however, rather annoyed to find out people in my husbands department were engaging in this type of speculation about when I would get pregnant. I think there's a line in there somewhere, and that crossed it. Draft by Tuesday? Yes. Pregnancy? No.

Ewan said...

OK, I need to start this :).

[We already have a lab 'beers owed' tally, which is close - standard cost of being proven wrong regarding some hypothesis = 1 beer if the opponent was willing to accept equal stakes - but I like the between-profs idea!]

I have a ms from grad school - yes, ten years ago now - sitting on my desk still, in part because the best reason I can still think of for having done the work was that I won beer from my advisor over the outcome of the experiments..

quasarpulse said...

Agreed with previous commenter re: pregnancy betting. That happened to women at my command in the Navy. i file that under "hostile work environment" to the max, especially considering that pregnancy isn't always exactly *celebrated* for either junior female servicemembers or female grad students.

Betting on innocuous metrics of performance/procrastination? With coffee as the stakes? No complaints.

Ms.PhD said...

I think it's kind of offensive, but I'm not shocked.

I just put myself in the students' shoes, and I know I would be pissed off if someone were talking about me like this behind my back.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

FSP, you are the Pete Motherfucking Rose of science professors!

mwikali said...

I wish my advisor had done this and let me know about it. It would have at least given me something concrete to work towards!

yolio said...

Seems insensitive. As long as the professors make a reasonable effort to keep the bet private, then whatever, it's a joke. Even if I somehow found out, I'd take it in stride. But if the professors were openly flaunting their jokey expectations, this would bother me.

female Science Professor said...

CPP - Is that by any chance a Sports Reference?

Anonymous said...

I never thought about doing this, but it's a great idea! I'm going to go find a sucker right now!

Anonymous said...

I am a fifth year grad student and I am involved in a "bet" with a new, young professor -- who can get to 7 publications first. It's made for a fun time with extra celebrations at each publication. Of course, when I do actually reach 7 first, he is probably not going to be happy for me!

My co-author (another grad student) and I also recently played poker to see who would get to be first author on a paper that we both equally contributed to. Unfortunately, he won, but it was fun times!

Anonymous said...

FSP pwnd CPP!!!LOLZ

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I find myself alarmed at the very idea of a pumpkin soy chai latte.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

CPP - Is that by any chance a Sports Reference?

Pete Rose is an American Cultural Icon!

Anonymous said...

In the department where I got my PhD, a few professors participated in a graduation pool (analagous to a dead pool). A more cynical version of this would be a dropout pool. I admit that I found this funny, even though most people might have put money on me in the latter (though they would have collected only if they had me in the former).

Anonymous said...

Betting on yourself -- as a grad student long-ish ago, someone offered to pay any grad student in my department $100 for the rights to his or her future nobel prize. No one took him up on it.

Space Prof said...

CPP: Pete Rose is probably known by many in America, but IT IS a sports reference, which is something that FSP particularly dislikes.

Oh yeah, I should use profanity when addressing you: that's Pete "The Motherfucking FSP of Baseball" Rose.

Zuska said...

Well, if FSP doesn't like sports references then maybe she should lay off the betting on graduate students. Chattel they may be, but we don't have to deport ourselves around them as if they are sport for our amusement. It's one thing for students to bet on the behavior of their superiors - that's just them trying to level the playing field. But their superiors betting on the performance of their serfs? Not so nice. CPP is very right indeed to invoke Pete Rose, who violated the ethics of his sport, because the supervisor's role is to nurture and guide the student, to make sure that he/she reaches that goal that has been set. Not to sit back and joke around with colleagues and find amusement in the flailings of the student who is unable to meet the goal, let alone take a bet that has him/her benefit, however slightly, on the student failing. Gah. Pardon me while I go puke on some miscellaneous shoes.