Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sundays with Your Advisor

In an e-mail about a (mostly) unrelated topic, a graduate student reader of this blog mentioned that she had requested regular meetings with her advisor. This request was part of an ongoing, long-standing effort to improve a rather grim situation for this student, and it seems that things have overall gotten better with time. What struck me, however, was this:
I asked for a regular bi-weekly meeting and he wanted to have Sunday night meetings- and so we have regular weekly meeting Sunday nights.
I hope I am not alone in thinking that is strange. But I had to think: What exactly bothers me about it (most)?

Is it because, although I have mostly gone over to the advisorial dark side, I am not so far gone as to appreciate that weekends are important for unstructured time for students to unwind from a stressful week and have time for a bit of independent work? No, I doubt that's it.

Is it because I enjoy my unstructured time on weekends and shudder to think of a regularly scheduled work-related event on a Sunday night? I am happy to work with my advisees on weekends if they need my help with something, and I tend to work on Sunday nights, typically in my office (and mostly watching things like this over and over), but I would nevertheless be very reluctant to schedule a regular meeting for Sunday nights. So yes, this seems to be part of my dislike for the idea.

Or could it be that -- without knowing much else about the situation -- I think there is something a bit creepy about scheduling weekend night meetings with a student?

Yes, but I also realize that I don't really know enough about the situation. Perhaps the research lab is buzzing with activity on Sunday nights, and there are swarms of grads and postdocs happily making interesting scientific discoveries 24/7. Perhaps it is a normal thing to do in that department/group, and the only time the advisor can fit in the requested meeting with his advisee, so it is actually kind of nice for him to make this time (???). It doesn't sound like a particular happy group -- perhaps because it is in the life sciences! -- but my knowledge of the research group environment is very incomplete. Nevertheless, this strikes me as strange.

Does this situation bother you -- advisors, students, others? Why or why not?

What would you do if you, as an advisor, didn't have time to meet regularly with all your students during weekday working hours? Would you (have you) set up a weekend/night meeting time or would you adjust your schedule in some other way so that there was time during the week to meet?

What would you do, as a student, if your advisor suggested regular meetings with you at night and/or on a weekend and you didn't feel comfortable with that?

50 comments:

anne said...

I think what bothers me most is that she had to request regular meetings in the first place, and that this was somehow a hardship for the adviser to fulfill. I suppose it depends on the size of the workgroup. (Mine was relatively small and we had to meet weekly with our PI, which was far too often if you ask me.)

Anonymous said...

I'm a grad student whose adviser is most available for meetings he gets back to work from dinner. He has, for as long as anyone in the lab remembers, always kept stereotypically grad-student hours (coming in around noon, and leaving after midnight), and now that he's department head he's really not available much during regular business hours because he's dealing with department stuff then.

I've never scheduled regular meetings with him--we meet on short notice when there's something to discuss--so I actually find his being available in the evening useful, since it means there's a time I can talk to him without having to worry that he's going to have to rush off to a meeting or be interrupted by an important phone call or something.

I don't think anyone in the lab finds this creepy; the main complaint I've heard about it comes from one of my fellow-students who lives fairly far from campus and whose significant other has a nine-to-five job. He finds it annoying that meeting with our adviser is hard to do during the hours he'd prefer to be in lab, but this is a schedule-conflict issues, not a creepiness concern.

simjockey said...

I did my master's thesis work in India. The side-effects of this was that conference deadlines like 1159 EST were actually in the morning in India. For whatever reason, my advisor felt that we needed to work all through the last night of the submission. On one occasion he made me and a fellow student wait until 3.30 AM in the morning before giving us feedback on a paper. I didn't think this was creepy or anything but I was a little upset about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a grad student (operations research in an engineering school). My advisor offers to meet with me on weekends if we're near a deadline. This is never INSTEAD of a weekday meeting but in addition to it. Once during a snow day, near a deadline, we met at her house because it was easier than both going to school. It was admittedly a little weird to meet at her house but we had a very productive four (!) hours of work, especially because it was uninterrupted.

Anonymous said...

While my supervisor and I don't meet in the evenings, he tends to only send me emails on evenings and weekends. I found this quite stressful and disruptive of my time (either unwinding or working uninterrupted) so I stopped checking my university email account after 5pm and on weekends. Come to think of it, I don't check it in the morning either because I like to spend that time working uninterrupted too.

I probably wouldn't agree to formal meetings evenings or weekends, but it is handy when my advisor is around during those times if I want to pop in to ask a quick question or show him something I've been working on.

Postdoc said...

I think it's fine for advisors to expect grad students to get work done on weekends in general, but scheduling regular meetings for Sunday nights is just wrong. I certainly worked many, many weekends as a grad student, but on my terms and on my schedule. Demanding that your student meet with you every other Sunday evening, and controlling your whereabouts on a Sunday is inappropriate; Sunday evenings are simply not their time to control. I certainly put up with my fair share of inappropriate demands from my advisor during grad school (in the life sciences!), and I think a number of things frustrate me:

1. There's somehow this belief that grad students aren't actually real *people*, with even a modicum of a life outside of grad school, and heaven forbid she wants to have dinner with her parents on a Sunday evening or something instead of meeting with him every other Sunday night. Just because you like science and want a Ph.D. doesn't mean you lose your *right* to a personal life; I think Sunday evenings are *my* personal time, to spend how I see fit - if I choose to be in lab, that's my choice (lord knows I spent enough Sunday nights in lab!), but if I choose not to spend it in lab, that's also my choice, it's *my* decision, not his. She shouldn't be made to feel like some slacker who doesn't care about her research if she's not comfortable meeting him on Sunday nights.

2. There's of course a power dynamic at play here; advisors get away with these outlandish requests because often grad students are afraid to say no to their advisors, even at requests they consider inappropriate, for fear of the repercussions. Would he ask other professors to meet with him regularly on Sunday nights? This sounds a bit like he's on a power trip and being able to control her like a pawn. My grad school advisor told me to come in and meet with him on Saturday mornings on multiple occasions; I thought it was inappropriate, but was uncomfortable with saying no, even when this led to me having to cancel other plans that I had. As a postdoc now (and having my Ph.D. behind me!) I'd feel much more comfortable now saying "I'm sorry, I have other plans". But grad school is (can be) such a mindfuck that when most of your time, thoughts, and energy go towards your research, combined with a controlling advisor, you lose sight of what's appropriate and what's inappropriate.

3. I'm not sure of this grad student's family status (married, children, etc), but it shouldn't matter - this is inappropriate regardless. But I also got this feeling as a grad student that the married people in our lab, with families, weren't subjected to as many of these meeting demands on weekends, nighttime, etc. Maybe because my advisor thought that they would say "My wife doesn't want me coming in that day, she has plans for us" (my advisor's wife didn't like him coming into lab on the weekends, so at least this concept he could grasp). But he knew everyone's personal situation, and it was almost like he thought a single grad student couldn't possibly have other plans on the weekend, so they must free to meet with him on short notice, whereas married people were cut more slack. Didn't seem fair - just because someone's not married doesn't mean they don't have a personal life!

Anyway, in summary, I think advisors can expect grad students to work weekends in the general sense, but controlling their time/whereabouts on weekends, especially with a regularly scheduled meeting, is completely out of line and unprofessional.

Anonymous said...

We are starting an internal webblog in our lab on blogspot. (My prof is a big fan of FSP, btw.) The webblog will require students to put a summary of each experiment on the blog after it has been completed and then the professor will contact us (by text, but also by comments on the blog) to discuss next actions. Our professor is called out of town a lot and has a lot of responsibilities to our infant neuroscience department, so I think this is a great fix. Much better than requiring grads or undergrads to come in on weekend nights.

mOOm said...

Maybe the advisor is a Muslim or Jewish etc. and doesn't see anything special about Sundays. I would never do this except in special circumstances in order to preserve time which isn't scheduled for meetings etc. But I'm in the social sciences where I think this would be odd and in Australia where we don't even have conferences on weekends.

Science Professor Mum said...

My instant reaction is "hell no". Whilst I accept that many academics enjoy the "freedom" of being able to work 24/7 if they want to, personally I find this really doesn't work. In fact I would say it directly contributed to a lot of stress in my early days as a lecturer and also to the demise of my first marriage.

For the past 6 years (starting before I had kids but co-incident with my current relationship) I have made a rule that work will only be done on evenings and weekends as an emergency situation (exam marking and proposal writing being the most common occasions). As a result I find I am much more focused when I am in the office and acheive a lot more both there and at home. I offer my grad students/ postdocs weekly meetings (some only want fornightly and that is fine) and one day each week is completely taken up with such supervisory duties. If there is a very busy week with travel etc I let them know in advance we'll be skipping a week.
My own grad students are generally not the problem, it's the undergraduates who expect you to read and respond to email 24/7 that really bug me. I officially work 4 days per week at the moment and do not generally read email between 5pm on Thursday and 9 am on Monday. If a meeting is really needed on a Friday I will come in and do it, but most people are respectful enough to fit it in at othertimes.

Whichever way people want to work is fine as long as attempts are made to consider other peoples schedules sometimes, but I do think we need to strike out against the 24/7 "you're not serious if you take a holiday" stance of some groups/departments. I turned down a promotional move some years ago because the entire dept routinely pulled 60 hour weeks...

Anonymous said...

If an advisor has no time during the week to talk with their students, they shouldn't have students. Enough said!

Anonymous said...

What bothers me about this is it seems mostly like a power play. If you've requested a meeting with your advisor, and the only time they suggest is inconvenient and/or inappropriate for you, how can you realistically refuse? I've known 2 different students at 2 different universities whose advisors scheduled lab meetings for the middle of the night. Really. 3 am and everyone expected to be there. I think it each case it was claimed that this was the only time that everyone could meet, but I think it's a control issue. [And, yes, they were both life science labs...]

Angela said...

I would find it creepy where I the only person who had a late night meeting or a weekend meeting. If that was the long-established norm for that group, that would probably be ok.

Regardless of any norms - I'd probably be pretty annoyed at regularly having to be at work on a sunday evening. Maybe I would try to make friday the new saturday and saturday the new sunday.

LMH said...

My advisor was also available later in the evenings, after dinner, although Sunday was his day off - very religious man. He was too awkward to be creepy, and my group was large enough that there was always someone around.

This seems pretty standard to me - at least he agreed to meet and didn't hide - but that could just be a testament to my conditioning working for a very awkward person for five years.

Anonymous said...

Postdoc here. I'd have a big problem with Sunday evening meetings, unless the adviser was very clear that I didn't have to stick to the regular 9-5 M-F. I desperately need good boundaries when my work isn't going well so that I can recharge. I'd probably take any Sunday evening time from my regular work hours, perhaps without asking, and talk with the adviser only if s/he confronted me about it.

I was once part of an academic group in which it was expected that we'd all eat lunch together. I found this really stressful because I was used to using lunch time to decompress a little, go for a walk, and do personal errands. There was no negotiating the lunch deal, and I ended up resenting the head of the group pretty strongly and starting work later in the day.

MamaRox said...

I give students the option of a daytime or evening meeting. Those that pick evening say they like it because they don't have other conflicts then. Coming back to work after dinner once or twice a week is convenient for me because of my spouse can be home with our sleeping larva. Other faculty have occasional evening meetings here, too. Although, now that I think of it, those of us that have evening meetings are mothers, plus the male dept head whose day is usually consumed with administratia...

Eileen said...

I find it odd. I have a pretty good relationship with my advisor, and we meet sometimes in the evening during the week, but the weekend seems odd. I think it bothers me for the same reason meeting with professors at their homes sometimes bothers me: it brings what is supposed to be a public relationship into a private space, where the rules are not as clear.

Anonymous said...

I'm an advisor (midcareer recently promoted to full prof, physical sciences). I say it's creepy.

Gears said...

Although I'm new to advising role, I do think it's somewhat awkward for the advisor to schedule a *regular* meeting on the weekend. Trying to get results for papers/talks/proc on the weekend is par for the course, but a regular meeting seems strange to me.

Does the advisor have a family? If not, that could be one reasons why it may not be strange for them to request a meeting at that time. Otherwise, I can see setting a meeting for a weekday evening because the advisor is generally busy all day. While it's not something I strive for, I can see how an advisor would get put in that situation.

Anonymous said...

Creepiness to me would depend on whether the lab is generally working at that time, or not. As you say, it might be in a life sciences lab, where being in on the lab on the week might be quite ordinary (for example, when running behavioral experiments that have to be run everyday, or working with animals where a researcher needs to check in on them everyday).

If the lab is working at that time, it's not creepy. If it's just the student and the professor, it might or might not be creepy depending on the professor (though a grim situation might indicate a further reason to worry). Other creepiness indicators would be where s/he's expecting to meet.

Anonymous said...

At a recent dinner for women graduate students in science:

Biology grad student: My advisor has ten students.
Me: That's a lot.
Biology grad student: Another professor has 50 grad students! He has to schedule meetings with them at 3am!
Me: Whoa.

I meet with my advisor at least once week during regular working hours. :)

Cherish said...

Been there, done that. Chances are this advisor has no life outside of his or her work and is choosing to use work as a replacement for such needs. Therefore they expect students to either have no life and be on notice 24-7 or to supplement as a social life. Neither situation is good or worth it.

So if it's not creepy, it's a big red flag.

Anonymous said...

As a grad student, I would have sucked it up and done it. That was the culture in the lab, we did what our advisor told us to do. I had a meeting with him once at 7 am on a Saturday, and another time he called me at 10 am on a Sunday to ask me what I was going to accomplish in the lab that day. Other people in the group (i.e. the males) might not have stood for this, but our advisor was very passive aggressive in this way and if I (a female) didn't do what he wanted, the consequences weren't pretty.

(Yeah, it was a bad situation.)

Based on my experiences, I wonder if there is some similar passive aggressiveness or a power trip going on with these Sunday night meetings...

Also in my grad department, a top 20 physical sciences department, there was a research group that had their weekly group meetings at 8 or 9 am on Saturdays.

Now, as a postdoc, if my advisor wanted to meet on Sundays, I would probably still do it, but only because I have this 'do what he tells you to do' attitude. Thankfully, he'd never even think of suggesting that. I think he enjoys his weekends just as much as I do.

My partner and his postdoc advisor, however, those two are quite the pair. They are on the phone at all hours of the night and on the weekends working on proposals and whatnot. They've pulled all-nighters together. This is an engineering discipline, again at a top tier school.

Jesper said...

As an advisor, I have very occasionally (and reluctantly) suggested meetings in the weekend. Sometimes I and a student both agree that we need to meet soon, and our schedules clash so badly that there is absolutely no other way to find enough time for a decent discussion.

Scheduling regular meetings during the weekend? That's just wrong. Even when there is no creepiness involved, one is not exactly being a good role model...

GMP said...

I am a faculty in the physical sciences and I say it's creepy. Sure, the advisor may be busy otherwise or have no social life, but still -- WTF? If there's a deadline, sure, I have met students at all hours if something is pressing, but it's not a routine thing. The person who has so many non-mentorship duties that they cannot find any time during the week should probably not be advising (as many) students; or clearly does not place a very high value on meeting with students, which is another red flag.

At the beginning of every semester, after the students and I have our classes scheduled and I have my non-negotiable service and collaborative meetings down, we do a Doodle poll with the whole group to find the times available to meet. I tally the results, and schedule 1-on-1 meetings as well as a weekly group meeting. They are all between 9 and 5, M-F. Would I sometimes prefer to do something else in that time instead of meet? Sure, and I sometimes I have to cancel or the students cancel as they are swamped with coursework or exams, but most of the time we keep the meetings.

I had a child in grad school and would not have appreciated having to meet my advisor outside of daycare work hours. He was however very good about meeting when needed as long as I asked via email for his availability, and did not ask to meet me otherwise.

Female Science Professor said...

In some circumstances, weekend meetings are necessary -- before a deadline, for certain research activities that don't conform to the standard workweek etc. I am of course referring in this post to regularly scheduled meetings on a weekend night.

Sam R. said...

It wouldn't concern me. Maybe some people really do think of weekends as sacrosanct. Especially since I finished coursework, though, one day is pretty much like the next. I meet with my advisor every Thursday for lunch, but if he wanted Saturday or Sunday times it'd be fine by me.

It seems a bit silly to say that because you do independent work on Sunday nights, that means that no one should meet Sunday nights.

There are a wide diversity of work styles in academe, and if there isn't an actual conflict going on (the student wants to preserve weekend time, the advisor doesn't care), and there is no actual creepiness, I see no reason to pass judgment.

Anonymous said...

As a faculty member, I'd be fine with an occasional weekend meeting if a deadline were approaching or if a student were in some kind of crisis that needed immediate assistance. I would never schedule a regular weekly meeting on the weekend though. If my time as a faculty member was so tight that I literally had zero time available during the week for a regular student meeting, I feel like that would be a red flag that I'm over-extended and need to reassess how many students I'm working with and what my other responsibilities are.

I also agree with the first comment from anne re: it being troubling that the student had to request a regular meeting. I had a situation with my first advisor as a grad student where he suddenly was unavailable for regular meetings and it significantly harmed my productivity and our relationship. I ended up switching advisors to someone who actually made the effort to work with students, despite her insanely busy schedule.

Re: the general level of creepiness, I have to ask one additional question: where are they meeting? That would impact how creepy it seems to me overall.

Re: does he have a family or not, etc. I have a small child and when I work on the weekends, it's usually in the evening after he's gone to bed. If I had to meet with a student on a weekend, after 8pm is probably the time slot that would be most available.

simjockey said...

FSP, I understand that some weekend/night meetings are unavoidable. However, don't you and the other commentors think there must be some limits on this? I think that any meetings after 11.30PM or before 5.30AM are inappropriate. Is this unreasonable? Lazy? Not motivated enough?

Anonymous said...

One could read the request to have Sunday night meetings as saying, "Oh, yeah? You want to take up my time on a regular basis? Let's see how much you REALLY want to."

THAT'S what strikes me as icky about the situation.

Of course, maybe he is just oblivious to "normal" days and times. For me, though, Sunday night is often (extended) family time, and I would ask to find a different time.

Anonymous said...

You didn't say *where* the meetings would take place. Depending where (and who else, if anyone, would be around), that could make it creepy or not.

I'm a grad student, but also an adult. Having worked in the "real world," I understand the value of not working on evenings and weekends and I try hard to work a 40-hour 9am-5pm work week as a grad student.

If one of my co-advisors suggested a regular weekend or evening meeting, I would laugh and say "that's not going to work for me. Let's come up with another time." Simple as that. If an advisor can't come up with two half-hour sessions per month during regular business hours (barring weird situations), then the "advisor" is not able to be a good advisor and should be dumped.

Both of my advisors are rather senior, very busy, and travel a lot. And yet both are still accessible to me. With one I have weekly meetings that are frequently shuffled around due to his high-level meetings and traveling. With the other, we "meet" on an as-needed basis, which is often over Skype. Both always make time for me within a week if I need it. The first has a similar work pattern as me and doesn't work evening or weekends either. The second is a workaholic and works all hours; we rarely meet on weekends, but only if I request to do so -- usually due to an upcoming deadline. The couple times he's suggested a weekend meeting, I've declined and moved it to the following week or else had the necessary conversation by email.

John V said...

Insisting on Sunday nights would be creepy if the student didn't like the schedule and the advisor was inflexible, particularly if there were not going to be a lot of people around then.

More likely (given how little we know of the background), the advisor just cluelessly threw out the awkward time, and the student was too timid to bargain for a better time.

Alex said...

In the original post, FSP says that the student requested regular meetings as part of a plan to improve a grim situation, and that this situation has mostly gotten better. That, to me, suggests that maybe for this student and this advisor, that time slot works somehow. Maybe they both like to work weekends. Maybe they both like meeting outside the 9-5 when there are so many other people on campus making demands on time and attention. Maybe they work the night shift because they are studying nocturnal creatures. Maybe they are both from a country whose weekend is Friday and Saturday rather than Saturday and Sunday. We don't have the context to know this, but if it works for them, great.

Or maybe the student hates this and only does it as a concession to an inconsiderate and/or creepy advisor. We lack the context to know this, so I will refrain from making assumptions.

I do know that I tend to be most productive in the evening, so I spend many evenings in the office, and use 9-5 to respond to all the people making demands on my time and asking me to put out fires. Around 5pm I take a deep breath, read papers, watch some Youtube, and then after that relaxation I start to feel productive, and I can get a good work groove for a few hours. Sometimes I meet with a research student (who has a busy daytime schedule and is also a nocturnal creature) in the evening. It's easier for me to have a productive discussion of research when I just finished relaxing rather than right after a meeting on something else, and when I have no urgent appointment looming after this one.

As to weekends, I often work on Sunday afternoons and early evenings in the campus Starbucks. Some quarters I see more students there (Sunday seems to be Homework Day, and the Starbucks is attached to the library) than I do in my office hours. So it works out well, and I get to work in a place with windows and carpets and the aroma of coffee, instead of my ugly windowless office with a tile floor.

Anonymous said...

I had a regular Saturday morning meeting with my research advisor as an undergrad, and I actually kind of appreciated it. It meant we could block out a full two hours together and not have to worry about the meeting that came before or after. We were both much sharper because of this, and I felt like we were very productive. I have to admit it did seem a bit creepy sometimes though, to be meeting my advisor on the weekend, but it was so effective I wasn't about to stop.

Postdoc said...

You know there's something wrong with the system when people fear that boundaries like no meetings after 11.30PM or before 5.30AM might be considered "not motivated enough"...

Anonymous said...

Similar to "Moom", my initial response was that the prof may have a religion that doesn't hold Sunday in same regard as most Christians. During my PhD, my PI was in every Saturday morning from 8:00 am to noon like clockwork. The benefit was that if you needed the additional time, you knew you could catch him and have time for a lengthy private discussion. And to be honest, it worked in reverse such that if you wanted to avoid him, you wouldn't show up until the afternoon when you knew he would be gone! In my career now, I deal with colleagues around the world (Australia, Europe and North America) and as such have experienced teleconferences late at night or very early morning and even on weekends (Australia's Monday is my Sunday). I find that we need to make these sacrifices in order for us to meet, yet at the same time, all members are cognizant of the time and as such ensure the meetings are effective and that time is not wasted. I don't find the Sunday evenings creepy. If the student feels that if in the end they are benefiting from the meeting time without experiencing hardship, then continue with the Sunday evenings.

Anonymous said...

Some weekend times are unavoidable but regular Sunday meetings would probably have made me less efficient for the week so I would ask to change the timing.

One thing not mentioned but of possible concern is that depending on the timing of the meeting (after dark?), the campus safety levels, etc. this meeting could expose the student to an extra level of danger because buildings and parking lots on campuses are often deserted on Sunday evenings. It may not be a big risk but in some places it is and it's one that the advisor's scheduling is forcing the student to assume. As an advisor that would concern me - safety trumps productivity every time.

Anonymous said...

My PhD advisor was often at work on the weekends and many evenings. I never scheduled a regular meeting wth him on weekends but many times, we did meet on the weekends. Sometimes the equipment we used had more available time on weekends. He didn't have kids and was unusual in being around all weekend in my department. It was never creepy. It really depends on the situation. As a PI now I would not schedule a routine meeting with my students on Sunday but I have had deadline-driven weekend meetings with students.

Anonymous said...

I see a good deal of consideration for the religious perspective of the advisor, and none for that of the student.

I'm a Christian, and have, since undergraduate days, refrained from regular scheduled academic work on Sundays. I don't mind if others work on Sundays, but they'll do it without me.

In the (uncertain) event that the student has some conscientious problem with working on Sundays, the advisor's lack of consideration for this is reprehensible.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I would find this weird is because the student and the advisor have had rocky relationship and these are "scheduled" meetings.

Otherwise, i really don't see the problem with having meetings with an advisor outside of "campus/school/etc". This is most likely because I've been spoiled in the sense that I've had very good relationships with my advisors and mentors (both male and female). I've had meetings at their houses, over dinner, family dinners, etc. I've been at their houses over holidays. At night and during the day on weekdays and weekends. None of these meetings would have happened if either one of us was uncomfortable. It just depends on the relationship

If you're uncomfortable, you should say so.

Anonymous said...

I work with an incredibly busy PI and while email exchange 24/7 are the norm (with some of the best exchanges happening in the wee hours of the morning when we are both working in our own environments) weekend meetings would be considered completely out-of-bounds, let alone regular weekend meetings. Boundaries are important. This adviser is out of line.

Anonymous said...

Here's the question that pops into my mind about this situation - is the advisor really taking the student seriously if they will only make time to meet on a weekend?

I understand that academic work spills out into all hours of every day (it certainly did for me when I was a grad student), but there is still such thing as a work week and official work things happen then. I'd be afraid that if my advisor was shunting me off to a weekend, that he didn't think I was worthy of precious weekday/workday time. That, for me, would be the biggest red flag of all.

But my Ph.D. is in a social science, so maybe things are different in the 'hard' sciences...

Anonymous said...

I agree with the majority here who say that it is inappropriate for the advisor to expect the student to meet regularly on sunday night. What especially resonates for me are the comments that this is power play by the advisor (more so because of the "grim" context.)

Also, more cat vids, please! (Surprised no one has mentioned that yet!)

Postdoc said...

If it's not too off-topic, kittens-on-roomba is my favorite cat video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTxW3GWZ5hI

Anonymous said...

nowadays (nearing end of grad school) my meetings with my adviser are always adhoc - I ask him if I need help with something, he asks me if he wants an update. Becase of this, we often meet at odd times, including Saturday and Sunday midday. I usually tend to work sunday/sat morning anyway (though it's more like work/cat videos as per your example). I like the weekend meetings best, because my adviser is usually a lot less frazzled and much more relaxed. I find he's more able to focus on what I am saying. Much better than 4PM on e.g. Thursday when he's had 4 other meetings that day...

Anonymous said...

Definitely a power trip. I worked for a PI who thought he was So Big And Important that he would call us at home to "discuss" issues whenever he felt like it - especially in the middle of the day on weekends.

But try and pin him down on a time to meet? You'd be pushed off again and again as More Important Things Than You came to his attention.

Barring lab explosion, building evacuation, or dean of college (or possibly intellectual property laywers) on the phone, I think it's respectful to make (and keep!) appointments when they are convenient for both parties.

Anonymous said...

Needs more context, but yes, it is odd.

One professor in my department schedules class recitations on Sundays, and I could never figure out why he does it. Such a hassle for students -- especially for students with families and students living off campus.

Anonymous said...

the only reason I think it's creepy is because usually professors do not hold official office hours on the weekend thus if this advisor and student are having meetings on sunday night they are likely to be the only ones in a deserted building or department. That's why it's creepy.

If for some reason the entire department or university treated Sunday as a regular working day and thus the department was full of people on a regular basis on sunday, then I wouldn't have a problem with it because I would assume that people who work on sundays will get another day off as their official personal day. (like people who work in hospitals, restaurants and other industries that normally conduct business on weekends..for example as a teenager I worked in fast food restaurants and was always scheduled to work sundays but that's cos fast food restaurants area always busy on sundays). So it's not the encroachment on personal time that I object to because I assume the student will be allowed to take personal time on a different day.

It's the fact that no one else is guaranteed to be around at the time, and in fact it's likely that few people will be around and that hallway lights may be turned off, which makes it creepy. And furthermore that the advisor would demand that this be the meeting time, under these circumstances, is more creepy.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

My first response to this question was "Insufficient Information!"

It is an unusual situation to have regularly scheduled meetings outside the usual working hours for the local culture, but not an immediate red flag. We did not hear, for example, whether the student had strong scheduling constraints that cause rejection of the first 10 times the adviser proposed.

The only thing here that struck me as really strange was that the student had to ask for a weekly meeting. I require any student who works with me to meet with me individually once a week, even if our weekly meeting ends up being little more than "too busy as a TA this week to get anything done, sorry".

An adviser who has so many advisees that they can't all have individual meetings has too many. (We have some faculty like that.) There is a major flaw in our funding system for grad students, that funding is tied to research grants, and that big research grants often go to people who spend all their time writing grant proposals and none of their time working with grad students. So that most of the grad student support money is tied to faculty who don't have the time to teach the students properly.

Anonymous said...

I love these responses. You've really found a question that throws the whole question of work-life balance into relief.

1. Creepiness. Eh, need more info for this. Are they meeting at a cocktail bar? Busy student centre?

2. Power play. Again, depends on the norm of the department. Probably yes, if the student had to ask for regular meetings as if it were a special favour.

As a grad student, I would have been glad to have regular Sunday evening meetings with my advisor. The few meetings I ever did manage to have with my advisor were useless, as she was constantly making a production of how Busy and Important she was--answering the phone every thirty seconds (because she was expecting an International Call!), running out of the office if she saw a colleague pass, or just complaining about her husband.

A meeting on Sunday evening would have been a great time to work without distractions, and would have given me focus and energy for the week's work ahead.

Frankly, doing a bit of work Sunday evening doesn't seem like a big deal to me anyway. It's just the evening, not the whole day. Aren't most people gearing up for the week then anyway? I suppose if I really resented the intrusion on my personal life I'd take off early on Fridays and call it good.

madscientistintraining said...

My lab is huge, my advisor comes in on the weekends to do his bench work. I always take this opportunity to get some face time alone with him to discuss my work because he's more relaxed and isn't multitasking about administrative stuff as much.

That said I've never scheduled anything with him except once on a saturday morning way back when I was rotating with the lab. Usually he just prefers his students to drop by. If he's in the middle of something, he'll come find us when he's done.