Question from a reader:
What would cause you to treat grad students like they were people?*
What a great question! The answer is probably obvious, but I will explain it anyway.
Of course, the first thing I do is throw students in a pond. It doesn't have to be a large pond, but it should be quite cold and there should be some unspecified monsters in it. Then I just stand back and see what happens!
Here's the interesting part:
If a student sinks, it means they are human and I can treat them accordingly, in most cases by firing them without explanation or notice because who wants to work with a human?
If they swim, either because they already know how or because they somehow figure it out by themselves, then it means they are not human and will likely do a successful PhD and will become a professor just like me and can continue these fun games with their own students.
* Note: Although this is a direct quote from an e-mail sent to me by a reader, there was also other text in the e-mail that was worded in a more polite way, and I don't think the question was intended to sound quite as rude as it appears. So, my response it not entirely fair in terms of addressing the individual who sent the question, but I get this and similar questions from time to time, and thought I would give a general reply.