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"احترنا بقى"

I am being tempted time and again to publish that old angry post of mine (which still sits as a draft in my account).

I used to check my mail every morning, looking forward to receiving emails. I used to love getting emails. Now, I don't check my e-mail until late afternoon, and sometimes in the evening; sometimes I don't check it for a few days. I am afraid that it would contain something that will ruin my mood. As usual, I was right in my assessment. Just at a time when I was in no need of a mood-ruining email, given how stressed I am with the amount of work I am expected to hand in, I made the mistake of checking my e-mail. It was an e-mail from one of the professors I work with. I was assigned to him against my will, despite the fact that his main research at the moment has to do with sociology more than political science. I am supposed to work with him only 7 hours per week (2 hours on Monday, 3 hours on Tuesday, 2 hours on Wednesday). At the beginning of the semester, he handed me a stack of (two 300-page) books and some four-five 40+page articles, and told me, given that you are a good student you can probably read all of this in 2 weeks (that's 14 hours of reading time). I rolled my eyes and told him, "we shall see about that". I started reading the book, but soon concluded (not that there was any doubt about it, but I did give his assessment the benefit of the doubt) that not only was 14 hours not enough for that ONE book, but that I could not possibly handle all the books and articles unless I took the whole semester at a rate of 7-hours/week to read them all and write a review of each... He did not bother me for two weeks, and by that time I had finished reading one article and was halfway through one book. One day, 2 weeks after handing me the to-be-read-and-reviewed stack, he came up to me and said, how are the readings going? I told him I had read the article and was halfway through the book. He dropped a hint and asked me if it was because I was too crowded with coursework. At the time I didn't get the hint, I thought that it had nothing to do with his assignment, since I did it from campus and not from home... Now I understand what he meant: he knew it was impossible to read all that he handed me in 14 hours, and he expected me to put in as much work at home as at university. Anyhow, that day I felt there was something wrong with me, and so I took the book and articles home with me, and finished the book and a 150-page article (well, half a photocopied book) in a week's time. As a result of that, I had to skip doing my own coursework readings. The next week I started writing the report and decided I would not take anything home with me that had to do with his research. Last Wednesday, he came to me and inquired about me, again making the coursework hint; I told him I was almost done with the reviews, and he said we should schedule a meeting to discuss where I had reached. I said fine, and he asked me if Friday was fine. We agreed to meet and talk on Friday. After he left, I emailed him my review, and he replied, telling me I had done a great job, but that he was running late on a deadline and needed me to finish everything by next week. On Thursday the bodies of the two kidnapped youths were discovered, and it was officially announced that Friday all schools and universities would be closed. Down the drain went our meeting. This past Monday I went to work for my scheduled hours and continued reading the book, actually skimming it as fast as I could, so that I would finish it by Wednesday. Ditto for Tuesday and Wednesday. I was close to finishing the book on Wednesday, but ran out of time, and thought I would put the finishing touches this coming Monday.

A while ago, I received an e-mail. I will share it with you, without naming the professor of course:
Dear ----,

I have noticed your absence over the past few weeks while not reporting to me during your scheduled work hours. I hope you’re doing well and fine, please let me know if a specific reason is preventing you from coming or from completing your already past due research assignment.

The e-mail was CCed to the department head. Needless to say, hot-headed as I am, I felt the need to reply; I sent a reply, and CCed it to both the head of the department, and the secretary, who sees me every time I go there, as I get the key from her for the room I usually sit in and do the research; or when I do not sit in that room, I cover for her while she goes on a coffee break because there are no other assistants who are present at the department to cover for her.

I replied:
Dr. ----,

I have been coming to the office upstairs or otherwise working from downstairs (at the department); the only days I have been "absent" were Friday (which was not a school day given the fact that the minister of education announced official university closure) and this past Tuesday (May Day). I am not sure if I was expected to show up on those days.

Given the amount of work (two books and a number of articles) you handed me, I have also been forced to do additional hours from home, which has taken up from my own research and study time. Moreover, ---- also handed me an assignment for the [upcoming] conference, and I have been working on that as well (putting in at least 5 hours for the poster design, and more than another 5 hours for schedule leaflet design, which is the equivalent of more than a week's work- 7 hours-with you). I thought he might have mentioned that to you, as that is part of my working hours and not an additional task I am being paid to do. I have accepted ----'s request as per the faculty needs policy that was highlighted to me by ---- himself prior to assigning me as your assistant.

Moreover, I think the secretary and faculty members can testify to my presence in the past few weeks on Monday afternoons, Tuesday mornings and Wednesday afternoons, which is when my hours with you are supposed to be.

P.S. I have also attached the short report (as you requested last Wednesday that I keep my reports short) on the Cultural Resistance book.

He replied (there is a reason I am posting these):
Dear ----,

More than two months now have passed since I made my request for article reviews. My requests do not require you to read the entire books. As I informed you in the past, you are supposed to work on this 7 hours a week from your office in room 302 B as scheduled and not elsewhere. I do not require you to do any of the assigned work at home. We had a previously scheduled meeting for updates and set deadlines according to which my research has to progress accordingly. Please see me in this regard.

At this point I was beyond angry. Keep in mind that this whole affair is taking place after a very serious clash between me and the head of the department, on the issue of assignment of graduate research assistants. He had told me in response to my objections to being assigned to professors in sociology, that I was being selfish by not taking into account faculty needs. He insisted that there must be a happy compromise and mutual understanding between the faculty needs and students' interests and abilities. There was not much else that I could do, and I yielded, following which I was assigned with the professor who is the subject of this post...

So, I wrote a long reply -- I will not post all of it because it is quite long and you don't need to read the technical parts of it.
Dr. ----,

First of all, the email I received for G.A. [Graduate Assistantship] assignment from ---- is dated March 19, and I received it only on March 20, following which I talked with you on March 21 and we arranged that I would work on Monday afternoons, Tuesday mornings, and Wednesday afternoons. I believe I officially started on March the 26th. Thus, it has not been two months, but rather, 6 weeks. Six weeks, during which I was supposed to put in 7 hours / week. That makes it 42 hours total, 10 of which I had to put in for ----'s request (which was urgent and deadline-specific, and was handed to me before you told me that you also had a deadline to meet, which you told me on Wednesday, following which I have made every effort to read the 300-page book, or skim it as thoroughly as possible, and write the report). That left me with 32 hours total, for 2 books and more than 5 articles (one of which was half a book), and I do need to read them to a certain depth to understand and be able to summarize or review them.

Moreover, we agreed last Wednesday on a meeting on Friday, which went down the drain given the closure as a result of the killing of the 2 youths. It was only last Wednesday when I forwarded you my report for the book and the article, that you told me that you did not need me to write down long and thorough reports, and I followed your request in my report on the Cultural Resistance book, which I attached in the previous email. I had also read the Planet of Slums piece, and reported to you on that, saying that there was not much to be written, as it was primarily a quantitative / statistical overview.

In addition, I do not recall us having set a specific location for my work, we only agreed that I would work from "here", and by "here" it was not understood your office, or 302 B, but rather, that it would not be work from home but from on-campus, where I would be accessible for any other task that you might need me for. Having said that, much of my work, with the exception of a few days (when I was downstairs at the department for one reason or another, the reason being that another faculty or staff member needed my help which I could not turn down as per the faculty needs policy), has been done from that office, including when you were away from the university for some time (due to travel, from what I understood).

Having said that, I believe ---- was clear when we talked about the policies of assigning G.As, that assistantship dynamics is not a one-sided process of faculty needs (nor only of student needs) , but rather one of mutual understanding and acceptance of the needs, interests, and abilities of the other. This includes the interests, needs, and time constraints (as specified in the "contract" sheet) of the student. I have also assumed that the faculty would take the hour limits into consideration when setting up and defining their expectations.

I am not sure what more is specifically required of me; I have thus far read 2 books and 2 articles in the span of 32 hours of reading time (and additional hours from home, which you seem to dismiss for some reason). If we are to follow a policy of 7 hours and not one second less, then don't you think we would be better off to set up a counter, which would ward off potential controversies in the future?

Lastly, as far as I can recall, and please correct me based on prior email correspondence we may have had, the only time you mentioned a deadline is last Wednesday in your email; since you are dismissing the hours I have put in from home, I could only start working on meeting your deadline from Monday. I have shown up on all three days since then: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Here are my hours, as I have kept track of them on the sheets:

The above amounts to, even without my attendance during vacations: 42.5 hours. This does not include the hours I put in from home, and 10 hours of work I have put in for ----. Given that I officially started on March 26, which means that I have been your assistant for 6 weeks and not "more than two months" as you said, it would mean that I was required to put in, had there been no vacations, 42 hours in total (6 weeks, 7 hrs / week). This shows that not only have I worked my full times, but also more than that, if we count in the vacations and April 24 (despite which I showed up to work). This does not even include the hours I put in from home, to satisfy your expectations , at a time when I was short for time on my schoolwork.

I suggest, since this correspondence has been CCed also to ----, that we would hold a meeting between the three of us, to further discuss this matter. Because it seems there has been some misunderstanding about the hours that I am expected to put in, and expectations of what I can do within those hours -- and reading two 200+page books and 4-5 articles (almost all of them 30+pages long) in 42 hours is, even by PhD student standards, quite high.

I will be at university for my scheduled hour on Monday, and if ---- is able to meet and would like to discuss this issue, I would love to talk further about this, because I am not very happy with how I am being held over-accountable not for what I am not doing, but for what I am doing.

See you on Monday. [يعني حلّ عنّي بقى...ا]
I probably should not have made these e-mails public, but I am beyond disgusted. I am disgusted by how there is no definition that is upheld in this country, where people can define and re-define everything according to their daily needs and whims. Where people expect more than they are entitled to, and won't shut up about it when they are put in their place by the truth. I am most of all disgusted that a professor, with a PhD, can actually stoop to this level (there are other things that can be said about this certain individual which would literally drop your jaw to the ground, but I will refrain from publicizing them, because that is none of my business). It is beyond beyond disgusting. Sigh. Another afternoon gone to waste.

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posted by Angry Anarchist @ 5/04/2007 03:04:00 PM,


At May 6, 2007 at 12:19 PM, Blogger MarxistFromLebanon said...

I don't get it, you need a marxist to explain to you to screw the establishment, my dearest most adorale Angry Anarchist?

Take it easy comrade :) and ditch :)

At May 6, 2007 at 1:10 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

Naaaaaaaah, no need to ditch (although I probably will be doing so in the near future but for a different reason). Ditching is not rebellion. Ditching is cowardice. :o) Instead, you screw the establishment by using their arguments against them. ;)
You should see the look on their faces when you do that. hahahahahaha.... :o)

At May 12, 2007 at 12:58 PM, Blogger MarxistFromLebanon said...

3amo, when their entire issue is relying on your back, ditch is slap in the face.

I met with those oppressors, this time I had everything the way I wanted.

But others are rebeling in a very nice first-international pattern :D

At May 12, 2007 at 1:44 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

hahahaha @ 1st international....

I realized something these past few days. I am kind of caught between two individuals' interests (both very capitalist-piggish in their approach) and therefore, I thought I would play on their interests to achieve my interests hahahahahaa.... In other words, I know that one of them cannot do crap about me ditching the other (even if he has the power to) because he has interests and needs my contribution. :D And the other has (it seems) realized this, and now does not dare to say anything (for now, and hopefully he shall not open his mouth again, because if he does, he will regret it much more than he has done so already). hahahaha

Kind of like taking people hostage without getting embroiled in their internal issues (let them sort it out themselves and fight amongst themselves). ;) In a very non-Marxist-1st-international way. ;) :D

At May 12, 2007 at 1:49 PM, Blogger Angry Anarchist said...

Btw ;)

I met one of the oppressors the other day and he demanded (not asked, but demanded) a meeting with me. I told him, if you want a meeting it'd have to be a joint meeting with the other oppressor. lol...

He said, ok............. and left.... he hasn't bothered me since then.. 0:)

Lump all in the same basket and let them fight it out!!!!! They will either avoid being thrown into the basket, or get so busy fighting it out amongst themselves that they would lose sight of their object of oppression! ;)

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