28 September 2006

rant: despite song titles to the contrary,

i would like to state for the record that limbo doesn't rock.

[UPDATE, a k a big ol' 'gotcha' from the universe, 29 september: one of my two exams is back. i passed. but of course, the tenterhooks remain.]

is it so difficult for a three-person committee to grade four 5,000-word exams in a month? it seems to me that the behavior of our faculty around exam grading is oddly discontinuous: despite a fairly serious understaffing problem, faculty around here are generally extremely responsive to grad students. even beyond that: most of them are extremely understanding of the difficulties of graduate student life. they know what is stressful (although they have interesting normative ideas about what "should" and "should not" be stressful) and to some extent they try to accommodate and reassure. all the more odd, then, that the most intimidating pre-dissertation hurdle, the exam process, has become a protracted nightmare that does little but convince us that the faculty just want to see us suffer. this is clearly not true; they want us to do well, they want to be nice, etc., etc. however...

to put some facts to that rant: i started studying for my two exams as soon as i returned from utah in early june. i started studying very very hard in early july. by early august i couldn't reliably sleep through the night. (neither could anyone else. this is not just me being crazy.) exams were august 24 and 28, respectively. it is now september 28. no one has heard anything about exams. previous to that, i spent all of november and december 2005 trying to study for an exam that took place january 3 and which i ultimately failed (that news came through january 31). previous to that i spent july and august 2005 studying for an exam that i passed, though barely, receiving that information in late september 2005. thus, a conservative estimate (discounting, for example, the full month that it took me to even begin to believe that i belonged in graduate school after the january exam): in the approximately 15 months since july 1, 2005, i have worried about exam study, exam-taking, or exam grades at least several times daily (and often for full days or weeks at a time) for ten full months. if the exams had been promptly graded in each bout of exam-taking, i might have avoided something like 30% of my agonizing.

there is no indication of when we might receive word on this latest round. could be today, could be next month, conceivably it could be never. my theory on this is that faculty members at yale are extremely smart people -- indeed, they are so smart that they see exams as a minor inconvenience, something to be traipsed blithely through and then forgotten. the problem, of course, is that they are neither easy nor certain for some of us. bleh.

beyond exam grades lies the question of my prospectus, my feelings about which run the gamut from excitement and hope to terror and humiliation. the latest draft is out there, adrift on the unending choppy sea of overcommitted faculty, no longer transmitting signals to home. every time i see someone who has a copy of my memo i want to shake hir and scream JUST GIVE ME SOME FUCKING FEEDBACK ALREADY.