Tuesday, January 25, 2005

They don't much like us

A while back, I reported on a man at Bonjour Bakery who expressed his distaste for Chicago's undergrads, the implication being that grad students are good people, undergrads not so much. Now, in thinly veiled complaints about "the upstarts and the young'uns" and pajama-wearing, Mountain Dew-drinking dorm-dwellers, Chicago's grad students are making their feelings known. While the grad-undergrad division is not mentioned explicitly, we all know what's being discussed, so let's put it out in the open.

While it would be a stretch to say that there's all-out hostility between the two major groups of students on campus, it's fair to say that we (undergrads) annoy them. While, at Chicago, many undergrads go on to grad school, and serious types are the rule and not the exception in the College, to current grad students, we're a bunch of pre-i-bankers who've just discovered alcohol. They are eccentric and brilliant, we are well-rounded and dull. They haven't bought new clothes in five years, and we're all wearing new pairs of Seven jeans. They're married and/or bitter, and we've just discovered the opposite and/or same sex. In short, they're the real deal, and we're a bunch of rich-kid posers here for a four-year vacation before adulthood sets in.

(Here, insert sheepish nods from any grad students who may be reading this.)

And there's a bit of truth behind the myth. A 20-year-old is more likely to be getting some financial support from his parents than is a 30-year old. Someone's who's already been through college is bound to be more jaded than a student who's just arrived. And a kid who just graduated from high school more closely resemble a high school student in both appearance and behavior than will a 35-year-old mother of two. And it goes beyond age: Grad students have elected to stay in school beyond what's necessary for employability (though an MBA or JD won't hurt). College students, on the other hand, are often in school because their parents or high school guidance counselor gave them a gentle shove on the behind and said, "Go!"

But now, a few words in our defense. First, we may not all be headed towards several years of studying post-post-modern interpretations of Proust, but neither are business, law, and medical students. And then there's the matter of our silliness: We may be newer to drinking, but I'd bet that undergrads party (and, for that matter, lounge around in coffee shops, gossiping or pretending to do work) far less than grad students. We are, as I said, a serious bunch, and I will have more on this later, but my friend is waiting for me in the lobby. We are on our way...drumroll please...to the Reg.


Jacob T. Levy said...

Good heavens.

I know that I only hear a select group of comments by undergrads about grad students and grad students about undergrads-- those related to me who is neither. But, ont he basis of those comments, I can very confidently say that the divide between the two groups is much, much less shar here than at any peer institution I know-- and that Phoebe's imagined version of what grad students (for which, read doctoral students) think about undergrads bears almost no resemblance to what they actually say about them. This is the stuff that Princeton grad students say about Princeton undergrads; but U of C undergrads aren't Princeton undergrads, and U of C grad students-- like the faculty-- know, understand, and appreciate the difference. I hear grad students speaking with *admiration* about U of C undergrads-- "They're so much more serious and scholarly than my friends were, or maybe even than I was, as an undergrad. They're so smart. They're such hard workers." etc, etc. After all, even the instant contretemps is about possession *of the library,* among people who all want to be there. It's not about, say, grad students complaining that fraternity row ajoins the library and the partying is too loud. For that matter, Andrew's complaint about people at the Reg *in their pajamas* has nothing to do with Phoebe's ongoing concern with Seven Jeans. Pheobe may think that grad students think the undergrads are overdressed rich-kid fashion plates, but that has no identifiable relationship to what Andrew actually complained about.

I find it perfectly telling that the grad student in Nick's story above is a Pritzker student, not a PhD student. The doctoral and college students are a lot more like each other than either is like the B-school or med school students. I think the doctoral students, by and large, know this and appreciate it.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Jacob (Levy?),

It seems we both have anecdotal evidence about what grad students do/don't think about undergrads. Which means that neither of us know for sure what the "typical" grad student thinks of undergrads, although I agree it's a different attitude than grad students might have towards undergrads at other schools. I will confess, though, that some of my impression of the undergrad/grad divide does come from dating a Princeton grad student who had been an undergrad at the U of C, though I know plenty of grad students here at Chicago, too, and I have gotten a sense that this is a somewhat prevailing attitude. My remark about Seven jeans--and my whole post, for that matter--wasn't specifically a response to Andrew, Victor, or Will, but was just a general response to an attitude I've witnessed, and was something I'd written about before and was inspired to write after seeing these posts on other blogs. The grad students I've met may well be the exception to the rule.

Anonymous said...

I am a U of C grad student. The reason I don't like U of C undergrads is not because of the typical undergrad aspects you might share with undergrads at other institutions, but the fact that you are undergrads at the U of C. You are a bunch of masochists who take 4 classes while we take 3, often the same classes, so you have no opportunity to learn something about real life. And you are a masochist for irrelevant "great books" and a core curriculum that stifles your choice of courses. And you all are burying your noses in books either in your dorms or across the street in the Reg but you never get out and see real life north of 55th Street so you are stuck in your immature and often bigoted and racist ways that you have had since high school. Really, the incidents that occurred last year among undergrads were an embarrassment for the entire university. Shame on you. You never have to learn how to shop for yourself, feed yourself or judging from the smell of some of you, clean yourselves, because the university provides it all for you for four years and you think that Medici has good food because you have never eaten in a decent restaurant. Your development is stifled and your ability to socially interact with the greater society is never developed as an undergrad at the U of C. These are the reasons I chose not to even apply here as an undergrad and seeing what undergrad life is like now that I am a grad student here I am assured that I was quite wise in that decision. I did my undergrad at Berkeley and I encountered all sorts of people there and learned how to take care of myself because there was no room in the dorms after first year so we had to live on our own and unlike the U of C, we undergrads were interesting and tolerant enough of different people that surprise surprise, the graduate students actually enjoyed treating us as equals there. We had interactions with the non-university community of all races on a daily basis too. You U of C undergrads just mock those who are different from you.

And please, we don't care about seven jeans. I have no clue what seven jeans are and I don't really care. I stopped wearing jeans when I was 14 and got stuck walking 3 miles in a rainstorm in jeans and decided they were heavy shackles and never put another pair on again.