#1: I am unimpressed with this person who wants to be my RA (research assistant):
“I can only work from home at nights and then come in on Sundays”. Nope. Not gonna work. I need your ass in my lab during normal business hours.
#2: yeah, no
#1: yeah, no.
#2: at least ze’s telling you in advance
#1: the sad thing is, ze could be a good researcher. Ze worked at [good research university] before, which is good. But then ze got married (why is ze telling me this?) and moved to rural Nebraska for 7 years, where ze did who-knows-what (no professional references).
Now ze lives in Blighted Town but has 3 kids under 5 years old and no daycare. (seriously, why are you telling me this on your RA application?) Um… good for you, I guess, but I need your ass in my lab during business hours. You will now have the consequences of your life choice to move to nowhere and do nothing for 7 years and then gain a full-time job caring for your kids. You’re doing a hard thing, possibly a good thing, but what you’re NOT doing is working with #1.
#2: (“Oh, I’m sorry. You seem to be mistaking #1 for someone who cares about your life.”)
#1: ze swears ze’s hardworking, smart, a fast learner, motivated, etc., but hir most recent science course was like 8 years ago and ze hasn’t got the methods I need in the lab.
#2: Thing is… we come in contact with TONS of students who have problems. If we took care of every single one of them, we’d never get anything done. So we stick to the university approved problems. “Your mom died, ok, you can retake the final after the funeral.”
#2: You got hit by a car? Sure, you can skip class. Get notes from a friend. Depression? Get a note from campus counseling and you can drop the course without penalty (heck, you might be able to get your tuition back too). Your boyfriend dumped you? That’s too bad, it happens, have some chocolate, but you still need to turn your homework in on time.
#1: Right. You moved to Nebraska? Sorry, no dice. Life choices, life consequences.
#2: Sad as that may be.
#2: And there are folks with all sorts of life situations who make it work.
#1: I don’t CARE why you can’t be here normal business hours. But that’s what it comes down to. You could work full time, be a senior caretaker, hibernate, be allergic to the sun, protest the tyranny of banker’s hours, I don’t care. But whatever it is, if I can’t see you on weekdays, this job is not for you.
The ironic thing is, there are semesters when this might have been ok. I have had semesters where most of my RAs’ work could be done online in their own time (writing things, searching literature, tracking down articles online, etc.)– especially during the semester when they were moving the lab to a new building. [Don't even get #1 started. For starters, they took apart the furniture in the middle of the semester and lost the hardware. Just for starters.] Though even then I still needed to see them and meet with them sometimes. But at this point in my research program, we are collecting data and I need bodies in the lab to do that. I am even sympathetic to people balancing family and work/school — I really am. Some of my RAs always have kids (they are single moms, even with young kids) and jobs (even fulltime, off-campus ones). But they make it work somehow. This person’s not going to. I wish I could help hir re-enter the work force, but not at the cost of my own productivity. Sad face. (But not too sad, because I refuse to feel guilty.)
#2: Patpatpat. We can’t save everyone. And some folks are better prepared for our help (because they can show up on time) or more in need of it (see university approved excuses).