Free-Floating Hostility

Thursday, November 18, 2004

An Open Letter to the UC Berkeley Faculty in Epidemiology/Biostatistics

At first I just wrote this for Sarah's amusement, but I crack myself up too hard not to share it.

The Grad School admissions essay is both humiliating and pointless, so what do you say we just skip it? As statisticians, you are looking for a record of my performance that will indicate my probable behavior in the future. But you are stymied, because you can’t ask the questions you really want to ask, and even if you were allowed to, Sodium Pentathol is more expensive than you’d think. What you really want to know is whether I am going be fun to work with and capable of scholarship that will be a credit to your department. But you have to make your decision based on a resume and some painfully awkward prose. And from that you try to glean the following:

Am I intellectually curious? Am I a mercenary? Am I responsible enough to be trusted with important work without hogging it all? Am I a neurotic who will turn to you to solve my personal life? Am I insufficiently neurotic and secretly looking down my nose at you? Do I snap under pressure? Do I cry in public? Do I treat new acquaintances to my poetry? Will I try to make friends with your children? Am I the type that remembers to thank her old professors while accepting the Nobel prize? Am I the type that knifes her old professors when she sits on award committees? Have I never committed academic fraud or just never been caught? Do I miss deadlines and blame it on my email account? Do I blame other people for my own shortcomings? Will I hate you for yours? Will I drink away my stress and come to office hours hung over? Am I a teetotaler who will make you feel guilty for the scotch in your desk drawer? Will I hit on the junior faculty? Do I take up the best stall in the ladies’ room from 12:40-12:45 every afternoon throwing up my lunch? Am I a 6-foot blonde with thighs like paddling boards and a metabolism that allows me to spoon peanut butter direct from the jar right in front of you while reminding you you’re the same age as my dad? Am I a terminally insecure wallflower whose average conversation is about as entertaining, minute-for-minute, as your last colonoscopy? Will I base my scholarship on obscure and questionable theories that I insist on describing as “cutting edge”? Will I write my thesis by hand? Will my fear of competition lead me down the road to academic sabotage? Do I secretly remind myself of a young Albert Einstein? As I approach my mid-twenties, are the seeds of schizophrenia preparing to shoot forth and blossom? Are you going to find me in the ladies’ room with a nosebleed and no pulse having collapsed while snorting Ritalin to make it through Finals Week? Will I hide from you all semester long and then pop up on the last day of term with a recommendation form and a favor to ask? Will I hound you night and day for "constructive criticism" until you have to change your email address and move?

I’m the child of two academics, so trust me, I’m sympathetic to your problem. I really think I’d be a good fit for Berkeley’s School of Public Health, but fuck if I know how to convince you. So all I have to say is, good luck, suckas.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at November 19, 2004 9:18 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • This letter is the shiznit

  •   Posted by Blogger maris at December 03, 2004 8:53 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Anna, this is hilarious although a little close to home... some of your questions made me cringe re my own anxieties.. i laughed, but nervous laughter. I am also trying to apply to Berkley, that would be so great if we all ended up there at the same time!

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