Graduate students gather at the start of the school year.

This week, thousands of new students will begin their graduate careers at UC Berkeley. Though many graduate students in the STEM fields have been entombed in their labs and offices all summer, we can’t help but take note of the newest generation of our peers. Since I was a first-year student back in 2008, I’ve seen the same beats repeated with each new class. In coming to understand this “graduate student lifecycle” both at Berkeley and a variety of other schools, I’ve realized two important points: (1) Berkeley does a very large number of things correctly, and (2) there is one particular shift that would result in an enormous quality of life improvement. More than rewriting any institutional protocol, I see a strong need for a change in the way graduate students interact with each other. Perhaps so many of the negative experiences and connotations of graduate school are passed from student to student, rather than being endemic to the institution itself. We need to replace the sense of pity (for both ourselves and others) with something more useful: compassion.
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