My supervisor at the university was a person with the professionalism of a sack of potatoes and the integrity of a mildly warm air-balloon. This may sound very subjective, so through the rest of this article I’m going to try backing this up by some objective facts.
At first I though my supervisor was an Okay Guy or at least the best of the worst, which for Bulgaria didn’t mean a whole lot, to think about it. With time his behaviour became more and more fishy to me, especially after he snapped back at me during a lecture “for changing the slides of a presentation too quickly”. At the time I didn’t fully realise that a teacher at a university shouldn’t be (and didn’t have the right to) be aggressive towards his students for neither subjective nor objective reasons. Naturally, I felt that my behaviour was to blame and tried to be a better student – I stopped interrupting my teachers at the university and tried to listen to their speeches as best as I could (even when a teacher was 100% wrong I didn’t correct him because probably subconsciously I knew what would ensue). Still, my teachers didn’t seem to notice me trying to be a better student and found smaller and smaller things to be mad about as if the very thing of me being there enraged them. Of course, with that stereotype in their heads they had to set on the search of reaffirming it, I just never thought someone’s thinking could be so simple and self-centered. There was that time I tried to correct my supervisor in a very calm (and non-interruptive) manner and he started almost shouting at me – that’s when I knew his ego was more important than any objective truth. I had earlier found out that he had made a female student cry during an exam – this girl was composed and intelligent and I wondered what had made her cry, only later I connected the dots. I think my supervisor despised the very thought of someone of lower academic status being smarter than him, so just like Pavlov’s dog every time the cue appeared, he reacted. He even tried to rationalize his behaviour ones which made it even worse – you don’t rationalize for making someone feel bad (which was clear), instead, you apologize and promise that you’ll at least try not to repeat the same mistake again. This very fact reminded me of how drug addicts try to rationalize their behavior and claim that drugs could be beneficial not only to them but to others as well. I think it’s a safe bet to say he got off from it in some very primal way (again, just like Pavlov’s dog).
Not being aware of a teacher’s actual responsibilities and trying to force respect into his students weren’t my supervisor’s only problems. The material he taught us on his specialty – the Late Iron Age was O.K. but just about everything else was hugely outdated and even at times contradicted the archaeological findings of late. The thing that bothered me the most was how he would start explaining a concept like evolution, or C-14 dating but the very way he explained them suggested that he doesn’t understand the fundamental principals that underlie them. At this point misinterpreting something and straight out lying to your students come very close. It now seems to me that this misinterpretation transcended academics and affected how viewed others in respect to himself, meaning he didn’t have even a remotely realistic view of himself and when you don’t have that your view of everyone else will obviously be unrealistic (in respect to philosophy I mean a subjectivism that is beyond any social norm).
Some of the events that transpired on the excavations of Bresto also could be seen as reaffirming to my central thesis. I never taught he was a person who lies about having personal reasons to hire someone or give someone benefits but when asked why he paid the two female restaurateurs at our site (and, of course, no one else) he came up with the very illogical reason that “they already had their MA’s”. From a managerial and professional point of view this was a very bad choice since the archaeological students at the site were busting their asses for the better part of each day while the restaurateurs occupied most of their time with recreational drawing and fooling around. It later turned out (I suspect some of my colleagues already knew but didn’t want to tell me because they already knew my view of “organisational” decisions) that one of the girls was the daughter of a famous archaeologist and a close friend to my supervisor – of course, the other girl was her best friend. Ah, and all shall be revealed, they say. Later on I got into an argument with two of the foreign students on the excavations – just for the record, from what I’ve learned foreign students for the teachers at my university mean connections and money while the native ones are viewed as a source of constant annoyance. My supervisor approached me with intent to resolve (for a lack of a better word) the nascent conflict. This conflict is now long gone but made an impression on me was our “conversation”. He made a very long speech on personal flaws without asking me any questions on the actual matter at hand and concluded that “I know how you are Martin, and since I know how you are, it must be your fault”, and if I want to keep my position at the excavations, and so on, and so forth. I think if a person opens a book on interpersonal communications the first two things it will say are that nobody likes long lectures, and you should ask questions. I don’t know where my supervisor got his psychic powers from but they certainly weren’t professional.
Nevertheless, I’m glad I wasted my time on the New Bulgarian University because I gained a much clearer understanding of how decisions could be made (but shouldn’t) on the basis of one’s own prejudices and vices without the actual regard of the people around him. It further acknowledged the notion that I’ve always had (or tried to, at least) that a person should never be planning his actions purely out of self-interest,
especially in the Information Age.