Category Archives: New Bulgarian University

Why I think my supervisor at the university was an idiot.

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.

 

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What I learned from my university

When I was studying at the university I didn’t learn a whole lot about how a person is supposed to do his job as much as how a person shouldn’t be doing his job. Here are some of the things I learned:

  1. What’s in your interest is not always the right thing to do. Always try to do the right thing not only by yourself but to other people as well. Sometimes people delude themselves into thinking that what’s best for them is best for other people as well. This can also apply to a whole group which expects you to do right by them without even considering your wellbeing. Groups of people could also be greedy and selfish.
  2. Segregation, esoteric knowledge, and double standards are never a good idea when your job is to teach young people how to do their job or how to be better at it. Still, some teachers don’t even realise what are the real goals of education and personal growth.
  3. Don’t expect to learn how to do your job professionally  from someone who doesn’t know how to his own.
  4. Don’t rely on people who don’t deliver on their promises. “The cat ate my homework” excuses are pretty easy to discern, so be on the lookout for them.
  5. Refuse to participate in elections or decisions that don’t inform the whole student body (very often they will include a select group of “chosen, god-given talents” individuals not excluding distant and not so distant relatives).
  6. Don’t accept excuses about why someone isn’t doing his job properly when it’s clear how things should be done. Don’t let unprofessional behaviour become normalized. Some people spend so much time pretending to do their job they forget how real work is supposed to be carried out.
  7. Always be positive about work and the people around you but differentiate that and looking through rose-coloured glasses. Problems will always appear and a person has to take active participation in the solving of these, so that they can be resolved. Just because a problem isn’t real for you that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Be mindful of other people’s problems and situation and try to do your best to help them. Also be careful of toxic people (believe me they’re real) and people who try to make you a part of a dysfunctional or abusive relationship. These people usually have their heads so far their a**es there’s really no reason why you should engage with them, let the professionals do their work.
  8. Beware of who carry what I call “the judge” stereotype. These people usually have a higher opinion about themselves and a lower opinion about pretty much everyone else who doesn’t acknowledge it. Their very philosophy gets in the way (sometimes very drastically) of them having a realistic perception of themselves and others.  They rarely ackowledge other people’s succsess but tend to amplify their own. These people never  accept criticsm even if it’s delivered in the most professional way. They will often be people of higher academic status (not real “status” but whatever) or who think that they  have some advantage over you. As “judges” they can do just that and anyone tries to correct it them (even slightly) is most likely to e ignored, or even worse become an outcast and which will exclude him from the next “secret meeting” of the “higher intellect”. Folks like that carry the attitude that you have no right to be complaining about antyhing as long as they’re O.K., even if they’re not doing their job correctly. Sometimes your job will be to complain about things in order for them get better about everybody. If your reasonable complaints are not met with reasonable actions, move on.
  9. Social engineering and slyness can’t and shouldn’t substitute reason, intellect and common sense. In Bulgaria “slyness” is often used by people who’re are too lazy and hypocritical to realise how paradoxical it looks from above. Social engineering can never be a substitute for real intellect nad hard work. Be careful if people who carry that philosophy around because when it comes to getting the job done these people never work. If you see people like this be proactive in getting them out of your team or your life.
  10. If you strive to do your job in a proactive manner, work hard and be mindful of other people’s opinions (take action not just when it suits you to do so) people will respect you and complaints should be rare. Yet, if there are,  consider first if there’s something in your working philosophy which may be off track and then everything else. Don’t consider something as the right thing to do just because you’ve been doing it for so long you rarely think about why you do it. Sometimes inertia can get in your way.
  11. Just because someone says “this is the way we do things here” doesn’t mean you should accept what’s dealt to you or let their unprofessional behaviour become normalized. (I’ve also heard excuses like the business environment, the resources the institution has, or the socio-economic state of the country – people can come up with all kinds crazy excuses about why they shouldn’t try hard at their job.)

Crazy Botch

Crazy Botch was the only girlfriend I had from the university (yeah, you know what follows). She was studying  Arabic or something of the sort. We met on an excursion to Greece organized from the university where Crazy Botch started exchanging glances with me. It later turned out that she only did so after consulting with her female friend that found me quite charming (so modest, I know).

Her father worked “security” and for those of you which don’t know what this means in Bulgaria, it means pretty much the same as archaeology – something very shady. I was even warned that I shouldn’t tell anyone about her father’s meeting with the other people from his “security” firm. Anyway, I’m not here to write about that, Crazy Botch was a handful in itself.

I was very motivated to have a proper relationship with Crazy Botch for some altruistic reason but with time I started to feel that something about her was a little bit off. She would often fall into fits of rage because I’ve made some stupid (but obvious) joke but even more often for no reason at all (sounds familiar?). There was this time when we went to the mall to have a snack or something and I tried to kiss her – she pushed me back and the second time I tried to get closer for a kiss she said “fuck off”, got really angry and made to leave. I was said to see her go for the softhearted jello I was and just stood there wondering. I was at the same place when she got back and said, “Let’s go”. Just before we got to her place she said “Please don’t tell Mommy and Daddy that I acted this way, and acted as if nothing had happened for the rest of the evening.

The was some kinky stuff with her and at times,  she even seemed to like it and yet there seemed to be times where she seemed to be disgusted with it. I think the strangest thing was when I found that she had put me on speaker while we were talking on the phone. I think she was trying to prove to her parents how disgusting and perverted I was. I think she kind of got off from it. I’ve heard her speak similar stuff about her best friend (yeah, the one who originally “liked me”) with whom she has been for most of her life.

The difference between her behaviour when we were alone and when she was with her parents (also the fact that she was constantly comparig herself with other people while doing nothing{a.k.a the best way to never be wrong}) led me to the conclusion that I should get out as fast as possible, so one morning when she made a very nasty remark while we were lying in bed in the apartment of her parents I decided that I can’t and shouldn’t take it anymore, put on my clothes and left in a hurry. I could tell just from the look in her mother’s eyes that she was very offended by the way that I was leaving.

I didn’t want to answer her calls from that moring on but she didn’t seem to get the hint. First there were the dissapointed texts, then the apologetic ones. In the end there were the threaths and “what would happen if she had contracted some STD from me”. I think she was under the impression that I was so much in love with hear that I wouldn’t pick up the phone in fear of her breaking up with me (don’t look at me, that’s just the general impression I got from that person, to be clear – a very deep narcissim).

I saw her friend a couple of times in the university after that and she seemed to have a strengthened interest in me. I think Crazy Botch told her of the kinky stuff “I made her” do and and she found them to her liking. It’s sad that at that time I already considered them as one organism. She tried to approach me a couple of times but I played the dead  squirrell until I didn’t see them anymore.

The Meeting

I wrote to Mira Mayer, the dean of the MA program at the New Bulgarian University explaining my “situation”. I wasn’t sure she’ll respond and what the consequences might be so my first e-mail was anonymous. She responded that she can’t do anything about my complaint if I don’t use my “real identity” probably to make sure that I was indeed a student at the university. I responded with a second e-mail fully explaining what my deal was and she answered that I can meet with her at her office.

I went to the university and scheduled a meeting with her in two weeks after that day. The whole scheduling part was awkward because the male secretary asked me what was the purpose of my meeting and I replied “Abuse of a student by a teacher from the university”. My answer was not thought over and yet it conveyed perfectly what I’ve experienced. “And this student, is it you?”, he asked. “Yes”, I replied.

The meeting seemed like a long time from that day so I thought a lot about what I was going to say. Should I include every unprofessionalism that my teachers have made during my 5 years at the university or should I settle for the most appalling ones? Some of them were so absurd in their making I doubted she would even believe me. I think I settled for the middle – I skipped most of the horrid ones but kept enough to let her know (or so I thought) that the situation was serious. She had a small ledger to take notes as I explained my complaint in more detail. I mentioned names of students and teachers but she didn’t seem to be writing any of the teacher’s names. Yet, she seemed to believe and be truly disturbed by at least some of my stories. She kept asking me these questions about my current engagement with the university, “whether I was a regular student at the university, have I paid my last tax for the semester”, and so forth. I’m not sure if she wasn’t checking to see if I was her concern at all. “And now you don’t have a supervisor or your theme written?”, she asked like everything that I’ve told her about my negativity filled experience at the university was not a big deal. “I don’t want to graduate”, I said. “So, what do you want me to do?!”, and I said “I haven’t yet given up on the university but I want to be done with my current MA, also I want my money back so I can start a new MA that’s not so horrible”. She replied that it wasn’t in the university’s policy to give money back but she’ll “do something” and she’ll call me, “you did leave your number right?”. She already had my e-mail and we’ve been keeping a correspondence, so I thought it very weird.

At the end, I didn’t ask for my money because I really believed that I was going to get them back, I just wanted her to understand how serious these things were for me.

It’s been three months and she still hasn’t called.

P.S. It would be ironic for a person who has written about racism, The Holocaust and the like, let her students be oppressed.

Maybe it’s just me.

Atilla

I read the beginning of a book about Atilla a while ago. It said that medieval authors viewed him as bloodthirsty and  gruesome just because they wanted to downscale greatness of his achievements.

When I imply that some of my teachers at the New Bulgarian University were hypocritical and so forth it comes pretty close to cyber bullying, but I’m not doing this because I want to downscale their academic achievement, surely there must have been some. I’m doing this because a lot of students have been hurt because of the policy that the people at the department of archeology at the New Bulgarian University keep. There have been secret meetings determining which student should go to wich “prestigious” archeologic site, teachers trying to play footsie under the table (literally) with students from the female gender without their consent, taking one student’s work and giving it to another to present, of course without the consent of the former, straightforward abuse of (and snapping at) students, giving special privileges to students, unprofessional teaching and working behaviour, the list goes on and on.Thanks to their mob mentality and

Thanks to their mob mentality and groupthink (or maybe a complete lack of shame?) the teachers, of course, remained completely oblivious to their student’s problems and needs. It’s not that bad if it’s not happening to me, right?

What I’m trying to say is that there should be a radical change in the department of archaeology at the New Bulgarian University, or otherwise, students will continue to use it as a platform for enlisting to other programs. The few that don’t use it as such will drop out some midterm, either to visit a mental institution, try purchasing a firearm, or go hang from a bridge somewhere.

Until that change happens the department of archaeology at the New Bulgarian University will remain the place most similar to the Aokigahara forest in Japan.

The Ladybug and The Professor

The Professor was the director of the archaeological department at the New Bulgarian University. At first, I thought The Professor OK, he professed all these values and stuff, but if you looked closer you would see how he contradicted them. Sometimes you  didn’t even need to look closely to see that there’s something fishy going on. For the times it was obvious he apologized, but for the other occasions, he pretended that there’s nothing wrong (maybe he thought there really wasn’t anything wrong?).

So, one beautiful day I made a presentation about Göbekli Tepe (an archaeological site in the Near East) in a lecture that the Professor was teaching. He told me something of the sort that he liked it very much and that with materials from my lecture I and Ladybug (together with materials from her?) can make one joint presentation on a broader subject to give to a broader audience in some other course the Professor was having. I was a little leery because very little of what the people at the university promised came to fruition, the other fact being Ladybug’s suspicious morale, but I agreed.

Time passed, but there was no further talk about supposed “joint operation” – something made me remember it, though. There was some talk on the topic of Göbekli Tepe on another lecture later that year and as we were talking Ladybug was looking at some images on her computer, images from a presentation she had made. As she was scrolling past them an image from my presentation appeared and when Ladybug realised I maybe looking at the same thing it took her only seconds to nervously close her presentation (obviously in the hopes of me not realizing). The image had a bad resolution which often happens when you copy a slide with an image from another presentation. I had given links to the sources for my presentation at the end of it, so I thought it funny that they haven’t even gone through the effort of using them. The resources were free to use, but once I had given my presentation to The Professor he had absolutely no right to give it to another student, or use it, without asking me first. So it kind of got me thinking what gave them the right to do whatever the hell they want. Was it stupidity, divine rights, academic prestige, or just clean arrogance?

Whatever it was allowing for special rights to be given to students, and allowing for some select body of students to have some academic advantages is definitely not the way to go, not in the 21st century at least. I’m sure with communism things were different, but may, for them they stayed the same. I have this all-encompassing theory that you can explain every stupid mistake  a person makes with communism, but does stupidity need an academic figure or a political ideology?

P.S. Of course, it’s not stupid if people never find about it.

Two fingers

The score from thesis defense came out wrong, or at least, different from what I heard it was at the event. I went to the university to speak with Slayer to see what was wrong and why did it change. I was starting to believe that I have misheard what my score actually was and that it had truly been lower than what I expected. When I walked into the office of the archaeology department I greeted the people that were present, which were Sonya and Slayer. I approached Slayer with my question and while I was talking to him, he was squinting his eyes and seemed to be very focused on my face, as if there was very small bug crawling on my face that he was trying to discern. This thing on my face seemed to interest him more than my questions and Slayer answered that he didn’t remember what my score was and that he would have to talk with The Professor about that. I said that I understand and bid them farewell.

“Two fingers”, said Slayer to Sonya, as I was closing the door.  Assuming there was no previous conversation between them, and his intent stare, Slayer could have only been talking about some feature of my face, in a language that Slayer thought, only he and Sonya could understand (telepathy, maybe?). Well, it would have been a secret language if it wasn’t Bulgarian. I was pretty used to thinking of people talking ill about me in my absence but found the action of people speaking right in front of me, in what they thought was a secret language extremely hypocritical. That was funny because I’ve always had only respect for Slayer and Sonya (although I didn’t receive a single e-mail  for any event from my department from Sonya during my first two years of study, and I know she had it) and until that moment they have been one of the few people that haven’t tried to quite intentionally step on my head.

I think this was the moment when I fully realized the degree of hypocrisy my teachers were capable of and that I really wasn’t welcomed there.