Here's a collection of some of the more convincing responses to the GEO survey:
How satisfied are you with the range and quality of courses the department offers graduate students? The department often forgets that English is all encompassing, reaching various regions. They seem stuck in a pretentious past, & lagging behing the more innovative and intellectually rigorous and stimulating University English programs. The classes, too, feel trapped in a lax mode, with professors who seem to think the only work they have to do is to show up.
Please rate the quality of your fellow graduate students. The students are of a high quality, and they are bled to death by the department. I think the academic talents of my colleagues would be more readily apparent if they were being trained as scholars. They are not. They are cheap, exploited labor and everyone knows this. Maybe if the University displayed that they truly thought the humanities were worth funding, the responses to this survey would be filled with less ire.
How well does the department encourage and facilitate diversity? Please consider cultural diversity of course offerings, syllabi, variety of pedagogical methods used in the classroom, and your personal experience in the classroom. Cultural diversity is limited in this program. Courses largely consist of standard canonized white men, followed by a single book written by an 'outside' voice. These books are then taught not as texts in and of themselves, but as 'outside' voices that the white classroom taught by white teachers has the privilege to gaze upon.
Do you feel the requirements for your degree were adequately explained to you? I feel that the way I found out about the thesis requirement and when and how to go about completing my thesis was almost hidden on the department web site, and I have no idea when that was last updated. I also have no idea what "back matter" and"front matter" is, but it seems I am supposed to have that in my thesis. I don't expect "hand-holding," as I am a graduate student, but perhaps a little more guidance might be nice - the department might even think about offering a thesis seminar, which would be a one-credit class and simply focus on deadlines and methods for completing the thesis.
Do you feel the department's guidelines for the length of time to complete your degree are reasonable? For the MA, yes, for the Ph.D. - no. Four years to complete coursework for both the MA and Ph.D is not reasonable. The department needs to be able to support their students for at least five years - 2 for the MA, 3 for the Ph.D.
The new student orientation was practical and informative but it stressed"branding" and getting out/getting a job which sets a rushed, corporate tone for a new student's experience.
This push to get students out quickly will hurt students when they compete with others who have had the encouragement/expectation and funding to broaden their studies, to adequately study a second or third language, to develop their specialization, and truly develop their intellectual potential simply because they had an extra year to do so.
If you are funded, do you think your funding limits will be sufficient for you to complete your degree? It's possible, but will be difficult because our workload is high,while the pay is so low that the majority of us have to take on other work during breaks in order to make ends meet. If we were able to spend that time developing our research, preparing for conferences, and working on getting published, our chances for successful job placement would be exponentially higher (in addition to more people being able to finish within four years). And naturally, if we were all able to acquire competitive tenure-track positions,this would reflect back upon, and increase the prestige of, the program.
If you are a TA, how fair do you think your workload is? The workload is unfair. The fact that the English department is the only graduate program that forces their funded teaching assistants to teach two courses is dishonest and unethical. The English department uses graduate students to replace an insufficient faculty. The fact that graduate students spend inordinate amounts of time teaching proves that Binghamton University does not support graduate scholarship in literature. As an individual who came here for an education, and not to spend all of my time teaching, the teaching load is incredibly unfair.The teaching load harms scholarship, and this department is developing a poor reputation at conferences and elsewhere.
Please rate your satisfaction with the department's career guidance and professional development. The professors are not available, spend as little time as possible on class preparation, lectures and advising of students. The professors do not appear to be interested in the development of their own careers, their publications and even less so in the development of the students' careers, publications and professional development.