Saturday, May 17, 2008

SSHRC Funding: 20% Luck; 80% Spit or Swallow

Everyone hates begging the government for money. But as a graduate student you've got to do it. You've got to get on your knees, open your wrists, cry, and beg. You've got to kiss feet, kiss ass--if it's red or pink you've got to lip it. And although the more oral penetration the better, some things you just squeeze lightly between the lips and hum. A few times you'll get the money, sometimes you'll get hoof and mouth. But it's all worth it, right? Well, if that $35 K cheque is coming in the mail, then, yes, it's all worth it.

Thirty-five thousand? you ask. No, it can't be that much. How about $100,000 over three years to study metpahors or disunity in Quebecois poetry? How about $100,000 over three years to study images of South Asians in contemporary Manitoban fiction. (Note: There isn't anything they can't pick.)

How about a hundred grand to take a look at Robertson Davies's deployment of horse shoes?

I know, I know. It's not enough. Maybe if it were something good--a real golden project--you could land $150,000. Depictions of aberrant sexuality in Maritime outport fiction? Only if you leave the fish fucking out.

But, to be serious for a minute, the SSHRC serves a legitimate purpose: it feeds graduate students, it houses graduate students; it gives them money to do things like cut their bangs, buy new jeans, and pay library fines. I know that most just braid or pull back their hair, wear shitty old jeans, and extend their loans for eight months. But at least they have the option of stroking the GDP.

Of course those are the ones who get the grants. Not everyone does. (Unless you go to UofT, then you just follow the yellow brick road to cash your first cheque. In 2007, 264 UofT graduate students applied for government grants; 262 got money. What about the other two? One had to go back to Finland, and the other's application was short postage. That, ordinarily, would've been fine--but he sent the thing to Consumer's Gas.)

I have an SSHRC grant. Let me just say that. I'll tell you what I use it for: Last Christmas I took a cruise to Monaco. A few weeks ago I bought new tires. Then I rented a cottage for a homeless guy. He kept asking me how he was supposed to get there. "That's not my problem," I said.

Who doesn't get government money? Being on the inside of the machine, I can tell you exactly who'll be sleeping on a Bay Street grate next academic year. If you've got a B+, you're out. And don't write anything about loving books. That's bad. I know a guy who, at the end of his application, wrote, "I have always loved reading, and will continue to celebrate my passion for critical inquiry." The next day he had his GAship pulled. "What'd I do?" he asked the programme director at his school. "Don't take it personally," the director said, "but your enthusiasm could be contagious."

Also, don't try to be funny. Saying something like, "As Derrida might write, 'fgdsfgdsfgsd,'" won't earn you any friends. You'll be shopping in Kensington Market. For food.

See ya at the MLA.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


"If you have a b+, you're out". Do you mean B+ average, or a single B+? What if I received a b+ in my Master's Degree, but otherwise got A+ and A grades - does that one b+ automatically mess up my sshrc chances?

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