Does ageism exist in Ph.D. programs? If so, how does it show itself?
I re-entered the university a few years ago to enhance my original bachelor’s degree, which I got 25 years earlier. I had no worries about this decision because, for many years, I had worked in student affairs and felt comfortable talking with academics and students.
The idea of returning to school excited me, and I eagerly awaited the opportunity to participate in academic debates with my classmates. The professor asked us to fill out an inventory during the first week of my classes, which required some basic demographic knowledge. As he moved around the class, the professor gave us more instructions as he went through each topic. When he stopped walking, he quickly turned his head in my way and told us that we didn’t have to fill out the age on the inventory if we didn’t like to.
Despite knowing that he made this statement with good intentions, I was troubled by the notion that I should be ashamed and embarrassed because of my age. “I don’t mind stating that I am 48,” I replied impulsively. There’s no problem with it.” I felt the pain of implied ageism with that seemingly harmless act and that my status changed from student to senior student.”
I want to draw the attention of higher educated people to a problem that is often ignored. As an expert in students’ affairs, I know that most of us chose this career because we care about students and want to support and be a part of their academic path. I also realize that our behaviours, words, and attitudes may unknowingly reinforce age-related clichés, just as my well-intentioned professor knew. Keeping that in mind, I ask you to consider the following:
1. Be a role model in terms of language and attitude.
Remember that others are always listening. Hearing people telling jokes about their “senior moments” grows internally for both the speaker and the listener over some time. It’s better to confront these attitudes and views early because they tend only to reinforce the stereotype.
2. No matter how well-intended, assumptions are rare to be taken positively.
For example, the best approach is to allow the student to take the lead and decide whether or not they wish to reply to a question regarding their age demographic.
3. Stereotypes are unnecessary & unproductive.
As I write it, we are in the middle of a pandemic that has made most face-to-face communications unfeasible. Think about the fact that students of all ages may have some trouble with technology, and there are many good reasons for it, too. Poor connections, software or hardware difficulties, and access-related issues are just a few of the challenges we face. Such tech-related obstacles have nothing to do with age, so instead of judging them about their age and skills, assist a student in addressing their technological problems.
4. When establishing programmes and department policies, keep all the students in mind.
Ultimately, multigenerational education enhances us all by taking to fresh and unique viewpoints. Campuses that serve only the students of a specific age group miss these types of views, plus it may also promote age discrimination. For instance, I would like to see multigenerational imagery in advertising or promotional pieces as a natural feature of campus life. The fundamental problem with promoting age-related stereotypes and having unfavourable attitudes toward ageing is that they may negatively influence someone’s psychological health. It’s even been discovered to affect an individual’s lifespan.
It is my professional and personal interest, and I can’t wait to finish my systematic study and bring awareness to this problem in higher education.