Staff Writer - Katrin Callender

I know of students who claimed that they were given low grades because they were at odds with their lecturers. Others worry about having their ideas stolen by those who teach them or study alongside them.

Others still panic because they were asked to work on projects for which individuals are normally paid, yet they are not paid despite working long hours which threaten their progress in other classes.

They maintain that grades no matter how high, are not remuneration. What, if anything, can such students do to address these issues?

This question has generally arisen from experiences at the tertiary level of education but, can be seen brewing in the workplace as well. There are many employees who are new to their respective companies. These may often feel as though they are being asked to run errands or work outside their job description merely because they are new. They too feel that they are being imposed upon at the whim of their counterparts. And if this is the case, what can they do to stop it?

It is most important to determine if it is experience or exploitation or a combination of the two. Some view the challenges they place before students and new employees as the so-called “baptism of fire,” wherein the person placed under pressure is receiving an opportunity to show their worth; to prove their mettle, as it were.

They view the world as a continuous struggle and the majority of its inhabitants as ruthless, so that enduring their behavior is actually a means for the novice to prepare for the “real world”. Others mean to take advantage of these seemingly powerless individuals, who may not know how to handle the situation or those who are afraid to “rock the boat” as they are new, fearing erroneous labels, such as “troublemaker”.

Is this the right way? Photo courtesy guardian.co.uk

When you know which of the two it is, or if it is both, the natural reaction may be unexpected and quite powerful. Even if you learn that the behavior is worse elsewhere or if you are told that it is being done for your benefit, one cannot help but be annoyed at best, at the circumstances.

No one can be told how to react to such situations; each circumstance varies and whether the differences are slim or great, one solution cannot be used for all such cases. However, this is the course of study or employment chosen, so it may better serve you to assess the situation in terms of what you can handle and what you will gain. Weigh your choices.

Ask yourself some difficult questions. Do you find the treatment demoralizing or abusive? Is the situation tolerable or unendurable? Do you believe it to have had a positive impact on you? Will your lecturers or counterparts desist if you ask them? What are your options; can you afford to remove yourself from the situation? What will be some of the implications of such a move?

If the situation is more negative than positive, and the repercussions of leaving it are not great, you may wish to leave. If the positive outweighs the negative, and the result of leaving is great, you may be more inclined to stay. If you are not clear on your position, you may wish to think of creative ways to reduce your stress without leaving, while searching out new opportunities.

No one should feel as though they are being exploited as they begin to build a life for themselves in a field of study or job that they are interested in.  May we all find the strength to cope with such situations if we encounter them, and may we be grateful if we are not faced with this particular trial. And may we remember what we feel under such circumstances, when we occupy positions of power.