[The following is a guest post by graduate student of anthropology. All names have been changed.]
I want you to know why I feel the way I do about you. You have absolutely, irrevocably, broken my heart. One day, I may forgive you. Today is not that day. Today is the day that I write my story. What you do with it is entirely up to you.
Like so many anthropologists, my story begins with an eager, optimistic first year graduate student primed and ready for the greatest adventure of her life. In fact, this story starts with two of us. Selena and me. I remember the day Selena and I became friends like an anniversary. It was May 2013. We met up after a theory class, utterly defeated. On that day, we realized that something was terribly wrong. Whether it was a problem in our department, in our university, or in the discipline itself it took us three more years to figure out what that thing was.
In the convening time, we spent hours sitting on Selena’s apartment floor telling each other the story of our lives ten times over until dawn on more occasions than I can count. We bonded over things like working in bars, our favorite Bjork music videos, and the painful lessons we learned from loving people who hurt themselves and the people around them. You know, the usual stuff. We were thick as thieves. Every day we spent in the Ivory Tower, we stole another morsel of knowledge to take home and incorporate into our ritual story telling event. For a time, we were complacent, even happy, despite the misery that our academic situation afforded us. When I would tell Selena that I was ready to quit, she would somehow coax me into staying. That was how our life together as graduate students went. Until one day, it ended.
Our department terminated Selena in May 2016. In that moment, I lost one of the best colleagues I will ever have. You did, too. See, Selena was the type of student who read everything. She read all the books and articles that her professors assigned to her, and then she read five more books and ten more articles. For a year before her exams, Selena stayed in her apartment and read every damn thing she could get her hands on while she wrote her proposal. To Selena, anthropology was everything. Her degree was her life blood, the thing that she would take home and say, look what I did. Look what we can do. Look what people like you and I can do.
Selena was a first-generation college student. Her grandparents immigrated to the US from Mexico. Spanish is as much her first language as English is. When she was sixteen she became pregnant with her first child. At that time, she worked on the assembly line at a Sony disc factory where she met her future ex-husband. She raised two more children before she came to graduate school. All three of her kids were teenagers when she decided to get a PhD. She made a sacrifice, leaving her family to go back to school in another state. For her, it was a long-term investment. She thought, once she had her doctorate, she could get a good job, better than any job that she would have access to otherwise. Then, she could help her kids through school so that they could get degrees and good jobs, too. That was the plan.
Our department terminated Selena during the oral defense of her comprehensive, or qualifying exams. Her committee asked her what she wanted to do with her research. She said she wanted to write ethnography. They laughed and told her that she does not know what anthropology is. They told her that ethnography is not what anthropologists do. Her committee told her that people like her do not need PhDs. Some of her committee members may read this and say, that is not what happened. Whatever you intended to say, that is the story you gave to Selena. That is the story that she must live with every single day for the rest of her life. That is the story that she must tell her kids, their father, her friends, and her former colleagues when they ask her why she came home without a PhD.
It has been two years now since Selena’s termination. I want you to try to imagine what that memory feels like for her today. Seriously, take a moment to feel the weight of her story in the pit of your stomach, in your soul, or wherever it is that you keep the things that hurt the most. Carry this feeling with you. Use it to make better decisions with your students, in committee meetings, at conferences, and in job interviews. Remember Selena. Remember what you did to her so that you never make a mistake like this again.
All the very best.
 i.e. We were broker than two covered wagons on the Oregon trail trying to ford a river that was way too deep for us to travel through and live to tell the tale.
 They gave her a ‘Terminal’ Master’s degree and asked her to leave. Before this happened, I always thought the Terminal Master’s was a voluntary option for folks who had decided not to finish the PhD. Now I understand why they call it ‘Terminal.’
 She was also president of our Anthropology Graduate Student Association in her second year.