I went to school at Stanford, completing a PhD in Comparative Literature. I had a miserable time in Graduate School for many reasons.
Coming from a less prestigious school as an undergraduate student, I was shocked by the low quality of the pedagogy. Professors would often have no syllabus for their course, or teach in an utterly passive way, allowing the inmates to run the asylum. In the Comparative Literature program, we were required to take a course in Literary Theory the first semester. This was taught by a Heideggerian who said nothing comprehensible during the entire quarter and exercised little leadership. The class was run, essentially, by a small vocal group of Marxist graduate students from another program, Modern Thought and Literature.
I was in a Comp Lit program, but I wanted to be a Hispanist. The Spanish department when I was there was a disaster and I was able to complete my degree only because they eventually hired someone in my field, after I was physically gone from Stanford, and he was nice enough to direct my dissertation even though he didn't really know me.
The Spanish department was run by a group of Marxists who didn't believe peninsular literature should be taught at all. One, a woman from England, did not even know how to speak Spanish, even though she was (and remains) a prominent Latin Americanist. Her ally was another vicious Marxist who is also quite well known in the field. When she became president of the MLA a few years ago, I quit the organization for a few years in disgust. Another man there was a Chlean exile writer who would often just not show up to class. These people made me into a peninsularist. Many students in the Spanish program were intellectually inferior, chosen because of their political affiliations. The department hired a very good Cervantes scholar, who eventually left because he was treated so badly by the Marxist crowd. The department depended too heavily on visiting professors, some of whom were complete disasters.
Despite all these problems, I was exposed to some brilliant minds and managed to navigate the program and receive my degree by working independently. I learned what I could from the people that had something to say, and taught myself the rest.
I remember walking around and wondering whether I was "brilliant" or not. The ethos there in Comp Lit was to try to get noticed by powerful people who might call you "brilliant." If you weren't brilliant, you were nothing. Yet in Spanish some of the graduate students were not only not brilliant, but almost cognitively disabled. For a young, immature person like myself, this was a toxic atmosphere.