Some workplaces and research cultures explicitly or implicitly run so that every conversation is actually a battle for airtime, and it’s common to try to sabotage other people’s chances. We should be working towards the exact opposite: energising, authentic, worthwhile, academic conversations. That’s what we love about getting together with our nerd pals.
What these students show is they see reading as an intelligence test. (To be fair, they probably learned this from school.) As a graduate student, they have been a ‘smart’ person all their life, but maybe now they are not smart, or not smart enough.