To Finish Your Dissertation…

"The dissertation is the monument to the moment when the committee gave up" ~ Dr. D. Barry Lumsden

Let’s talk for a minute about the excuses, excuses you get from professors DURING THE TERM FOR WHICH YOU PAID TUITION. Let’s start with a list of this litany of excuses that I have seen in the emails and other forms of communications that occur between dissertants and professors over a nearly 20 year period, including when I was still a graduate student. Of import, there might be 6 to 8 weeks left in the current time when any of these statements come to you. Additionally, it is likely you got these excuses after you submitted the draft 2 weeks prior to finally getting this much communication. I have broken them into the two categories of online versus brick & mortar doctoral professors:

Online Professors’ Top Excuses

  1. “I can’t get to your document till after this semester, because we have so much going on in the family [or with my kids, etc.]. So, just wait until the first week of the next term, then I will be able to spend time reviewing your draft.”
  2. “I have to attend the funeral of [insert random person who is not a direct relative] in [insert name of some X amount of hours away place] so I won’t be able to read your draft for at least a week, so you need to give me extra time.”
  3. “My grandkids are staying with me for a month.”
  4. “Thanksgiving is coming up in a week, so let’s make an appointment to talk afterward because I am too busy planning for my family to visit. I don’t have time to deal with you now.”
  5. “Until you send an APA compliant document, I don’t see any need to read your proposal because I am not an editor.”
  6. “Why do we need to talk? I insert comments in the document; you should use those comments to guide you. They are very clear.”

Brick & Mortar Professors’ Top Excuses

  1. “I have classes whose students are a higher priority than you are.”
  2. “You don’t understand the pressure on me to get articles written and papers graded, so you just need to wait your turn.”
  3. “I teach three classes and have to grade 17 total papers plus give finals, so your draft will wait until after finals.” (This one was given to a student right after spring break with 7 weeks left in the term during which the professor originally had agreed to allow the student propose.)
  4. “Our department is being scrutinized for <insert administrative crisis, e.g., certification and accreditation, reorganization> so I don’t have time for you. The department chair told us to make the <insert crisis solution> process our main priority, other than classes we teach, this term.”
  5. “I don’t get paid to read drafts. You need to write a final, complete draft of your proposal; then we can talk.”
  6. “I have office hours but those are for students in my classes; you aren’t in one of my classes. Email is fine. You don’t need to come to campus.”

Common Excuses Among Both Types of Schools’ Professors

  1. “How did you ever get through classes, let alone comps? Your writing is not scholarly, and there is no way your proposal will pass with how it looks now. You should consider hiring an editor.”
  2. “I already have a student defending this semester, so I don’t have time to deal with you. You have to wait your turn.”
  3. “Why do we need to talk? Can’t you just send an email?”

These excuses for not attending to students are pretty typical. I have heard about them over and over again for decades. They are examples of how sad it is that you pay good money for academic malpractice to be committed at you every semester. Dissertation students who have careers off-campus or attend online programs rarely have dissertation professors who remain accessible to them by simply answering the phone, allowing students to take advantage of office hours, or using free time to interact with or shoot a short email to students.

You want to persist every 12 to 48 hours, depending on when you made first contact as follows:

  1. Send your email, and expect a reply in a timely fashion: 24 to 48 hours.
  2. Surreptitiously resend the email and drop a text to check for email. Wait 24 hours.
  3. Make a phone call, and leave a voice mail if necessary. Wait 24 hours, repeat text.
  4. Wait 12 hours, call, and keep doing the same thing in 12-hour intervals.

They will get back to you when they realize that their cruise or other trip or wild goose chase is going to have to be interrupted by their job.

Final thought: When you have the sensation of feeling crazy or not sure about what is going on with how you are being treated or how you are receiving the messages sent to you by your professors and their overlords, do not assume you, dissertant, don’t know things (see a previous blog).

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