My Ph.D. advisor wouldn't let me complete it on time. How should I fight for my rights? - PhDData

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My Ph.D. advisor wouldn’t let me complete it on time. How should I fight for my rights?

October 2022

You should have a private discussion about the issue with the committee’s other members, the graduate advisor, and the department chair.

If the issue is that the dissertation must have your graduate adviser’s signature on it. Suppose the other faculty members in the department, on the other hand, believe that your advisor is acting up. They may exert some pressure to get the dissertation signed in that case.

You have no rights in this circumstance; thus, “fighting for your rights” is not a problem. It comes down to attempting to persuade other department members that your advisor is acting out of line.

Create a dissertation draft, then present it to your adviser. Inquire whether he will approve it. If he replies “no,” enquire as to why. If he proposes logical upgrades, implement them. He is being irrational if he asserts that he must keep you around. His demand for labor has no bearing on how well your job is judged.

If you bring up whether you can graduate, you’re inviting him to bring up factors other than your academic performance. If you discuss your work, you will compel the adviser to explain his reasoning (e.g., “Your current work isn’t essential since I require inexpensive labor. “). This may be useful while looking for those who will understand your situation.

When your Ph.D. advisor refuses to allow you to finish on time, you may take several steps.

The first and most crucial phase is meeting and speaking with your adviser. Communication is vital because it lets you and your adviser agree on the optimal time to graduate. You may also ask your adviser “why” and listen to them explain why you won’t be able to finish on time. On the other hand, remember that as a student, you want to ensure you complete the Ph.D. program in 4-5 years (6 years at most). You must meet with your Ph.D. advisor to have that crucial conversation and inform them that you must graduate ASAP unless they have a perfect reason why they want to delay your graduation if you realize you are already in the 5th year of your Ph.D. program. There seems to be “no light at the end of the tunnel” for you to complete your Ph.D. Keep notes from your discussions, particularly those you have by email (for you want to gather enough information for Phase 2 if there is no resolution between you & your advisor about your graduation).

If Phase 1 above doesn’t appear to be resolved,

Phase 2: Meet with your committee and maybe the department chair to discuss your worries that you and your adviser are becoming more at odds and to find out when you will be graduating. It would be best if you also were very explicit about your desire to graduate swiftly. Check out the ideas that your committee and department chair have. Remember that you are already in the ABD Status of the Ph.D., which is an excellent case to suggest to your committee and perhaps the department chair to support you. You may argue that earning a Ph.D. without publishing anything is still extraordinary. Keep notes on all of your interactions with the committee and chair.

Negative case scenario

Consult the Dean of Graduate Divisions in Phase 3 (also known as The Nuclear Option). Make sure you’ve previously completed Phases 1 and 2 above, but suggest that something appears between you and your adviser. I would try to avoid using this Nuclear Option Step as much as possible. Once you submit a complaint with the Dean, remember that your relationship with your adviser is over, and that person now harbors hatred against you. But there are instances when you have no option but to act in your best interests (& NOT for the benefit of your advisor). The Dean would first participate in this Nuclear Option as a “3rd party middleman.” The Academic Grievance process is akin to a mini-court case between you and your advisor; the judge happens to be none other than the University Chancellor, whereas the “Jury” happens to be all the Deans and many faculties at your department. However, if there is no resolution, this Nuclear Option would escalate to this process. Remember that the Nuclear Option Step will be expensive and that you will graduate even though it will be a horrible headache.

In conclusion, if you and your adviser cannot agree on a date for your Ph.D. graduation, strive to stay close to Phase 1. When you and your adviser cannot reach a consensus in Phase 1, you will either go to Phase 2 (involving the committee) or, worse, Phase 3 (Dean Intervention). Remember that you and your adviser are now on bad terms, much like a divorced spouse; therefore, if you are in Phases 2 or 3, be on the lookout for any potential backlash from your advisor.

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