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Awful PhD Program Experience


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I have spent the last 3 years working on my PhD in Clinical Research. In addition, I was awarded a grant which pays for my research costs, tuition and salary support for 3 years.

This PhD program is brand new. I knew there were going to be some "growing pains" but I didn't expect it to be a horror show. My mentor is also the Program Director for this program. I really thought this would be a great idea since she would know best on what I needed to do to complete this degree. I was WRONG. DEAD WRONG!

When I first started this program, I just began the preliminary studies of my research. I made sure that I wouldn't do anything without the approval of my mentor. Well, almost 3 years have passed and I am done collecting my data. However, I had to present my thesis proposal even though I was done with my research. I have been asking for the past 3 years when the qualifying exam and thesis proposal would be done. I was always told we don't have a plan yet but that I could continue my research. I made sure that I spoke with my mentor, co-director of the program and dissertation chair each step of the way with my research just in case something went wrong.

Well, 3 weeks ago I present my thesis proposal (even though my research is done!). The dissertation committee had a tremendous amount of changes and requested that I represent my thesis proposal. My mentor did nothing, she didn't even say anything. My chair (who helped me develop my survey tool) actually criticized it. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

I reported the situation with the Dean. He obviously had no idea what was going on in the program. However, this didn't resolve any of my problems because I still have to do the changes the committee is asking for.

After having a complete breakdown, I decided that I was going to do the best I can in completing this degree by June or September this year. If it doesn't happen, then I really don't give a crap about this degree. All I can say is "Thank GOD, I didn't pay for this crap!"

I still would like to do something to punish these people. Who should I report this event to? There are students in this program who have spent thousands of dollars.

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I would have to say you are wrong. My husband is an attorney and they breached their contract (student handbook). In addition, this program is federally funded which means they are taking taxpayers money for a sham program. There have been students in other programs who have sued and gotten their tuition money back. You can't just take people's money and not provide an education, mentoring or plan on how to graduate from a program.

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I would have to say you are wrong. My husband is an attorney and they breached their contract (student handbook). In addition, this program is federally funded which means they are taking taxpayers money for a sham program. There have been students in other programs who have sued and gotten their tuition money back. You can't just take people's money and not provide an education, mentoring or plan on how to graduate from a program.

This is a VERY extreme move, and probably a very short-sighed. Academia is a small, gossipy place and I could imagine having that sued your institution will have a negative imact on your job search. Based on what I've read, your situation is not necessarily a unique one -- terrible and frustrating absolutely, but it happens. In the future, get ALL of their feedback in writing, whether that means email or writing up the minutes of your meeting and emailing them around -- a "paper trail" of sorts.

Contact the university's ombudsperson and see if you can set up some kind of mediation or at least find out what your options are, because clearly you are very unhappy and your committee has done a poor job communicating with you.

Have other people in this specific program had similar issues?

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I would have to say you are wrong. My husband is an attorney and they breached their contract (student handbook). In addition, this program is federally funded which means they are taking taxpayers money for a sham program. There have been students in other programs who have sued and gotten their tuition money back. You can't just take people's money and not provide an education, mentoring or plan on how to graduate from a program.

Uhmm. Maybe your's is different, but in my PhD program, the student handbook isn't a legal contract, but rather just documentation of guidelines and expectations.

And this isn't my program, but these are examples of schools explicitly stating that their student handbook isn't a legal document:

http://webcache.goog...n&ct=clnk&gl=us

http://gseis.ucla.ed...handbook_08.pdf

http://www.hawaii.edu/sls/sls/?page_id=1182

Edited by Behavioral
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I have to side with Behavioral here. In the student handbooks I've encountered, they are very clear somewhere in the introductory sections that any information in it can be changed without notifying students, and before the next school year's edition is released, and that its the student's responsibility to consult a counselor/advisor/dean when they have questions. I can understand how upsetting this experience must have been, but I also doubt you are the first PhD student that has gone through this. Did you have any kind of calm conversation with your advisor or other committee members before meeting with the dean? While this may not be popular, I still want to throw out there that this desire to "punish" your committee for a (albeit heavy) criticism of your thesis may indicate that a PhD program isn't the path for you.

Again, I totally understand how crushing it is to work very hard on a project/paper/presentation and have it picked apart by faculty, but in an academic environment that's how things operate and how you're expected to learn and improve. My best advice, whatever course of action you take, is to be reasonable and calm. Do not under any circumstances approach this in a combative manner, or from the standpoint of punishing anyone. This will only hurt your chances of being taken seriously and having this resolved. Good luck!

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