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drivingthoughts

Fun one: Got an "F" in a phd course

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Here's a doozy for me and my life, just looking to vent at this point.

I'm a phd student in my second year of coursework. Due to some crazy life circumstance (including losing my hard drive in the last week of this past spring semester), I had an extension given on a class. Long story short, I didn't finish re-writing my paper by the deadline and asked for a second extension (which is allowed), instead of taking the options of letting me have an extension or just having the grade slide into a "permanent incomplete" which would just leave me with no credit for the course, the professor decided to give me an F. 

I'm a bit miffed. This is obviously at least half my fault, but seriously, an F after I did all this work (and a ton of extra work for a book project sorta tied with the class)? Where my anger burns the most is that I think he gave me an F, not because of my academics, but because I refused to work on his book project that he wanted me to contribute to.

Well, depending on what happens from here, I might be finding a new career... until then, I'm a bit angsty. 

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At this point I'd try getting your Graduate Program Director or Program Admin involved. See if a "no credit" can be negotiated. 

Before that do your best to get the anger out of your system: be prepared to acknowledge responsibility and propose a concrete plan for getting back on track/meeting basic program requirements. 

It's usually a hassle for professors/graduate programs to fail out their students for messing up coursework. Lots of additional paperwork involved, etc. The upside is that it is possible to negotiate your way back from the brink, and for the admin team to want that outcome as much as you do.

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Update: Resolution

Well, things have gone about as well as they could. I took out my frustration cooking a complicated dinner (cooking is often my therapy), calmed my nerves, had a good sip of wine, and maybe cried a little. The next day I dove in to the problem. I contacted my advisor, the director of my department, folk I know in the overarching Graduate School. I explained to them my situation, the level of contrition that things had come to this, and solicited advice for how to proceed. Email and face-to-face meetings proceeded, though nothing as formal as a hearing; today all is resolved and I now have a NC for the course, meaning that it shows up on my transcript, but doesn't count towards my credits or GPA. Whew.

What happened - folk I know, advisor included, went to bat for me. They pressured Dr. Doom to reconsider ending my career over our spat, and he apparently assented to changing the grade to no-credit. 

What I learned:

  • Social capital is more important than I thought. I work hard and am a friendly person doing my best to maintain good relationships; as such, I have a very good rapport with my professors and colleagues. I massively screwed it up with Dr. Doom, and that bridge is nothing but ashes floating downstream - he won't even respond if I say "hi" in the hallway. But because of my investment of social capital everywhere else, I was able to cash it in to my salvation. Had I been the anonymous graduate student, I'm not sure if folk would have risked their own political capital to rescue me. Clearly, I spent of lot of what I banked earlier.
  • Say NO. This whole situation arose from me trying to please Dr. Doom and agreeing to help with his personal project and allowing it be tied to our course, even though it was against my better judgement. The time commitment soon spiraled out of control and I realized there was no way I could finish any of this in a reasonable timeframe. All could have been avoided. The principle is true - grad life is busy enough, if X doesn't help you to graduate sooner or get a job, don't do it.
  • Know your resources. Where are the rules? Who are the gatekeepers? Are processes mechanistic or fluid? I now know these things - had I known them before, I might have freaked out less.
  • Backup. I'm sure this seems like a no-brainer to everyone and their cat - but seriously, don't be like me. Get an automatic online backup system like Backblaze, or whatever, and keep your stuff backed up. I basically lost a whole semester's worth of work because the last time I plugged in my backup drive was at the beginning of the semester. Things got busy and I just forgot to do it. Online file backup costs money, but it's a lot cheaper than the cash I'll have to spend to replace my NC course in the Spring. 

Peace, y'all.

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So glad it worked out for you. And everything you said in your bullet point list is so true. In my years on my PhD school's grad student government, whenever we had a student come to us with issues, it was these factors that are important.

Just wanted to add, in case there are people reading this and feel that they might have very little social capital. Point #3 (resources) is also very important. At my PhD school, one major role of the grad student government and the Graduate Dean's office is to help provide that social capital that a student might be lacking. So even if you don't have that much social capital, there are hopefully resources on campus that is designed to use their social capital to help you. The Associate Graduate Dean at my PhD school's main job is basically to do just that.

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Just reading about your issue now, and am glad to see that you were able to get it resolved! And reading your bullet point takeaways really resonated w/ me, particularly the first one.  (currently dealing with a Dr. Nice Guy turned Dr. Doom) While I am friendly and tend to get along with everyone, I also tend to be someone who doesn't go out of her way to cultivate relationships, hates networking, and calls anyone and everyone on their bs, professors included. But I'm learning from my own experience and from yours that perhaps it would do well to actively and consciously play nice because social capital does seem to make the world go round (especially the academic world). 

Happy that it didn't end with an F for you!

Edited by dolcevita

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