Ph.D. Madness: scena ultima

Yesterday, I was supposed to finally receive my Ph.D. diploma.

As you can imagine, that didn’t work out quite as planned because when would things inside the Ivory Tower ever go as planned, let alone happen speedily?

On my part, I did all the necessary work: my Ph.D. appeared in print, official and all (to protect all people involved, I won’t quote title or ISBN here). And no, I didn’t learn that from the publisher. Instead, the Assistant Supervisor called me to let me know that I could pick up my ten free copies at the Department Office.

Next step: deliver the required amount of book copies to the Ph.D. booth in the central university library, open only two times a week for an hour each.

Now how many copies does the library want? Well, all the ten I am allotted. Two to keep, eight to send on to other libraries. Never mind the author.

This means that if I actually want to own a copy of my own book, I have to buy it.

Well, I suppose I have the pdf on my computer and I really know the script well enough to quote it from memory, so buying a copy would merely be an act of vanity. The annoying thing is that I need to send out more copies still that I also have to buy: the foundation that paid for the printing costs wants 4 copies. The scholarship I enjoyed in the first years of this project requires 1. Then it is common courtesy to give one to the external supervisor (the local supervisors have both mentioned that they have “their copies” already – apparently, they get personal ones whereas I don’t), then there are 2 important professors in the area of Oriental Studies who have expressed interest in my work, so if I want to stay high on their positive contact list of young researchers and possibly gain a book review in one of the important media outlets for my area, I need to send them copies, as well. That’s already 8 extra copies which I have to pay for on my own (never mind that I don’t earn a single buck at the moment).

So for one night, I had “my” ten copies in my apartment. Sadly, without a chance to look at them, since they were still wrapped in their protective plastic sheets and I had to hand them in at the library like that, to a bored-looking librarian who signed and stamped the receipt paper with the utmost lack of enthusiasm.

That paper in hand, I called the secretary of the Research Dean at the Central Administration, asking for an appointment to pick up my diploma. During that call, it turned out that I had to bring by not just the library receipt, but also a formal confirmation from my supervisor that the printed version has been approved by him.

I had asked him about that paper before the script went into print and he said I wouldn’t need it, he’d never signed such a paper for anyone, and it would be unnecessary. So I had the task to tell him that he has signed such a paper every time a Ph.d. candidate finished the process (it doesn’t surprise that there are not that many candidates!) and then I had to get a hold of his miffed mighty self to obtain his autograph on the formal confirmation paper, which included a late-night bike ride through town to his secret lair – I already had an appointment at the Research Dean’s office and had to hurry.

So I showed up there yesterday afternoon, perfectly on time, the two papers in hand – of the Dean, who might have shaken my hand in congratulation after I haven’t seen him at all during these past seven years, I didn’t hear more than his voice on the phone through the closed office door, while his bored secretary pushed a double copy of my diploma across the table: an unspectacular white DINA4 sheet that could do with a design upgrade, firmed by both the Faculty Chief of Research and the University Head of Research.

I scanned the paper, since my thesis title had been misspelled on my temporary diploma that I got after my defense last summer. I had called in the day after the defense and sent them an email in addition with the correct spelling included, asking to please change the title on the final diploma.

Imagine my lack of surprise when I found that the person in charge had, indeed, corrected the prior error – but had instead added another one.

How difficult is is to type one thesis title out of an email into another document?! Just copy-paste, for God’s sake!!

So, nothing. The bored secretary shifted a bit on her chair, said “Oops”, and drew the diploma copies out of my fingers again. “Then we have to apply for new copies,” she informed me. “I’ll send it out first thing tomorrow morning, but I can’t tell you when the Faculty Chief of Research of the University Head of Research will be available for signing.”

Right. Because the upper echelons with the well-paid jobs and nice cars are probably out golfing in Switzerland over Easter. More fun than signing diplomas of some Ph.D.s who have no chance at an actual job at their institution, anyway (this spring semester, our institute’s budget cuts were so severe that all the Ph.D.s and Ph.D. candidates with temporary 3-4 months contracts didn’t get any contracts at all. We were offered to teach for free, though. – This time, we all said no. Because this has to stop at some point.).

So now I’m waiting for my reissued diploma. Anyone care to guess in how many ways one can misspell the metaphorical “Assyrian”?

22 thoughts on “Ph.D. Madness: scena ultima”

  1. Damn, Anik. Humanities jobs are tough to come by these days. And the poor communication and administrative crap like this is why I quit academia. Having to fork over all 10 copies of your published diss to the library is insane. I know how expensive academic publishing can be, so I completely sympathize with having to purchase eight additional copies. Ouch. I hope things improve for you soon!

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  2. Good to learn that any knowledge and insight gained in writing the thing isn’t completely wiped out by the impressively byzantine and fabulously incompetent bureaucracy. Sheesh!

    Well, congratulations anyway, and bestest luck quickly finding a fulfilling (and remunerative) situation (with lots and lots or opportunities for opera Travel :-)).

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  3. Not all books sell so many copies, so soon after publication. You remain superbly funny and spirited under the pressure, Anik. “Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”

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  4. all is well ad long as I have got this online corner to b*tch about the administration and get such charming comments in return. 😉 If the secretary misspells yet AGAIN, I will simply send you over there as a special task force to sort things out, I have no doubt I’d have my diploma within five minutes.

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  5. i’ve been sitting on the “break their necks” thought and didn’t want to come off sounding violent… at least it’s an “honest” mistake where they just don’t care about you. we have had cases here where they “do” care about us and put in some deep thoughts before informing us about our names on certain important forms, along the thinking line that we don’t really know what our first, last, and middle names are 🙂 . collage of mezzos is the way to cope Anik.
    ps- what does book published mean? that when a book is sold, you get some % profit?

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    1. …that when a book is sold, the money goes to the publisher.
      Perhaps in the next try, they’ll misspell my name? Better not give them ay ideas…

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  6. my 1st thought: Mercury must have been in retrograde those days
    2nd thought: when something similar happened to me once they said: you have to be part of the system to change it
    3rd: please let Anik enter the system soon
    4th: excuse me – how can this still happen?
    and start over from the beginning
    alternative plan: in my years at the university I took to playing squash and getting it out of my system that way
    you play squash, Anik? or hockey? darts?

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    1. For a decade, I used to hit the machines at the gym pretty hard, until last year (then my grad student pass ran out). I guess I better find something else in case I enter the system! And on second thought, also in case I don’t. 😉

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  7. Anik, I know it’s been a while since I posted. Just wanted to check in and add my congratulations to the others’. Amid all the frustration of the crushingly apathetic academic scions, how amazing it is that you have completed such a momentous project! Well, momentous as far as we are all concerned. I am guessing – maybe hoping? – that the indifference of the bureaucracy reflects more of the demoralization of budget cuts than the authentic desires of the dept heads. Regardless, yay for you! (Boo for them.)

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      1. 🙂
        Speaking of Assyrians, I noticed this cool Assyrian quote for you: “Now that the destinies of Heaven and Earth have been fixed; Trench and canal have been given their proper course; The banks of the Tigris and Euphrates have been established; What else shall we do? What else shall we create? Oh Anunaki, you great gods of the sky, what else shall we do?” – from the Assyrian account of the creation of humanity, 800 BCE, according to Carl Sagan in “Cosmos.” I was thinking of you, and thought the answer to “now that I’ve created this awesome huge accomplishment, what do I do next?” might be obvious: more fan fiction! 😉

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        1. sounds like a plan – who am I to protest the Gods of Assyrian culture? 😉 great quote! I should print that on my new cards…

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  8. I think about the only way I survive the ridiculousness, cruelty and incredibly undemocratic and often immoral world of “the groves of Academe’ is to remind myself that for the majority of the world’s population for all of history gaining an education has been a luxury, and participating in the education of others a privilege.

    Hang in there Anik, one day all this will be a nasty memory, but those three little letters and all they stand for are with you for ever. You did something very special and screw them (excuse my French ;)) for trying to take the joy out of that. And as for academic careers, yes they can be wonderful things, but I did many others things before this life and enjoyed them all just as much. As we say here in Scotland Anik “what’s for ye won’t go by ye”.

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    1. thank you, Cat.
      I think remembering how much I love what I do and otherwise simply protocolling what happens a and poke at it with a micture of incredulity and irony are my strategy to survive (and I’m not even inside the ivory tower yet, I’m merely danging from one of its more insignificant flagpoles).

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    1. thank you! will be working on that benefits thing (so far, it sums up to unemployment due to “overqualification” 😉 )

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