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April 2006 Archives

April 5, 2006

Iraqi Lawnmower

April 15, 2006

Long Hair

I read this and thought it was very thoughtful.

April 23, 2006

The Proposal Debacle

Just so that this is here for posterity… (yay bitterness!)

I had received a letter from the ND Graduate School way back on September 30th stating:

It is a policy of the Graduate School that students who have not yet passed their oral candidacy exam and had their dissertation proposal approved by the end of their 8th semester of enrollment are ineligible for further funding from the Graduate School. Our records show that you have not yet accomplished these goals. If you have not done so by May ‘06, your financial aid will be terminated. Please make every effort to meet these objectives.

Which I think is safe to describe to as a nastygram. It’s been hanging prominently on my desk ever since.

Now, one of the members of my proposal committee is Dr. Kogge, who is (as all who know him already know) eternally very busy. As such, and pursuant to the deadline indicated in the letter from the Graduate School, I scheduled my proposal for May 5th. This is the last day in May (more or less) that Dr. Kogge would be in town, so it seemed a natural day to give me the most time. After discussion with my advisor (I admit, though, that I cannot remember exact details of this conversation), this seemed reasonable.

When I say that “I scheduled my proposal for May 5th” what I mean is that I talked with all of my committee members, told them that May 5th was the day, got scheduling information from them, reserved the departmental conference room, and sent them all an email verifying the schedule. In every case, the committee member I talked to added me to their schedule (Palm Pilot, MeetingMaker, etc.) in my presence.

I talked to the department secretary, Jane, who said that there were basically two deadlines with regards to my proposal that I needed to keep track of. As part of my proposal committee, the Graduate School requires what’s called an “outside chair” (someone from another department whose sole purpose is to symbolically keep each department honest), and the first deadline I was to keep track of, according to Jane, is that they need at least 10 days (10 BUSINESS days, so two weeks, in other words) to arrange an outside chair. The second deadline was described as more of a good-will deadline: give my committee members at least two weeks to read the proposal. That being the case, the “big day” for my proposal was set at: April 21st.

Getting ready for this big day, I was working VERY hard the two weeks leading up to the 21st; staying up until all hours of the night, getting up early, putting everything I had into the “big push”. Finally, I finished the proposal on Wednesday, April 19th, around 5 in the afternoon.

Wednesday, April 19th

10:39 am

I received an email from Jane wondering when I was supposed to be defending, as Kogge had apparently asked her. I hadn’t updated her on the time for the outside chair because, well, it had simply slipped my mind—and I hadn’t missed the deadline for doing so yet.

I updated Jane on the schedule, and she informed me that Kogge was looking for something to read, and stressed that I had better be getting my document to my committee. I told her I was on-track (as far as I knew) to get it to them on Friday.


I received an email from Dr. Kogge that read:

Strangely, the subject of that email (a detail I did not notice until it was pointed out to me later) was MS defense.

I responded that I was unaware that the customary deadline was so early, and explained that I had thought that only 2 weeks lead time was necessary for a proposal, and that I had been planning to give it to everyone on Friday, but that I was sorry if I had misunderstood the deadlines. I asked if getting it to him by Friday would be minimally acceptable. Dr. Kogge responded only to say that I needed to sync with Jane so that everything went smoothly—something which, by that time, I had already done.


I received an email from Jane that read:

In response, I immediately did as she instructed me, and included with it a copy of her email instructing me to do so, to ensure that Dr. Kogge didn’t think it was the final draft.


Dr. Kogge responded, and CC’d the email to Jane:

This was a rather frightening email, as I appear to have made Dr. Kogge mad. I also appear to, essentially, have completely and utterly failed to appropriately schedule my proposal. At this point I didn’t know what would happen, or what the consequences were for such failure (I knew financial aid would be cut, but I didn’t know if that also meant I was out of the college, or if I needed to take out large loans, or quite what the result would be). I was hyperventilating.

Jane sent me an email apologizing for telling me to send him a copy of my incomplete work, finishing:


Finally, I sent the complete version to my advisor, Dr. Thain, with the remarkably calm-sounding note:

He responded:

Which is precisely what I did, the next day, bright and early.


Notre Dame’s Website

The Notre Dame Graduate School’s website contains a purportedly handy checklist of deadlines to be aware of for graduate students who are looking to make sure they are on-track. As of right now (April 23rd, 2006), this checklist titled Graduation Checklist and Deadlines for August 2005 Graduation. Did you catch that? 2005. If you look more closely, the deadlines listed in the smaller bullet-points appear to be for 2006, but with the big headline saying 2005, I wouldn’t trust them.

The 2005/2006 calendar on the ND Graduate School website does not explain what date the proposal must be completed by. Nor does it illuminate when the end of the semester is.

If you read the Notre Dame Graduate School’s website, you will see the part that explains what the official requirements are, under the heading “Candidacy Examination” :

The candidacy examination should be passed, and the dissertation proposal approved (if the approval process is not part of the candidacy exam), by the end of the student’s eighth semester of enrollment. The examination consists of two parts: a written component and an oral component. The written part of the examination normally precedes the oral part. It is designed, scheduled, and administered by the department. The oral part of the examination is normally taken after the completion of the course work requirement. The oral part, among other things, tests the student’s readiness for advanced research in the more specialized area(s) of his or her field. In total, the examination should be comprehensive. Successful passage indicates that, in the judgment of the faculty, the student has an adequate knowledge of the basic literature, problems, and methods of his or her field. If the proposal defense is part of the oral, it should be a defense of a proposal and not of a completed dissertation.

A board of at least four voting members nominated by the department and appointed by the Graduate School administers the oral part of the examination. Normally, this board has the same membership as the student’s dissertation committee. Board members are chosen from the teaching and research faculty of the student’s department. The Graduate School should be consulted before the department or the student invites a faculty member outside the student’s department to be a board member.

A faculty member appointed by the Graduate School from a department other than the student’s department chairs the examination board. This chair represents the Graduate School and does not vote. After completion of the examination, the chair calls for a discussion followed by a vote of the examiners. On a board of four, three votes are required to pass. If a department chooses to have five members, four votes are required to pass. The chair should, before the examination begins, ask the student’s adviser to confirm departmental regulations for conduct of the examination and voting procedures. The chair sends a written report of the overall quality of the oral examination and the results of the voting immediately to the Graduate School.

In case of failure in either or both parts of the doctoral candidacy examination, the department chair, on the recommendation of a majority of the examiners, may authorize a retake of the examination if this is permitted by departmental regulations. An authorization for retake must be approved by the Graduate School. A second failure results in forfeiture of degree eligibility and is recorded on the student’s permanent record.

Note that no discussion of the timing of things (like needing to have them sign off on the paper 5-6 days before the presentation) is discussed. Also note that the next section discussed on that webpage is “Admission to Candidacy” which apparently means something very different from the “Candidacy Exam”, and only needs to be done much much later in the process.


I discussed my situation with some of my office-mates, and when I relayed my experience to Tim Dysart he became somewhat distressed. He was scheduled to defend his proposal on May 4th (the day before I had been), and had not yet distributed his paper to his committee members. His advisor is Dr. Kogge, but he had apparently not been informed of or held to the same requirements that I had been. This is when Tim pointed out to me that the subject of Dr. Kogge’s first email had been “MS defense”, even though the language within the email was somewhat ambiguous. He suggested that Dr. Kogge was merely confused. I find this possible, but I point out that when I scheduled my proposal with Dr. Kogge (about a week or two earlier), he had immediately said “ah, you must be in the same boat as Tim is, up against that May deadline”, so I would have thought that if he was keeping Tim’s situation straight, that I would be associated as similar.

Because I needed to reschedule my proposal defense, and because Dr. Kogge was going to be unavailable before May 28th or so (and in any case, were I to get things done before the end of the semester under the new deadlines that had been explained to me, I was virtually out of time anyway), I was forced to examine the question: what really happens if you can’t make the May deadline? And when exactly is that May deadline anyway?

Visit to the Graduate School

At Emily’s suggestion, I went to the Graduate School (on the top floor of the Main Building) to find out. When I asked the receptionist when the end of the semester was, she looked smiled and said, “well, it depends…” I explained that the Graduate School had sent me a letter threatening me with the removal of my paycheck if I didn’t get my proposal done before the end of my 8th semester and wanted to know what the very last day for that was. She looked uncomfortable and said she didn’t know, and disappeared into the back offices to find out. She came back explaining that they were pretty flexible, but that Graduation (May 15th) was really the very last day they’d consider it. When I asked what exactly the penalties were, the receptionist again disappeared into the back offices and brought forth a woman named April who could answer my questions. April explained that the penalty merely meant that my Graduate School funding would be cut off. To be more precise, since I do not receive any financial aid directly from the Graduate School itself, the penalties, and thus the deadline, do not affect me or any other student who is financed similar to me (for example, virtually no graduate students in the Engineering department are affected).

Unanswered Questions

  • Why does the Graduate School send ambiguously worded, threatening letters to students who are technically unaffected by the threat?
  • Why is the hard deadline of Graduation (May 15th, this year) unpublished?
  • Why is the end of the semester so hard to pin down?
  • Why is the checklist on the Graduate School website still listing August 2005?
  • Do readers of a proposal require the document three weeks ahead of the proposal date, or only two?

End Result

In the end, I think what needed to happen happened, and things are reasonably good going forward. Just a lot more stressful than it needed to be.

About April 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Kyle in April 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2006 is the previous archive.

May 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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