Dissertation committees and privilege

Is a dissertation about the content, the student, or power dynamics?

Dissertation writing is very stressful, what with the looming job market, the high cost of living in many cities, the balancing act of life and health — all while being expected to produce intellectual gold. To that, add the anxiety caused by those committee members who either: (a) are not reading your chapters, or (b) are reading your drafts but have confused your writing for theirs.

The student will need those same people to write “stellar” letters of recommendation. So how should you deal with conflicting committee advice? Should you push back? Students who don’t might find themselves between Associate Professor Rock and Full Professor Hard Place.

Such situations are difficult for committee members as well. I’ve had several of my advisees tell me that a professor down the hall does not like my personal writing style and won’t approve chapters that follow my writing advice. And I was chair of those committees. I would hate to jeopardize my students’ working relations with those other faculty members, so I haven’t said anything. Until this essay, I guess.

As a mature student who isn’t seeking recommendation letters from the university, I may not be subject to the oppression that young career starters may have.  However, my dissertation has not yet been officially approved to move forward.

“Our Mysterious Dissertation Committees” | John Smith (pseudonym) | Sept. 6, 2017 | The Chronicle of Higher Education at http://www.chronicle.com/article/Our-Mysterious-Dissertation/241107

Our Mysterious Dissertation Committees