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Can my adviser stop me from graduating?

  1. Mar 10, 2012 #1
    Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Hi,

    I'm a PhD student at my current university in US. However, I'm planning to drop out of the PhD program and defend for my master's. I'm transferring to a different university for my PhD. Before joining the PhD program at the current university, I clearly mentioned to my adviser that I'll be applying for PhD to other schools. At that time he mentioned that not only can I apply, he will also write me a great letter of recommendation. However, when a professor from a different university interviewed me, I asked him for the letter. He clearly denied me to provide the letter. Furthermore, he told me that he never promised me the letter and that I assumed it myself. A few days later he told me that it was a misunderstanding and that it is in my best interest to continue working on my PhD under his guidance. He is technically very poor and can't advice me a bit. I work on my own and keep publishing (of course with him as an author on the papers).

    I got an admit from a top 10 university in US without his recommendation. And now I just want to defend for my master's. I have conveyed it to him and he is really depressed after knowing this. He even called one of my fellow PhD students to his office and started asking questions about ethics and justifying that I'm betraying him. When I asked him to defend for my master's he mentioned he is currently very busy and can let me defend only some time in late June. Considering the fact that he does not keep his words, I'm really worried about my graduation. I have done considerable work and have already published 4 papers. Can he stop me from graduating?

    Also, please advice on how should I handle the situation?

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2012 #2

    fzero

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    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Sorry that you are in such a bad situation with your advisor. You should consult with the faculty member that is the official Graduate Advisor or Graduate Coordinator. This is the person that supervises the administrative details of graduate studies and degrees. You would have to consult with this person in any case to make sure that all of your paperwork for the masters is in order. If your department does not have such a position, you might consult with the department chair. The department secretaries would probably be helpful in pointing you to the right person.
     
  4. Mar 10, 2012 #3
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    I would seek out the ombudsman for your department/graduate school/University. They will have a much better handle on the policies of the University.
     
  5. Mar 10, 2012 #4
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Thank you so much fzero and nbo10. However, I'm a little worried about contacting the Department chair/Graduate adviser as they will convey this information to my adviser which I believe will worsen the situation. This has happened in the past when I asked the Department chair for a letter of recommendation and my adviser came raging at me saying that now you are asking other faculty members for the letter. And finally, even the Department chair didn't provide me the letter.
     
  6. Mar 10, 2012 #5

    marcusl

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    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    You already have a mess on your hands, and you say you are in danger of not getting your MS. It's not clear how things could get worse by going to the department office and advisor. If you don't get relief, bypass your department and go directly to the University's graduate office. Unless your work and grades are truly substandard, they will be bound to help you graduate.
     
  7. Mar 10, 2012 #6
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Thanks so much marcusl. I basically have met all the requirements specified by the department. (over 30 credits completed with 4.0 GPA and 4 publications). I believe contacting the University's graduate office is the right way to go.
     
  8. Mar 12, 2012 #7
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    I would never suggest to someone to seek out an ombudsman, I'm certain they are trained to side with the faculty at fault while seeming "impartial".
     
  9. Mar 12, 2012 #8
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    I registered just for the express purpose of replying to this post. I'm
    in a similar (although not identical) situation. Talk to the head of your
    department and the graduate director and let them know your intentions.
    I assume you also have a research advisory committee and they
    should also be involved. You've clearly done enough work for the
    MS if you've published four papers. It really is in the department's
    best interest to let you get your MS and go. If you leave without
    any degree, it reflects poorly on them, as well.

    I can't give you advice on the advisor front, as those situations
    tend to be unique, but you might be surprised at the support you
    get from the rest of the department, I know I was. Either way,
    these people have to sign off on the degree as well, so unless there
    are academic issues (and if you got into another program, that's
    pretty doubtful), you should not leave that program without an
    MS. You've done the work, and if push comes to shove, you
    could probably get legal assistance to make sure you're awarded
    the degree.
     
  10. Mar 12, 2012 #9
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    fixed :tongue:

    stop me if you think you've heard this one before
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2012
  11. Mar 22, 2012 #10
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Thanks so much VicCross. Sorry for the delay in reply. Today my advisor showed signs that he would not let me graduate under his guidance as he denied me the letter stating the time table for completion of the degree and my progress which was required for certification of full-time student for international students. I think I need to talk to the Department Chair and if need be graduate school asap.
     
  12. Mar 23, 2012 #11
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Do continue to let us know what happens, I'm intrigued.
     
  13. Mar 23, 2012 #12
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Today I talked to the graduate coordinator in my department and explained her the situation. She told me to get the final decision from my advisor and if he doesn't let me graduate, she will talk to department chair to be my advisor. I also contacted the International Student and Scholar Services office and they provided me alternate forms which will help me maintain my immigration status without the advisor's letter. Others seems to be helpful as VicCross mentioned. I'll keep you posted with what happens.
     
  14. Mar 26, 2012 #13
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Hey guys! please advice. My advisor is hell bent to not let me graduate without showing it directly but by delaying things. I'm also not sure whether the Department Chair would help as he is an extremely busy man and might not help me graduate under his guidance. Shall I hire a lawyer to help me get my degree??
     
  15. Mar 26, 2012 #14
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    At some schools, you can get a non-thesis option for Masters provided you had completed the core course requirements. Also, a Master's is not a very important thing in your career path if you plan on obtaining a PhD. If, on the other hand, you want to stop with Master's and are using an admission at a different school as an excuse, then you are in trouble.
     
  16. Mar 26, 2012 #15
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Yes, there are two more options in my school. There is a project option and a comprehensive exam option. Both these options would require more work on my part and there are more chances that I can be screwed by professors at least in the exam option. Besides it will always be good for me to defend for my master's on the work I have already published 3 papers. And I have already been admitted into a top 10 US school as I previously mentioned. So, whatever I have mentioned on this forum is true word for word. Is there anything that can be done to graduate with the thesis option??
     
  17. Mar 26, 2012 #16

    Pyrrhus

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    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Yes. Get a new advisor, and a new exam committee. Try to choose people you know have high ethical standards, and will evaluate you by your work.
     
  18. Mar 26, 2012 #17
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    Thanks Pyrrhus. I believe this is the right way to go.
     
  19. Mar 28, 2012 #18
    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    I'm not going to pretend to know what you should do, but to anyone who may have better ideas.... would it not be possible for the school that accepted you to help you with this problem? I mean, they've accepted you probably for some better reasons other than you having a piece of paper. You've published 3 papers, that's a pretty good reason.
     
  20. Mar 29, 2012 #19

    Pyrrhus

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    Re: Can my adviser stop me from graduating??

    It will be a mistake to get them involved. A mistake that may get them to change their decision. I wouldn't comment it to the other school. Just wrap up your MS, and move on.
     
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