PhD Progress & Thoughts

Fantasy Email to Admin

March 16, 2018

 To Whom This May Concern,

I’m not going to remind you of who I am because quite frankly I’ve emailed you all so often that you should be able to identify my message’s arrival by the timbre of the alert tone.

The fact that I’m an awkward hybrid of student and staff also has little to do with this email.

Why, for the love of all things good in the world, do you require me to prove that my postgraduate degree requires me to work off-campus for stretches of time?

Why do you need a letter from my supervisor? This isn’t a primary school swimming class – I don’t need an older adult to sign off a permission slip to let me do my job.

When I self-fund my flights, organise my own accommodation, and don’t ask for a cent from anyone at the department, why is it something you need a form for?

When the PhD handbook identifies that field work arrangements can be made ‘at the discretion of the student and the primary supervisor‘, why does ‘discretion’ have to involve a ‘rationale’ on the back of a form to explain why I’m heading off? Doesn’t that negate the point of discretion?

Why, when looking at the title of my Thesis on the form I enrolled on, do you need to ask where I’m going and for how long I’ll be there? It says, very plainly in black ink on white paper, that I’m conducting research in hospitals. Plural.
Multiple. Hospitals.
Where in the word ‘hospital’ does it say ‘office on campus’? Nowhere! Wow. Great work.

How would it be possible for me to collect meaningful information for the purposes of research, if I never left the assigned office you allocated me on campus?
It wouldn’t, that’s how.

So for further convenience, here’s a handy list of tips you can print out next time you think ‘Hey! Time to ask this student/staff member to fill out that form again!’

  1. My travel is self-funded and at the discretion of my supervisory team.
  2. I inform everyone involved of my plans at the start of every semester. You have all semester to figure out where I am and act accordingly.
  3. My absence from campus impacts you personally in no way whatsoever
  4. My absence from campus impacts my professional progress in no way whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I’m doing better than some on-campus students. So…
  5. No, I do not require an office when I am working in another state of the country. You have my permission to give it to someone else.
  6. No, I do not require an expenses claim form when I am paying for my expenses.
  7. No, hospitals are not present on a university campus.
  8. Yes, I have to go to the hospital to collect data otherwise doctors won’t return their surveys.
  9. Yes, it is necessary for me to have my surveys returned.
  10. No, there is no alternative. It’s this hospital, or it’s no hospital. No hospital, no data, no thesis.
  11. Actually there is a minimum attendance period for on-campus students, and I meet that requirement comfortably.
  12. There’s an adorable sentence in the handbook that says ‘at the discretion...’
    Oh, you’ve read it? Good. It covers my attendance as well as my leave.
  13. Yes I do know my rights at work. I’ve got multiple degrees in Human Resources Management now. I know that you cannot demand that I fill out this form if it serves no purpose other than to conveniently fill your KPI’s.
    Why would I want to make your KPI’s look good if all you do is harass me for pointless paperwork? Talk to me when you have something nice to say.

I will get the forms signed and completed every time you ask, because I’m just a kind human being who wants to finish their project. However, I sincerely hope that the Ghost of Forms Past visits you this Christmas Eve to haunt you over the needless time that was wasted blindly following university protocol when you could have just calmed down and had an extra cup of tea.

May your weekend be restful and blessed with good weather.

Sincerely,

Madeleine.

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