Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shedding

I have shed a grad student.

A person with lots of enthusiasm and a great idea for a thesis, but who struggled with writing and organization. A person who could not meet deadlines and who dropped out of contact for months on end. A person who spent a year learning an obscure language in order to be able to work with the required sources. A person whose personal life seemed to be a neverending series of crises, probably all quite real and serious, but all of which coincided with work deadlines.

I tried structure. I tried letting go and waiting. I mixed and remixed compassion and strict guidance. I sent a long, kind e-mail telling this student that a graceful exit was okay, and had no reflection on them as a person; that it was okay to admit they'd gotten in over their head; that there was no judgment. Finish if you can, but get out if you need to; there's no need to punish yourself. All to no avail. Even the impending seven-year up-or-out deadline (set by the university) had, in the end, no effect. There were apologies, and professions of really wanting to finish, but...

And now this student has realized this, just as s/he has run out of time. Yesterday, with my concurrence, the grad director sent a kind but firm "no" to a request for another extension. And I know that's the right thing to do. But I still feel rotten.

5 comments:

Flavia said...

Oh man. That's hard. Been there--but it's still hard. My sympathies.

Anonymous said...

I've been there too and it's hard. But don't feel rotten - you can give all the support possible (which you seem to have been more than doing), but you can not write the thesis for the student. In the end, it's the student who has to do the work. So let go and don't feel bad.

Belle said...

Just doing this with a couple of undergrads. Painful. Hugs.

sophylou said...

Given some things I've seen, in some ways this seems kinder (in the long run) than to let a student who's not performing drag things out for years and years. Must feel terrible to do, though :(

Historiann said...

Sophylou & Anonymous are right--you gotta be cruel to be kind.