With names exempt and all others, with various multiplications of letters in place, this is a letter I recently hit ‘send’ on and thought it was worthy (I hope) to share. Why? In the hope that other researchers out there, no matter if you are a student, or one that is long gone, that there are students/candidates that do in fact know what’s “really” going on. So, for the students – this stuff can actually happen, and it does, so when and if it does, don’t let them feed you to the…lost property basket – and for those who’ve been and gone, know that there are students/candidates out there that ‘get it’ and that will say what needs to be said if supported and when necessary…and when gone through the ring-roll one too many times; some things are not acceptable, even if it is within a university framework.
I hope this email finds you well and that 2014 has so far been a great year.
My name is ZZZ and I emailed you back in 2012 about commencing my PhD at YYY. You may remember the complications back then and what proceeded – you had VVV help out and I eventually became a PhD student to my utter excitement mid that year. I’m happy to say that VVV is now a supervisor of mine and has provided great guidance for myself as a candidate (confirmed last year). In addition, the supervisor VVV ‘found’ at the initial time of my enrolment has been an absolute godsend – BBB. I wouldn’t be at this stage of my thesis without all of BBB help and I find myself so very fortunate to have such an exceptional supervisor. I do not think words can do her justice with all the help, time and effort she’s put into supervising me (mostly single handed) and getting me to this stage in my candidature.
I’m writing to you XXX as I have a few challenges that have happened throughout 2014 and my candidature that no one is willing to either help or take responsibility. I find myself in an odd position that as a student, I have limited help available and feel as though it is my responsibility to let that be known.
YYY is ‘my’ University and I am proud to be a YYY student/alumni (for the most part). Throughout all my degrees at YYY, I have been taught to be different, to challenge the status quo, and with my research I continue to do just that – being between two Schools (NMN). However, it saddens me that when I’m asked about the help available to researchers at YYY, and more so specifically the help I’ve received and if I’d recommend doing a PhD or transferring to ZZZ on this basis – due to my experience this year, I’ve had to say no – on multiple occasions.
I’ll do my best to get you up to date XXX.
I started in August 2012 and by December 2012 had to find a new supervisor – the Head of School seemed to refuse to give me feedback. The paperwork for this took months, and by months I mean over 6 months. I had ethical clearance by November 2012 and it was an actual effort to get this name removed – it still isn’t. By February 2013 I’d collected 50% of my data. By April 2013 I’d been accepted to my first Conference (GGG), however was told I was unable to go by the School as I was too early on in my candidature. Around this time I was told I had to leave my ‘then’ office in Health as I’d wanted the Head of School off my supervisory list since I was getting no help (still) and consequently had to move to an office in Education (since this is where my primary supervisor was based). By August 2013 I was a confirmed candidate. At this stage I had just the one supervisor still however was fortunate to get ZZZ as a secondary supervisor for ZZZ continued support.
At this stage I’d completed my first four chapters. My data analysis took up the rest of 2013 as I aimed at starting my result chapters. Come November 2013 I was told I had to move offices in Education – which I did (again – my third move). At this time of year I went to take a few weeks off (Christmas time etc) and get ready for my next data collection period (later December, early January). I keep (now kept) all of my data collection tools (recruitment cards especially designed for my survey and ease of recruiting participants), hard drives, spare glasses, my thesis and so forth in a filing cabinet in this new office – locked (the same I am also in now). I was the only one with a key to this cabinet, and the person I shared the office with rarely came in and always locked the door (we are/were a little pedantic like that). I came into my office at this time, after a few weeks off and the filing cabinet was gone. Yes, the one with my thesis in it, the one with what I came to collect – my data collection tools (and all else). This is still late December 2013 and because of the holidays no one was around to help – I had to wait a week until someone would be back to assist. Multiple frantic emails ensued, however meanwhile I attempted to collect my data to limited success.
About another week later I got a call from someone disposing of a filing cabinet (VVV), however they’d found my business cards I kept in there and called me since they found hard drives, glasses, and my thesis. Although, I am sure this may not of happened if one of my emails, forwarded back then, did not ask these persons to look for a thrown out thesis. To my dismay, shock, and disbelief – no one took responsibility. Someone let these people (I’m assuming IT helpers at VVV) into my locked office and allowed them to take my things (and my thesis, valued well over a thousand dollars). The School CCC let them in (I later found) and when asking where my filing cabinet was (or why it’d happened), the HDR DDD, EEE, accused myself of misplacing it and that it was moved to my ‘new’ room. You can see why I would be so taken aback and shocked that the one person that is meant to ‘help’ HDR students opted to accuse myself of the later. This obviously was completely false and at not any time was an apology given. No one to date has taken accountability for this. Emails later pursued to others, and my supervisor even said that an apology would go along way (with those she emailed) – it would have; whilst getting a reply that I’d taken up enough resources. Yes. This finally ended mid January 2014 with myself having my belongings back. However, no one would take, nor took, responsibility or accountability. Not one single apology.
I continued on and by February 2014 had finished the first part of my results chapter. By March 2014 a good indent had been made into the second half [I have two halves as, being in between Schools I opted to use both qualitative and quantitative methods to achieve the best results for my research topic]. April 2014 I was accepted into the same conference (AAA) again and was excited I’d be able to go this time around. However, after applying for a scholarship (travel grant), since HHH did not have the same funding for PhD students/candidates as JJJ, I was dismayed after being knocked back – not being able to attend a conference, network with some of the world’s best in my field and then realise that as a PhD student/candidate this is something I’ll never get to do (as a PhD candidate) since I’m in the homestretch of my thesis.
April 2014 came and all of a sudden I found myself in hospital. And three months later, continue to see a neurologist for something they’re unsure what it is, however the latest is NDPH syndrome with no explanations. Prior to this in hospital I’d been found to have low CSF pressure. Yes, this is personal, however to be fair I’d like to give you the full story and as clear as I can XXX. I’m a healthy SSS year old, I was running marathons near every week back then and am only slowly being able to run again.
Only recently, June 2014 I was told (thanks to my supervisor) that I could apply for sick leave. So I did. However I continued to follow up and was told by administration that the HDR FFF was yet to send in the form. That is now over 3 weeks ago. I also found out that the supervisor change (in respect to load) is still yet to be processed (this was handed in February 2014 for a KKK split again, as in the beginning). It has become apparent to me that anything to do with paperwork and myself trying to get it in as soon as possible and processed – takes a very long time. Whether that has to do with the HDR KKK holding this up, I’m not 100% sure, however I do know from past emails KKK is one of the most un-empathetic academics at ZZZ I have met at my entire time, on and off over near ten years, at the university. What also saddens me is that as the HDR CCC, someone who is meant to know their HDR students, be there for them, help them when needed, be another level of support (so on and so forth) – does not exist.
Social media is a great tool I’ve come to find due to this lack of help. There are hundreds, if not thousands of students from all over the world on Twitter, as well as academics from all universities across the globe. Help is on hand. Not only that, but ‘twitter’ allows myself to see the help on hand and available for students at other universities. And I am sad to say, that I am envious. The help open to HDR students at other Australian universities is utterly amazing, I am missing out – this is how I feel. There are actual writing bootcamps. We’re not talking the “59 minute writing groups” that are organised by CCC HDR GGG at 7am in the morning (that go for 59 minutes). I’m not sure about other students (as the interaction aspect is nil also in this area), but I’m not one to blast out a thousand words or so at 7am on a Friday morning. This is just one example to show how not ‘in-touch’ this HDR GGG is and how lacking, lagging and inattentive the help is for PhD students at the university. In addition, not to mention that the only person that knew I was and have been (and continue to be) unwell, is my primary supervisor YYY and at no time have I received any form of help from any kind/type of GGG that would of been not only welcome, but comforting at this stage in my thesis after being thrown a curve ball, so to speak.
What I’ve found, and continue to find as a student between Schools is quite clear. I am neglected. The paper trail is a nightmare. The support is nonexistent. The level of accountability doesn’t even exist; that in the ‘real world’ which I’ve been a part of now professionally for near on a decade, this wouldn’t be tolerable. Those on the higher end of the food chain are more concerned with ticking their boxes than actually understanding the student’s right in front of them. And sadly the politics. One School doesn’t want to help me too much as they won’t get all the ‘funding’ yet the other doesn’t want to help too much or at all as they aren’t getting all the funding. It’s a dollars game I’ve found and I’m on the losing end, although at the end of the day I chose to come to AAA, I basically pleaded with you over two years ago to start at AAA (which I am extremely thankful for), yet I am classed as a number that brings in funding and nothing more. It is sad. Especially when I’m close to the finish line and nothing has changed.
I’m at a stage now in my thesis, that I pray I can finish with all the problems I’m having (neurologically) and that I can start and finish my final chapter (this is what’s to go) and then edit my heart out to submit the best piece of work I promised I would. Yet, I have no one in my corner except my supervisor. And I feel sorry for other students who are stuck in this ring-role with no help, no guidance, no assistance other than their supervisor, which I’ve come to find I’ve got one in a million with many supervisors I’ve ‘tested’ not giving the courtesy, respect nor time of day for their students.
No one has listened to me XXX. I know I’ve about a dozen different issues here, but I’ve tried telling someone at some stage but nothing happens. Someone needs to know what’s really going on. I’m also aware that I am fortunate (in a way) not to be on a scholarship to be too scared to say otherwise – I feel sorry for my fellow students and candidates because this is what they also face and it seems to continuously go unnoticed and it seems to be acceptable for students to be treated in this manner – I believe otherwise.
The objective in doing my thesis was not only to contribute wholeheartedly to my topic and field, but to do so within a university environment. And if anything, I’ve been inspired to try and make that difference – as ZZZ taught be many years ago. I’m emailing you XXX in hope that maybe in some way you’ll have some answers for me, some help even, but most importantly, so things can be fixed and I can be proud to be a ZZZ student/alumni always, and to try and make that difference. And after all I’ve been through, and continue to go through, I’d welcome trying to make ZZZ a better place after I submit – [DELETED].
At the end of the day, doing a PhD is rigorous, it has its ups and downs – support is essential. Unfortunately, I’ve only had this in my supervisor, and I believe the student body as a whole deserves more and I’d like to do something about it – therefore, my first step is emailing you XXX – my second I hope to be as an academic within VVV that can make a difference, and develop world-class research – as after all, thanks to your belief in allowing myself to commence my PhD, I do in fact have world-class results that have the potential to impact the sports world and education sector.
I hope that in some way and/or part that this goes to show what really is out there – from top supervisors to top universities, and also shows what you shouldn’t put up with. If something happens you don’t agree with, if something happens you do not think is fair or just, there is nothing wrong in saying so – after all, we all need feedback to improve; isn’t it the breakfast of champions? I hope so :)