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committee blues

Linden Higgins linden at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Thu Jul 11 12:53:19 EST 1996

I have found myself in a very uncomfortable situation, which cannot really
affect me, but could affect a student I've worked with for many years.  In
a nutshell:

While I was a post-doc/visiting researcher in Mexico, I started working
with a young woman in the doctoral program of my host institute.  The
faculty of this institute think of me as her advisor, as her previous
advisor was not in her field or even in the same institute (she had become
the advisor before I arrived, because she works with arachnids, but has
neither the interest nor the desire to understand the scientific questions
the student is addressing).  She has stayed chair of the committee because,
in Mexico, faculty receive financial benifits for supervising students and
she was therefore unwilling to give it up.

The student has taken overly long to finish, in part because she had a
child after finishing her field work but before she started writing up, and
she is a single mother.  The "official" advisor, when I last spoke to her,
was very very rude to me, and rude about the student, claiming that the
student was not being honest because she had never told anyone (meaning,
herself) about the pregnancy.

Now, she is threatening to wreck havoc with the student's future in science
in Mexico - to prevent her getting research positions or funding.  The
student is convinced that this is within the "official advisor's" ability.
The reason seems to be that the student is not giving an exact date for
finishing the thesis, and because the student refuses to call a general
committee meeting (this woman is the _only_ committee member in Mexico City
- I am in the US, another member is in Baja Ca.Sur and the last member is
in Costa Rica).

I am wondering if it would be best for the student if I drew the fire -
this woman can, in no way, interfere with my research in or outside of
Mexico, and her scenes (the last one apparently in front of a room of
people) are making it difficult for the student to finish (which she has
promised to do this fall).  It would be best for all if she was not chair,
but she has refused to step down despite her lack of interest in anything
except the $ and prestigue of having one more student.

Any suggestions?


Linden Higgins, Ph.D.
Dept. of Zoology,
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX  78712
linden at mail.utexas.edu

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