The Meaning of Degrees
November 3, 2010 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Too anxious to take exams? University of Manitoba will give you a PhD anyway. A professor is suspended for disagreeing with that decision.
posted by binturong (102 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This past August, however, after Prof. Lukacs returned from a leave in Europe, it was discovered the student had also not completed the required graduate courses.

Prof. Doering’s solution to that problem -- to retroactively upgrade his undergraduate courses to the graduate level, with no extra study -- led Prof. Lukacs to seek a court injunction in September against the awarding of the PhD.
This is the part at which I started siding with Prof. Lukacs. I can understand waiving a written exam, but essentially (from my understanding) the rest of the course? So the recipient essentially got a PhD for his undergraduate work.
posted by djgh at 10:39 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure U of M degrees were worth that much to begin with.

Oh zing!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:40 AM on November 3, 2010


“Discussions with my 80-year-old Holocaust-survivor grandmother in Budapest, and the aftermath of the landslide victory of the extreme ultra-right in Hungary in the April 2010 elections, brought me to the conclusion that I must act in accordance with my conscience, even if it may have severe personal consequences for me."

This may be a little much.
posted by eugenen at 10:43 AM on November 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


With the limited information present in the article, I must side with Dr. Lukács. There's already a lot of (too much?) coddling in academia, and this smacks of someone with connections and entitlement issues. Accommodations should be made for disability, but they shouldn't include wholesale waiving of required coursework.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:43 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


And if it were only about the written exam, this case might have remained a private academic bunfight

Bunfight? Bunfight?

Anyway, this article is really confusing. At one point it says, "The doctorate was in fact awarded to the student, and so in some ways the case is now moot," so what exactly are the ongoing court cases about? This guy Lukacs's suspension? Can the court somehow revoke the student's doctorate if they find in Lukacs's favor? And what's all that filler at the end about his health problems and other mundane litigation he's been involved in?
posted by Gator at 10:48 AM on November 3, 2010


Doering acted like a spoiled brat and threw up his hands and said "fuck it" when the department didn't want to do an oral exam.

Meanwhile, what in god's name does Lukac's history with the court have to do with anything? And why did they have to picture him like a smarmy little shit in that photo?
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on November 3, 2010


because it covers thatf act he is a genius
posted by clavdivs at 10:51 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


griphus, I just have to offer the possibility that it is because he is, in fact, a smarmy little shit.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:58 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I choose to side with the University and the student given the limited information. Professor Lukas had no right to disclose the confidential medical information and academic records of the student. Furthermore Lukacs stated that "he did not meet the student in person until he served the student with court papers". So he is in no position to assess the aptitude of the student.
posted by humanfont at 11:00 AM on November 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


Did you know that anxiety is a medical condition and not just a description of how you feel when Mom threatens to stop writing cheques? You didn't? That's OK. You're not alone. A real life professor didn't know that!*


* Note: Not a professor in anything qualifying him to challenge a medical diagnosis.
posted by mobunited at 11:02 AM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


As someone with depression and anxiety, who gets support from accessibility services, and who has had concessions, I walk into an exam with a 90 and leave with a 70. I don't take classes with an exam, or have oral exams, or if worse case, get to take my exams alone in a dark room with a laptop.

I have never had a prof who viewed these as illegitimate, but I also get all of my work in, and I work damn hard.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:05 AM on November 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


The article leaves out way too much. It doesn't even say anything about the student's thesis. The coursework and exams are just early hurdles, the real meat of a PhD program is the thesis. I bet that had the student written a dynamite one, the department would not have minded awarding a degree, despite the issues with coursework and exams. Also, generally those exams come years before a student graduates, which make the situation, as described in the article, seem even more difficult to understand -- you'd think they would have sorted out the exam issue a long time ago. Finally, while based on the limited information given, I'm sympathetic to Lukács fighting for academic integrity and all that, generally in a university there are avenues other than suing to get things done. He probably could have gotten better results by organizing a faculty protest.
posted by epimorph at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is the part at which I started siding with Prof. Lukacs. I can understand waiving a written exam, but essentially (from my understanding) the rest of the course? So the recipient essentially got a PhD for his undergraduate work.

From my understanding of academic graduate programs, the real meat of any PhD is the dissertation (and dissertation defense, etc). The coursework and comps are there to make sure you have your basics down, but it's your research that really matters.
posted by kmz at 11:14 AM on November 3, 2010


I was more or less on Prof. Lukacs' side until I got to the last two paragraphs.
For a mathematician, let alone one as young as him, Prof. Lukacs spends an unusual amount of time in court. Some of his litigation is mundane. In 2007, he settled a small claims suit against IKEA over some damaged furniture. In 2008, he failed to have a protection order brought against a Winnipeg man over threats, in a case that was dealt with by police.

But Prof. Lukacs is also an advocate, almost a crusader, for the rights of airline passengers. As such, he has brought legal action against United Airlines, Air Canada and Skywest Airlines. He also won two judgments at the Canadian Transportation Agency, which established that WestJet and Air Canada are legally liable for lost baggage.
That just makes me think he's a litigious asshole who has found his new axe to grind. And I'm a lawyer. The guy may be a math genius, but being a professor at 24 apparently is no guarantee of having the emotional maturity to deal with life like an adult.
posted by valkyryn at 11:24 AM on November 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


I would have had more sympathy for the university's case if they had allowed an oral exam under the extenuating circumstances.

But look, this comes down to the basics of what a Ph.D. is: a mastery of the field in addition to the creation of new knowledge on a narrow topic. Even though the dissertation and original research is the "important" part of the Ph.D., the Ph.D. is also conditioned of having comprehensive knowledge of the field itself.
posted by deanc at 11:26 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


The guy may be a math genius, but being a professor at 24 apparently is no guarantee of having the emotional maturity to deal with life like an adult.

Which is, of course, irrelevant to the issue of whether someone was improperly awarded a PhD.
posted by klanawa at 11:28 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did you know that anxiety is a medical condition and not just a description of how you feel when Mom threatens to stop writing cheques? You didn't? That's OK. You're not alone. A real life professor didn't know that!

Oh give me a break. The issue here isn't whether or not the student has a real, bonafide "medical" condition (a category synonymous with a DSM diagnosis* in only the most general sense), it's whether the accommodation exceeded the reasonable. Someone who cannot walk because of osteo-arthritis would not be awarded an Olympic sprinting medal simply because they had a medical condition.
posted by OmieWise at 11:31 AM on November 3, 2010 [20 favorites]


Which is, of course, irrelevant to the issue of whether someone was improperly awarded a PhD.

But it isn't irrelevant to the issue of whether Lukacs is handling the issue appropriately. It diminishes the value of his moral stand by introducing pettiness which didn't need to be there.
posted by valkyryn at 11:35 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did you know that anxiety is a medical condition and not just a description of how you feel when Mom threatens to stop writing cheques? You didn't? That's OK. You're not alone. A real life professor didn't know that!

Well, it isn't just about the exam - there's also the missed courses. Really though this is is about a fight between the administration and the academics, the poor student just got stuck in the middle.
posted by atrazine at 11:39 AM on November 3, 2010


Also, surely an oral exam is even more stressful for someone with an anxiety disorder than a written one?
posted by atrazine at 11:42 AM on November 3, 2010


Bunfight? Bunfight?

Never bring a wife to a bunfight, that's what I always say.
posted by Edison Carter at 11:45 AM on November 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


For a mathematician, let alone one as young as him, Prof. Lukacs spends an unusual amount of time in court.

This suggests that mathematicians are less likely than average to be involved in court cases, but that this tendency diminishes as they age. Anyone know if that's true?
posted by layceepee at 11:45 AM on November 3, 2010 [10 favorites]


Someone who cannot walk because of osteo-arthritis would not be awarded an Olympic sprinting medal simply because they had a medical condition.

Yet.
posted by cccorlew at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


From humanfront's link: "The committee, after consulting with disability services, agreed to allow the student to retake the exam with more time and relaxed conditions....Doering rejected that proposal and requested that the student be given an oral exam. When the graduate studies committee did not agree to those terms, Doering waived the exam requirement altogether."

Between all this AND giving the student a pass on graduate-level coursework they didn't even complete, I'm starting to wonder what this Doering guy's issue is, and why he felt he needed to give this particular student such extreme leeway.
posted by Gator at 11:48 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


My wife has trouble with math tests. She is incredibly intelligent, aces absolutely everything else she's ever taken at a collegiate level (Magna cum laude), but she only did the bare minimum math reqs, despite an interest and aptitude for advanced math.

In short, math tests trigger anxiety attacks. If she is given unlimited time, she generally can calm herself and remember her coursework to ace the test. If the test is timed, she gets flustered and can't remember that one plus one equals two.

The Math department sneered at her openly when she asked for tests without a time limit - she even offered to do more examples than the other students on the test to make it more fair. All she needs is a few minutes per question to remind herself that she does, indeed, know the material, worked hard learning and studying the material... but it was pointless asking for any sort of accommodation. If she can't regurgitate trivia on demand before the buzzer, she's clearly not a good student.

I'm of the opinion exams need to be eliminated altogether in higher ed, and replaced with essays. A math or science student should be able to explain the important concepts using good english and properly formatted formulas.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:53 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, the meat of the PhD is the dissertation. But before one is allowed to file a dissertation, one must have passed the qualifying exams to be eligible.

In my PhD program any student incapable of completing the qualifying exams would be dismissed from the program. You do not get to waive the requirement. Extenuating circumstances might mean the form of the exam could be different, but the exam remains. Not passing means no chance at the PhD. This is why it is called a qualifying exam. It is not a formality; it is a necessity, a required portion of the education.

Not completing the required coursework means one is not eligible to file, either, any more than a student not meeting basic course credit requirements would be awarded an undergraduate degree or high school diploma.

I don't see why there is even a debate, honestly. The university should not have allowed this to happen. Awarding degrees to students who did not earn then is the business of diploma mills, not accredited institutions. This is true no matter how distasteful the person or persons are who levy the complaint against the student.

I hope this is settled in a manner which restores the academic integrity of the institution in the eyes of its peers, because not doing so devalues every degree granted by that program. And I hope to hell this student doesn't try to get a job using the degree, because strong letters of recommendation are going to be really, really tough to secure. Not to mention that the whole situation will make potential employers look with extreme suspicion on every other student granted a recent degree from this program. Those students are the real victims here, if you ask me. Their legitimately-earned degrees are now going to be worth less, thanks to the academically dishonest shenanigans pulled by one professor.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:54 AM on November 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


A PhD is not an Olympic sprinting medal. They're not even close.

This was a pretty one-sided article, and it's quite insulting for Lukacs to dismiss the dean of graduate studies as an "administrator" who must bow to the will of professors.
posted by muddgirl at 11:56 AM on November 3, 2010


Slap*Happy wrote "A math or science student should be able to explain the important concepts using good english and properly formatted formulas."

This is what a comprehensive exam is. It is not a fill-in-the-blank test. There's generally a written component, and an oral one, in most programs; it appears the U of Manitoba mathematics program relies solely on the written exam.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:56 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


That just makes me think he's a litigious asshole who has found his new axe to grind

I'm usually on the same page w/r/t litigious assholes, but I'm actually kinda glad someone "...established that WestJet and Air Canada are legally liable for lost baggage."
posted by Hoopo at 11:56 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


An important detail that Gator quoted above is that the committee consulted the disability services office before offering the option of taking the exam with relaxed conditions. There is a limit to what accommodations can do to level the playing field reasonably, and the disability services folks on campus are there to help with that.

And yes, comps/quals exams are important to those institutions that want to produce grads who are can teach and research in a broader field than just the tiny world of their written dissertation. At my institution, you can't even start preparing your dissertation proposal until you've cleared all your exams.
posted by LMGM at 12:02 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slap*Happy wrote "The Math department sneered at her openly when she asked for tests without a time limit"

Ah, forgot to add: Universities have programs to assist students in cases like this. I have yet to work at a university that did not accommodate students with special needs, whether these be physical handicaps or diagnosed learning disabilities. But diagnosed is the key. My wife has fairly severe test anxiety. If she had been evaluated by the right people, she would very likely have qualified for extra time on exams or a separate testing area. But she never went to a professional for a diagnosis of any learning problems, and thus completed her undergraduate education without this help. How much better could her exam scores have been? We'll never know. But I do know that no program is going to grant extra time just because a student asks, without any reason other than the student's assertion that he/she needs the time. If they did, every other student would ask for the same treatment. The department was not being mean to your wife. The department was being fair to the other students - no help for anyone unless there is a document reason why such help does not constitute an unfair advantage over others in the program. You have problems learning? You have testing issues? Get to a medical professional and get proof, or do what my wife did and tough it out on your own. End of story. It might sound harsh, but face facts - for every student honest enough to work within his or her own limitations, there is at least one or two willing to do anything to get a leg up on the competition. Try teaching for a semester if you don't believe me.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:04 PM on November 3, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also, I'm sort of disgusted with the way this PhD was framed. It's pretty clear that Lukacs wasn't suspended for "disagreeing", but rather for pretty serious allegations that he violated the privacy of the student in question. Even if this student did not deserve a PhD, they also don't deserve to have their private medical concerns outed to the whole school.
posted by muddgirl at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2010


Haha, I am PhD-happy today. I mean "post" of course.
posted by muddgirl at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2010


"Earlier this month Gabor Lukacs received two letters from University of Manitoba president David Barnard. One invited the assistant professor of mathematics to a dinner in acknowledgement of his teaching excellence award. The other informed him that he was being suspended without pay. ..."
posted by Carol Anne at 12:12 PM on November 3, 2010


A PhD is not an Olympic sprinting medal. They're not even close.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Are you saying that people should in fact get PhD's without completing the work necessary for the degree, as long as they have a "medical" diagnosis? Should it be possible for someone with, say, severe cognitive disabilities to get a PhD despite not even understanding the subject matter? I understand that the issue here is supposedly that this student understood it all, and simply could not prove it because of their condition, but isn't the point of the structure to require that proof? If the accommodation becomes too broad, how do we judge whether or not the student has actually acquired the knowledge and expertise? The PhD is not just a piece of paper you put on the wall, it's a certification of some level of expertise.
posted by OmieWise at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2010


...but it was pointless asking for any sort of accommodation.

If this took place after the ADA was passed, she should have been directed to the school's Disability Services dept. In fact, I believe since it was passed, syllabi are required to point out that all students needing disability-related accommodation are to go to the school's Disability Services dept. What happened to your wife was either at a time before this was legally acknowledged as a problem, or a really, really big violation of ADA.
posted by griphus at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2010


The student is said to suffer from “extreme exam anxiety.”

I wonder how you get tested for that.
posted by Sparx at 12:19 PM on November 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm not sure I understand what you mean.

I'm saying that the comparison doesn't make any sense at all, and furthermore is dismissive towards people who struggle to earn an academic degree in an environment that is often dismissive towards people with mental and physical disabilities.

I dislike analogies as a rule, especially in cases such as this one where it is used to mock people who would presume to seek accommodation for a learning or anxiety disorder. How dare we?
posted by muddgirl at 12:20 PM on November 3, 2010


Even if this student did not deserve a PhD, they also don't deserve to have their private medical concerns outed to the whole school.

It's not clear that they were, though. The media hasn't reported the student's name, and according to this Maclean's article, the judge in the case has ordered a publication ban. Could Lukacs have filed without including the student's name in the filing?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:21 PM on November 3, 2010


Academic egos are the worst. Suffering through them is, unfortunately, part of what the Masters/PhD represents.

Academic politics are horrible. Having been there/done that, I usually side with the student in most cases, even without much information, because I know faculty have all the power and, typically, the willingness to screw students over as much as possible over the slightest perceived insult, blasphemy or insolence.

In this case, I say 'good' for the student.
posted by peppito at 12:25 PM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I understand that the issue here is supposedly that this student understood it all, and simply could not prove it because of their condition, but isn't the point of the structure to require that proof?

Is this structure the only way to prove that a student has earned their PhD? The Dean of Graduate Studies certainly doesn't think so. Perhaps he is wrong, but I am certainly not in a position to judge.
posted by muddgirl at 12:26 PM on November 3, 2010


This article is frustrating. It raises more questions than it answers. Still, just hearing the sketchy details makes me heave a sigh of relief to be out of academia. It never ceases to amaze me how contentious some of the battles get in academic departments.
posted by Dead Man at 12:26 PM on November 3, 2010


It's not clear that they were, though.

If not the whole school, than from what I can tell from this one hihgly-biased article, at least to the whole math department.
posted by muddgirl at 12:27 PM on November 3, 2010


I dislike analogies as a rule, especially in cases such as this one where it is used to mock people who would presume to seek accommodation for a learning or anxiety disorder. How dare we?

I think you misread what I wrote. I mocked the poster here who presumed to suggest that having a "medical" diagnosis constituted all that we needed to know about this. As you can plainly see from my comments, I believe the issue here to be how broad the accommodation is, not whether or not one should exist at all.

I read your response to me to indicate that your personal feelings about this preclude you from being anything but offended by people who don't agree with you. Perhaps my characterization is wrong, but since you attribute to me views that I do not hold, and that are implicitly disavowed in both my comments, I'm not sure how else to take your lack of charity. (Or lack of accommodation, as the case may be.)
posted by OmieWise at 12:27 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Get to a medical professional and get proof, or do what my wife did and tough it out on your own.

That is a stupidly mechanistic way of going about it. Perhaps they could have taken a look at the quality of her coursework, in the math classes as well as in her other classes, and I dunno, used their judgement?

I mean really - waste hours and hours of your time trying to convince some bored headshrinker that there's a medical reason why you have trouble with Math tests, or just chalk it up to blockheads running the math program, and take Frat Math instead?

Comes a point where educators have to decide if they want to educate or if they want to nestle comfortably inside a bureaucracy as yet another underpaid and overworked cog.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:28 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Could Lukacs have filed without including the student's name in the filing?

Since he was suing the school and not the student? I think so, but I'm not a Canadian lawyer.
posted by muddgirl at 12:29 PM on November 3, 2010


For what it's worth, I was able to figure out the student's name pretty easily. It required only the most rudimentary of searches.

Also for what it's worth, the student has nine publications from his PhD work, four of them as a first author.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:29 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read your response to me to indicate that your personal feelings about this preclude you from being anything but offended by people who don't agree with you.

I'm not offended. I also don't suffer from exam anxiety and I have never had to seek accommodation for a disability. But thanks for assuming.
posted by muddgirl at 12:30 PM on November 3, 2010


I mean really - waste hours and hours of your time trying to convince some bored headshrinker...

I'm sorry your wife had problems with this, but holy shit the amount of contempt you have for people with mental illness is fucking staggering to the point of being offensive.
posted by griphus at 12:33 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, I will be more clear as to why that analogy sucked:

There's only one metric to determine the fastest Olympic sprinter: Their sprint time. There's no other metrics. That's it.

There are thousands of metrics I could think of to determine a qualified PhD. Exam scores might be one. Classes might be another. But neither are absolutely required by the definition of a PhD., and indeed we already know that these requirements vary from school to school.
posted by muddgirl at 12:34 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm going to say that the important thing for a PhD is demonstrated mastery of the field, not strict adherence to one particular form of displaying that mastery. I have no idea whether this student sufficiently demonstrated mastery of his field, but I would say that if the usual format for displaying mastery is inherently hostile to one particular student, there's no inherent reason to dismiss the notion that other forms could be arranged instead.

You can't prove you're the world's best sprinter in any other way than actually sprinting faster than anyone else. I think you could prove your competence in advanced math in a number of ways N where N > 1.
posted by rusty at 12:36 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, Prof. Lukas seems to be a litigious person. This being said, a PhD does not mean much. I am not aware of any profession that _requires_ you to have a PhD. I doubt that it is even a requirement if you want to become a professor (but not sure about it in the US system). If it makes you happy you can buy a PhD online from dubious sources. You get a worthless sheet of paper and I doubt that the student will get much out of his PhD if he has not the peer reviewed publications to back it.

Yoyo, PhD
posted by yoyo_nyc at 12:39 PM on November 3, 2010


I'm sorry your wife had problems with this, but holy shit the amount of contempt you have for people with mental illness is fucking staggering to the point of being offensive.

Ummmm... no. I have contempt for the process in which someone has to have their mental illness categorized and cubbyholed and stamped "approved" by a bureaucrat before they can get their professors to move an inch. In no way is that a slight at people with anxiety disorders. It's kind of the opposite of being a slight, and more along the lines of "advocacy for."


I'm finding it really hard to see how you could have found any offense at that, unless you're a bored headshrinker.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:41 PM on November 3, 2010


I also don't suffer from exam anxiety and I have never had to seek accommodation for a disability. But thanks for assuming.

Again, I'll have to redirect you to what I wrote. I said "your personal feelings," not your personal experiences. Again, if you could stop making your own assumptions about my bad motives in this it might help.

Also, I will be more clear as to why that analogy sucked: etc

This I find to be completely convincing. I think you're right that the analogy was not good for the reasons you outlined, which I why I asked what you meant in the first place. I actually wanted to know why you thought it was a bad comparison so I could think about that. Instead I got a string of insulting assumptions about my motives.

I still consider the described accommodation in this case (I admit, there is a lot we don't know) to be too broad.
posted by OmieWise at 12:43 PM on November 3, 2010


valkyryn writes:
I was more or less on Prof. Lukacs' side until I got to the last two paragraphs.
... In 2007, he settled a small claims suit against IKEA over some damaged furniture. In 2008, he failed to have a protection order brought against a Winnipeg man over threats, in a case that was dealt with by police.
But Prof. Lukacs is also an advocate, almost a crusader, for the rights of airline passengers. As such, he has brought legal action against United Airlines, Air Canada and Skywest Airlines. He also won two judgments at the Canadian Transportation Agency, which established that WestJet and Air Canada are legally liable for lost baggage.
That just makes me think he's a litigious asshole who has found his new axe to grind. And I'm a lawyer. The guy may be a math genius, but being a professor at 24 apparently is no guarantee of having the emotional maturity to deal with life like an adult.


Sorry for the topic drift, but, really? Those quoted suits (not necessarily that of the FPP) appear reasonable to me. Ikea has no right to make people pay for broken stuff, nor should airlines be able to make baggage disappear without recourse. Does dealing with life like an adult mean bending over when a corporation or other bully decides to screw you?

I admit I'm biased here. When my health insurer rejected a treatment claim as allegedly experimental, I had my doctor write them a letter explaining why that was not the case. I provided the company information showing the procedure had been used with success for over twenty years. I went to the local insurance regulators. When all those failed and the claim remained denied, I went to the courts, and prevailed. That's what courts are for.
posted by exogenous at 12:45 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's pretty clear that Lukacs wasn't suspended for "disagreeing", but rather for pretty serious allegations that he violated the privacy of the student in question

I have become very skeptical about trusting news stories to get anything resembling these sort of fine details right, but if we accept that the article is accurate then I don't know that it supports this reading. It doesn't limit the explanation for his suspension to the privacy issue.

The article says that Lukacs got involved when he took over a seat on the committee that oversees graduate mathematics work. It's hard to see how two of the three claims the school makes about his behavior - "insubordination, harassment of the student, and violation of privacy" - follow, given that responsibility.

Could there be harassment of the student? Sure, but what's in the article sounds like a zealousness about his responsibility on this committee and regarding the "value" of a PhD out of the math department. Insubordination? Again, he could be taking this committee responsibility too far but it's clearly not outside the area he should be paying attention to.

Not knowing what the laws are there or in Canada in general I can't speak to that at all. It's implied that the student is expressly identified in the court documents so we can take that at face value. The question is, I suppose, (a) whether this same effort could have been made without explicitly identifying the student and (b) whether we accept that this responsibility warrants this level of activism.

Doering is the Dean of Graduate Studies but the fact that this committee exists indicates he's not free to just do anything and everything regarding the awarding of graduate degrees, or at least seems to imply he SHOULDN'T be free to do so. Else why have departmental involvement at all?

I dunno. Going exclusively from this article the person engaging in over-reach sounds more like Doering than Lukacs. Whether Lukacs could have dealt with this more sanely or privately is impossible to tell from this.
posted by phearlez at 12:47 PM on November 3, 2010


there's no inherent reason to dismiss the notion that other forms could be arranged instead

But other forms were offered, and for some inexplicable reason, the dean's response was to throw up his hands and say, "forget it, here's your doctorate!" The link posted by humanfront upthread was, if not a whole lot better, at least more clear on some of the details than the link in original post.

I'm kind of wondering if the student didn't have some sort of dirt on the dean, and that's why he took these extraordinary measures of accommodation for the student. It just seems bizarre. The approximate order of events, from what little info we have, seems to be:

  • Student fails exam.
  • Student fails exam again.
  • Student is, according to the rules, kicked out of PhD program.
  • Student appeals.
  • Student is denied.
  • Student appeals to this Doering guy, the dean.
  • Doering demands special accomodations for the student based on his disability.
  • Board AGREES to special accomodations, even though the student already failed twice and hasn't completed all of the required coursework AND was turned down on first appeal.
  • Doering says those accomodations aren't good enough and demands an oral exam (for a student with anxiety? WHY????).
  • Board says no, that's unreasonable.
  • Doering says, fine, I'll just GIVE it to him then, neener neener.

    Doesn't this seem like a really strange course of action to take?

    All of this is aside from the argument about whether or not you should have to prove your disability before asking for accommodations for it. Me, I think you should, because otherwise what's to stop every bored underachiever from claiming a need for special accommodations?

  • posted by Gator at 12:48 PM on November 3, 2010 [10 favorites]


    I am not aware of any profession that _requires_ you to have a PhD. I doubt that it is even a requirement if you want to become a professor (but not sure about it in the US system).

    Outside academia, yeah, pretty much, but in US higher education, a Ph.D. is basically a prerequisite for all but the most low-end jobs. Even getting a tenure track job without one is basically impossible.
    posted by valkyryn at 12:50 PM on November 3, 2010


    Gator: I only read the original link, and the details were completely unclear, so I make no claims about whether this student deserves the degree. I was mainly responding to the people upthread who seemed to think the standard prescribed process could be the only legit way to earn a PhD.
    posted by rusty at 12:54 PM on November 3, 2010


    or a really, really big violation of ADA.

    Somehow I doubt that.
    posted by atrazine at 12:57 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Even getting a tenure track job without one is basically impossible.

    This may be true due to the inflationary numbers of PhD. But I doubt that it is a requirement to become a professor even if it is "unheard of" today. And even if it is necessary then the University can just "award" you a bachelor degree or a PhD. In math all you need is an insight into mathematics, not a PhD. ;-)
    posted by yoyo_nyc at 12:58 PM on November 3, 2010


    Yeah, I was initially on Lukacs's side, thinking that there's only so much in the way of alternative requirements you can offer, and that at the end of the day, a "disability" may really mean, well, an inabiliity to do something.

    Then it struck me that my own PhD, like most in Australia, was based purely on my dissertation, and that there was no examnination or coursework requirement. And if mr_roboto's research finding that "the student has nine publications from his PhD work, four of them as a first author", then there's no question his doctorate was justified.
    posted by Jimbob at 12:58 PM on November 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


    Outside academia, yeah, pretty much, but in US higher education, a Ph.D. is basically a prerequisite for all but the most low-end jobs.

    There are many, many tenured professors in professional schools (law, medicine, dentistry, etc.) in the US without PhDs.
    posted by mr_roboto at 12:59 PM on November 3, 2010


    All of this is aside from the argument about whether or not you should have to prove your disability before asking for accommodations for it. Me, I think you should, because otherwise what's to stop every bored underachiever from claiming a need for special accommodations?

    There is a fundamental problem with this, however. Who gets to say who is disabled enough to require accommodation, and who isn't? Let me offer an analogy by example.

    One day out of every 15 or so, I cannot walk without a visible limp, nor can I climb stairs or walk longer than about three blocks without nearly being in tears from pain. Stairs are just not going to happen on that one day. The other 14? I am fine, and will happily bound up and down stairs all day long. I can walk around the grocery store, or all the way from the back of the parking lot. But what about that one day? Am I disabled enough to require accommodation - on that one day out of every 15, yep. But the other 14? No.

    The analogy is this - this student might be absolutely fine with an oral exam, or in talking to profs, or writing peer reviewed articles, or giving presentations, but they may have horrific test anxiety. Or they may have had a period of intense panic attacks for no reason even THEY can tell, but not have it very often. Are they disabled enough to merit accommodation?

    It is very problematic to say that the burden of proof is on the student to show their disability, because the standards of what merit a disability "worthy" of accommodation can be very capricious. The other problem is that often the testing and "proof" required is very expensive, and a student cannot afford it (this happened to my husband), and so this substantially biases against underprivileged and full time students without parental or governmental support (and even most with those).
    posted by strixus at 1:00 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


    # Doering says, fine, I'll just GIVE it to him then, neener neener.

    Doesn't this seem like a really strange course of action to take?


    No, not if you've ever dealt with faculty with a grudge.
    posted by peppito at 1:02 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


    No course work required in Germany either for a PhD, as long as you start with you "Diploma" (more or less a masters equivalent).

    If the publications were good ("good" = published in peer reviewed journals) then there is no question that he has the ability to conduct independent research in mathematics.
    posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:03 PM on November 3, 2010


    There are many, many tenured professors in professional schools (law, medicine, dentistry, etc.) in the US without PhDs.

    True, but having recently worked on an accreditation process I can tell you that within the university system exceptions have to be addressed. A professor whose degree was a PhD and within the field s/he is teaching within is considered fine without further elaboration. Anyone without a PhD or with a PhD in another field? Supporting justifications have to be proffered.

    I can't speak to medicine or dentistry but we did that for every single person teaching in the law school. I do not recall if a JD was considered sufficient w/o additional elaboration but I assure you every single person listed as having taught in the two semesters leading up to our submission was checked and listed in our submission.

    To some extent this is self-mandated - our institution set a percentage goal and guidelines - but to my understanding it's a common thing and expected by accreditation organizations.
    posted by phearlez at 1:14 PM on November 3, 2010


    I wonder how you get tested for that.

    When the exam draws close or when it comes up in conversation you have panic attacks that render you unable to function in ways that are obvious enough to psychiatric professionals to take note.

    Christ, it isn't that fucking hard. We're probably talking about a student with some type of learning disability combined with concurrent anxiety issues. We are not learning the whole story because these issues are covered by confidentiality policies. These issues are covered by confidentiality policies because despite decades of peer reviewed studies about the reality of these cognitive-psychological differences and the fact that they can exist alongside extreme competence in other areas, some of you will be assholes to these people all day because you believe that someone to did not perform some arbitrary task must be *weak*, *lazy* and maybe *immoral*.

    I don't get the origin of this resentment beyond internalizing certain propaganda about the virtues of punitive standardization.
    posted by mobunited at 1:18 PM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


    Professor of Law with a PhD in physics
    posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:20 PM on November 3, 2010


    Also for what it's worth, the student has nine publications from his PhD work, four of them as a first author.

    If this is correct, it's an unusually strong research record for a math Ph.D. student. The situation then becomes much clearer. You have a student who has unequivocally demonstrated the ability to do original research, and who is ready to embark on a productive academic career -- and on the other side, a professor who wants that student not to have a degree, and thus not be able to get an academic job, because the student didn't fulfill a formal requirement of the program.

    I'm with the student on this one, and I know anecdotally of other cases (not at my department) where a graduation requirement was "forgotten" because an obviously qualified student hadn't fulfilled it, had written a strong thesis, and was ready to graduate.
    posted by escabeche at 1:27 PM on November 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


    Also for what it's worth, the student has nine publications from his PhD work, four of them as a first author.

    Typically in mathematics, authors are listed alphabetically, with no indication of "first author", "second author" status.

    Also, nine publications from a dissertation seems steep. Typically I would expect 1-3, even if it's important work.
    posted by leahwrenn at 1:39 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


    some of you will be assholes to these people all day because you believe that someone to did not perform some arbitrary task must be *weak*, *lazy* and maybe *immoral*.

    You know, this seems unnecessarily personal. Disagreeing with you does not mean someone is an asshole. You can easily write that sentence without personalizing it, just as we can talk about the case at hand without accusing the student of being a malingerer. I'd point out, as a sort of coda, that your personal experience with disabilities (whatever it is) does not describe the truth of disabilities.
    posted by OmieWise at 1:47 PM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Perhaps they could have taken a look at the quality of her coursework, in the math classes as well as in her other classes, and I dunno, used their judgement?

    No, they couldn't have. Few professors are medical professionals qualified to diagnose a student as having a disability that warrants reasonable accommodation. Your suggestion would result in a situation where accommodations would be made not on the grounds of who has a disability but on the grounds of who is the most charismatic and effective at persuading their professors that they should be given an accommodation.

    Speaking as somebody who qualifies for and relies on reasonable accommodations to stay employed, and as somebody whose day job deals with just this kind of issue (reasonable accommodations for disability) in just this setting (higher education, including graduate studies), there is no way in hell that I would want individual professors or administrators making that call. Oh, hell no. They don't get that discretion. They're not doctors; they don't get to diagnose.

    And, speaking as somebody whose job deals with this sort of thing and who has personal experience with requesting accommodation, the glaring red flag I see here is why didn't the student do something about this ahead of time? If a student has a disability or requires reasonable accommodation to do the work assigned, it's incumbent on them to make those arrangements early, before they cause a problem. In employment law, at least, an employer has no obligation to make accommodations for an employee's condition until/unless the employee makes the employer aware of the need for accommodation.

    I'm reminded of my college adviser (who had a reputation as one of the toughest profs on campus) whose policy was (roughly)
    If you tell me on Tuesday that your parent is in the hospital and you will miss the test on Wednesday, my response will be, "let's see what we can work out regarding you taking a make-up test." If you tell me Wednesday morning that your parent just got taken away in an ambulance and you will miss the test, my response will be, "Oh dear, I hope they are okay; you and I need to talk in the next few days to make arrangements for a make-up."

    If you tell me on Thursday that your parent was in the hospital and that's why you missed the test on Wednesday, my response will be, "Then the test grade stands at zero."
    posted by Lexica at 2:00 PM on November 3, 2010 [10 favorites]


    Fuck exams.

    I work in higher education, and over the years the number of hours of extra work, from administrative and academic staff, created by trying to adapt the three hour-plus written examination, a method of assessment designed to test able-bodied people with no learning disabilities or mental health problems who can sit still for hours on end and concentrate and write with a fucking pen for that entire period while surrounded by other people, to people who don't fit in some or any of those categories, is ridiculous. They are an unfit method of assessment for so many people, and the fact that qualifications of all sorts rest on them is a fucking disgrace.
    posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:03 PM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Typically in mathematics, authors are listed alphabetically, with no indication of "first author", "second author" status.

    Also, nine publications from a dissertation seems steep. Typically I would expect 1-3, even if it's important work.


    He's not publishing in pure math journals; the work is interdisciplinary. The author lists are not alphabetical.

    I'm hesitant to go into any more detail. You can probably find him yourself; again, it wasn't very hard.
    posted by mr_roboto at 2:12 PM on November 3, 2010


    I can think of a lot of reasons why a student wouldn't have arranged things, ahead of time, Lexica. I can also think of some really good reasons why a student wouldn't be able to tell a prof that they missed an exam because their parent was in the hospital until the day after.

    I understand why profs shouldn't have the ability to make these calls, but on the other hand, there are so many things wrong with how disabilities are currently assessed by Universities in terms of what accommodation can be given it isn't even funny. Least of all is the expense, followed closely by an attitude that even some students share that somehow having a disability makes them less of a person, or lazy, or less likely to get a job. I can think of so many examples of people I know who would not ask, or could not ask, for the assistance they needed, because of social attitudes, or economic factors beyond their control, or even not realizing they had a problem beyond "being dumb".

    Maybe you got really lucky, maybe you fought the system tooth and nail - I don't know. But the point is, we don't know about this student either. And it isn't our place to judge this case, nor was it this profs place. But we also need to accept that there may be something fundamentally problematic with a system that doesn't have enough leeway to allow adaptation for students who have different types of needs.
    posted by strixus at 2:20 PM on November 3, 2010


    Yeah, I don't know. If this was an MS, MA, MD, or JD, I might agree with Lukacs, but honestly if this student successfully defended a dissertation and had that extensive a publication record, then I'm inclined to think that they deserve a PhD. To let that be eclipsed by coursework and on (what sounds like) an exam on one subfield of math seems like missing the point of the PhD.

    I agree that the way it played out was really unfortunate. The Dean seems to have overreacted and Lukacs is, for some reason, prepared to turn this exam into his own personal Waterloo; in the process, the student has been made into a political pawn with his/her career left in limbo. Lose-lose-lose.
    posted by en forme de poire at 2:54 PM on November 3, 2010


    djgh: I can understand waiving a written exam, but essentially (from my understanding) the rest of the course? So the recipient essentially got a PhD for his undergraduate work.

    No:

    Additionally in August of this year, it was discovered that the student was short one course to complete the doctoral program. Doering decided to allow the student, who was scheduled to graduate this month, to elevate a fourth-year course to the level of a graduate course. (from the linked article)

    So they waived a single class, after discovering the omission a month before the student's defense. (Also, see my comment above about publications being the real point of the PhD.)

    I'm not unequivocally defending the Dean's actions here -- I think the department tried to meet him halfway with a reasonable compromise about the test, and it seems bizarre that he would overrule them like that. I do, however, think that this reading of the situation is factually incorrect.
    posted by en forme de poire at 3:13 PM on November 3, 2010


    If this is correct, it's an unusually strong research record for a math Ph.D. student. The situation then becomes much clearer. You have a student who has unequivocally demonstrated the ability to do original research, and who is ready to embark on a productive academic career -- and on the other side, a professor who wants that student not to have a degree, and thus not be able to get an academic job, because the student didn't fulfill a formal requirement of the program.

    Then the solution is here to create some kind of method where the student does a pro-forma fulfillment of the requirement. Like maybe his "exam" is where he writes a paper. Or does the exam with relaxed conditions or oral presentation, both of which Doering rejected. It seems odd that Doering basically picked a fight like this, which pretty much made the rest of the math department look bad. And given that Lukacs is the sort who's willing to make a last stand on this issue, you have a big mess.
    posted by deanc at 3:20 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


    If one can't handle the anxiety of comps, how is one going to be able to be a tenure track professor?
    posted by k8t at 3:33 PM on November 3, 2010


    Accomodations at the PhD level are an interesting subject. On one hand, the PhD is a choice-based degree (sure BAs are too, but there is something different here.) On the other hand, accomodations generally are a great thing for those that need them.

    At the doctoral level, with the great deal of competition for funding and resources, I wonder if accomodations can get out of hand, allowing people to "hold a spot" for years that could have funded 2 people? (Just thinking out loud here...)

    And if I were a student with a disability, I would (personally) not disclose to the faculty. Faculty are notoriously gossipy and have out-of-whack perceptions of students.
    posted by k8t at 3:37 PM on November 3, 2010


    My quals were:
    Major: Three lit reviews, 3,000 words each, 3 week.
    Minor: Timed essay exam. I got permission to use Dragon Naturally Speaking due to a bad case of RSI.

    This is one of those stories where I think everyone is at fault. The Dean likely overextended accommodations. Lukacs likely violated student privacy and did a stupid thing by taking a pissing match over someone else's degree to the courtroom. There don't appear to be any heroes here.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:31 PM on November 3, 2010


    My quals:

    10 weeks to "read" based on 3 reading lists
    10 weeks to write 3 30 page papers (1 theory, 1 specific question, 1 methods) that are supposed to be "publication ready"
    posted by k8t at 4:34 PM on November 3, 2010


    Bunfight? Bunfight?

    Does this look like gub to you?
    posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:44 PM on November 3, 2010


    If one can't handle the anxiety of comps, how is one going to be able to be a tenure track professor?

    The guy can apparently work the dean and the faculty senate, as well as the University legal department and other avenues Lukcas pursued before going to court and filing a frivolous lawsuit. I'd say odds of success in cutthroat university politics are quite high.
    posted by humanfont at 5:08 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


    That, and anxiety disorders are funny things. Some things you manage, and some things you just lean to avoid when possible.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:24 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Oh give me a break. The issue here isn't whether or not the student has a real, bonafide "medical" condition (a category synonymous with a DSM diagnosis* in only the most general sense), it's whether the accommodation exceeded the reasonable. Someone who cannot walk because of osteo-arthritis would not be awarded an Olympic sprinting medal simply because they had a medical condition.

    Omiewise, WTF? He's a PhD recipient not Carl Lewis. No one is giving him a Nobel Prize or Fields Medal (though that would be a funny twist). You appear to be jumping to the conclusion that the student did not merit a degree based on very limited information. Information that was disclosed in violation of university policies, by someone who appears to have a less than firm grip on reality. We don't know anything about his DSM diagnosis and the specifics of his anxiety or why the dean felt the need to make the determination that he did, or why the faculty senate concurred with the dean. I suggest you follow mr_roboto's advice, investigate, uncover and read his publications. You are probably somewhat uniquely qualified (I think based on your past postings) to comment on the quality supposed subject's dissertation and related publications.
    posted by humanfont at 6:29 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


    I did some rudimentary searching on mr_roboto's suggestion and didn't come up with the guy's name, would someone care to MeMail me? I'm not remotely qualified to determine the quality of his writings (and I'm not convinced it has much bearing on this whole thing anyway), but I have to admit I'm curious about it.
    posted by Gator at 6:50 PM on November 3, 2010


    If one can't handle the anxiety of comps, how is one going to be able to be a tenure track professor?

    When are you going to have to take a timed written test as a tenure track professor?
    posted by en forme de poire at 8:31 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


    The student is said to suffer from “extreme exam anxiety.”

    I wonder how you get tested for that.


    In school, you undershoot your apparent abilities to such an extent and so consistently that you are referred to a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist with expertise in learning disability. The specialist administers a battery of standard diagnostic instruments, including some which measure exam anxiety/worry/phobia, and writes a report of the results, along with diagnoses and treatment plan.
    posted by gingerest at 8:31 PM on November 3, 2010


    For what it's worth, I was able to figure out the student's name pretty easily. It required only the most rudimentary of searches.

    Assuming I found the right guy and that I did it the same way you did, I'm a little surprised at how it sort of defeats the point of achieving anonymity.
    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:32 PM on November 3, 2010


    "[Exams] are an unfit method of assessment for so many people, and the fact that qualifications of all sorts rest on them is a fucking disgrace."

    Amen. They crept into a necessary role that they didn't have a century ago. When teachers -had time to know the student- tests were unnecessary. To the extent that education has been grossly and materially distorted to fit a production model, in many scenarios the teacher-student relationship has approached extinction. And so, enter the impersonal, stage right.

    I'll hypothesize that, in the future, such experiences won't be referred to by the word education any more ... but will re-assume the old word, training. (I know that R.D. Laing would say) the anxiety is a natural response to the result of the inhumanity of the process, the ghastly fluorescent-lit, marble-enshrined, cold buildings, the impersonality of the mile-long assembly line, the zeitgeist that made the ghastly human experimentation of the 50s and 60s possible.
    posted by Twang at 2:23 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


    There are many, many tenured professors in professional schools (law, medicine, dentistry, etc.) in the US without PhDs.

    True but they do have doctorates in their professions, e.g. MD, JD, DDS or DMD.
    posted by humanfont at 4:35 AM on November 4, 2010


    "The student is said to suffer from “extreme exam anxiety.”

    I wonder how you get tested for that."

    In school, you undershoot your apparent abilities to such an extent and so consistently that you are referred to a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist with expertise in learning disability. The specialist administers a battery of standard diagnostic instruments, including some which measure exam anxiety/worry/phobia, and writes a report of the results, along with diagnoses and treatment plan.


    Whoosh.
    posted by jedicus at 8:07 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


    True but they do have doctorates in their professions, e.g. MD, JD, DDS or DMD.

    The JD is not a doctorate in the same sense as a PhD. There's generally no independent research required, and many law students don't undertake any independent research voluntarily. The closest almost any law student gets is a law review note, but few of those actually get published, it's an extracurricular activity, and most students regard it as a requirement for being on law review to be slogged through rather than something to take particularly seriously.

    The research-oriented law degree is the SJD, the Doctor of Juridical Science. It is offered by a lot of law schools in the US, but almost no US students take it. For example, if you look at the current SJD candidates at Harvard, they're almost all from other countries. I personally think is unfortunate. The JD program should be a purely practical professional program, and the SJD should be where future law professors and experts go to study theory and research. That would be preferable to the muddled JD programs we have now.

    Thus endeth the lesson rant.
    posted by jedicus at 8:15 AM on November 4, 2010


    There are many, many tenured professors in professional schools (law, medicine, dentistry, etc.) in the US without PhDs.

    True but they do have doctorates in their professions, e.g. MD, JD, DDS or DMD.


    Not necessarily. When I was a CS undergrad in the late 80s it was not uncommon for my professors to have their PhDs in math. While that has a strong shared field with computation it still isn't their field. That's surely less common now that CS as a field has existed for another 20 years, but it's an example of the kind of thing that happens.

    At the institution where I just assisted with the accreditation submission there were people with PhDs in other fields who had other additional experience that qualified them to teach in the field.

    PhD in the same field is preferred but it's not a deal-breaker given other qualifications.
    posted by phearlez at 10:55 AM on November 4, 2010


    Part of my antipathy towards Lukacs is because I survived my dissertation process with the help of a weekly support group. I heard a fair number of absolute horror stories of professors using student careers as pawns in ideologically charged grudge matches over theory, office politics, pecking order, and funding. (It is a major reason why I decided that tenure-track wasn't for me.)

    Ultimately, I have a deep dislike for a professor who would take an academic and administrative dispute over a student's career to the courts. Part of the job is finding constructive ways to deal with academic disagreements in-house. I see no justification for asking a court to ruin a student's career to spite a dean.
    posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:25 AM on November 5, 2010


    ArmyOfKittens wrote "Fuck exams [...] They are an unfit method of assessment for so many people, and the fact that qualifications of all sorts rest on them is a fucking disgrace."

    Twang wrote "When teachers -had time to know the student- tests were unnecessary. To the extent that education has been grossly and materially distorted to fit a production model, in many scenarios the teacher-student relationship has approached extinction. And so, enter the impersonal, stage right."

    Well that right there is the problem here. The qualifying exams are the point at which the graduate committee mentors assess the readiness of the student. This is a very personal thing. They don't let the student pass until he or she is ready. They don't let the student defend until he or she is ready. This is not a scantron bubble sheet exam like the ones they give you in the undergrad intro-level classes held in huge lecture halls. This is the closest approximation we have today to the oral argument tests that were administered back in the golden age of education we all seem to get so nostalgic about in ever discussion about testing. Conflating the two is not helpful to your argument.

    If I am trusting my life, health and well-being to a doctor, I sure as hell want him or her to have passed the exams to be a doctor, without any funny business. The same goes for the PhD researcher who develops the drugs I am given, the engineer who designs the safety features in my car, ad nauseum.

    If the student is so good that he or she deserves the degree, he or she can easily pass some form of qualifying exam to show this is true. If the student can write, and the publication record seems to sho he/she can, then by all means make it a written exam done outside of any specific testing room, like my own comprehensive exams, which I wrote at home prior to my oral arguments.
    posted by caution live frogs at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2010


    "The student is said to suffer from “extreme exam anxiety.”

    I wonder how you get tested for that."

    In school, (yadda yadda) treatment plan.

    Whoosh.


    Whoosh back atcha, jed - sometimes, the only way I can think of to respond to a joke I find derailing and offensive, but trivial, is a very determined failure to acknowledge it.

    You effed up my master plan. Now I have to encase you in carbonite, or something.
    posted by gingerest at 3:50 AM on November 7, 2010


    He should just become a famous actor and they'll hand out doctorates like candy to you. I think Ted Danson has like eight.
    posted by anniecat at 3:39 PM on November 9, 2010


    Direct from my just-deleted double thread, an interview with Lukacs and other experts on CBC's The Current.
    posted by greatgefilte at 3:52 PM on November 9, 2010


    If I am trusting my life, health and well-being to a doctor, I sure as hell want him or her to have passed the exams to be a doctor, without any funny business. The same goes for the PhD researcher who develops the drugs I am given, the engineer who designs the safety features in my car, ad nauseum.

    I'm not sure how much confidence I have in those tests. A doctor who passed the medical boards in 1970 doesn't exactly inspire me to heights of confidence. Also it seems like this wasn't some nationally certified engineering/math exam, but was a locally developed comprehensive exam that might have been totally arbitrary. In fact it's possible it was being deliberately manipulated to mess with the guy in some petty fashion.
    posted by humanfont at 7:31 PM on November 9, 2010


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