The Day After (my defense)

Approximate Reading Time: 5 minutes

I was elated when I successfully defended my thesis. I was thrilled to hear that the defense went extremely well, and everyone signed off on the dissertation on the spot. As luck would have it, the person in charge of approving the dissertation for the Faculty was the Neutral Chair, and she signed her part on the spot too.

Very tidy.

Everyone was happy. One of the examiners suggested I publish it as a book, and another commented that she had never before seen this much scholarship in a single thesis. She suggested there might actually be equivalent to several dissertations. Needless to say, I was thrilled.

A few days later, I made a few very minor changes (mostly just fixing typos) and sent my thesis off to the printers. I prepared the necessary paperwork according to the instructions on the University websites (very helpful) and continued on. I was all set….. (HA!!!!! Not so fast, Slick.)

Flying high from having pleased my committee with my work, I went off on a lovely 7-day cruise in the Caribbean on the Disney Cruise Ship Magic. And it really was.


Disney sure seems to understand organizational management. Even when things go awry, they know exactly how to deal with it.

Don’t get me wrong – things still happen; but stuff is fixed or made better. They win, and so do we.

Very professional.


Welcome to my world (well, it turned out to be a bit more like the Twilight Zone, really).

I came to campus today to pick up my thesis and get it finished up.

That turned out to be an adventure of an entirely different kind.

Here a just a few of the highlights of my morning (I have removed the name of my faculty to avoid embarrassing them, and so I might actually get to graduate):

  • University Printing Services now advertises that they bind theses but they have NO idea what colour each faculty requires. They seem quite uninterested in finding out.
  • I had 3 single-side copies printed because the Grad Studies website says they need one (unbound), and <my faculty> website says they need 2 (unbound). (Last time I looked, 1 + 2 = 3) When I took them upstairs to <my faculty>, I was informed that <my faculty> only wants only one AND that it must be bound. They were surprised to hear that their very own website says 2 unbound copies. On top of that, I was informed that I needed to take the unbound copy over to Grad Studies so that they could approve it for binding. So, off I went with three single-sided copies of my admittedly verbose (450-page) thesis across to the other side of campus (I guess the exercise is good for me). [Note that the online instructions do NOT mention anything about binding the <my faculty> copy, and the nice ladies in <my faculty> office expressed surprise when I said that the website says, “Submit two unbound copies of the thesis to the Faculty of Graduate Studies along with the Thesis Clearance form.”]. Have they never read their own stuff?
  • After a lovely trek across campus (OK, not really), I arrive at Grad Studies, who says, they know NOTHING about any requirement for approval for binding (which means I carried 2 of the copies of my Big Fat Thesis over for nothing), AND that my title page is formatted wrong. I will have to redo it. Turns out, the template THEY provide is wrong. No apologies for providing misleading information, just an admonition for not doing it right.
  • Then, one of the forms they so kindly provide on their website prints off as 2 pages – and when I gave it to them, all signed and proper, they threw it out and told me it had to be all on one page. When I told them THEIR webform, which is locked and cannot be edited, printed on two pages, they simply said “Oh, it needs to be a single page.” I have to re-do all the title pages AND I have to re-do the CD for the National Library. Again, no apology for wasting my time and paper, and no acknowledgement that they bear any responsibility to get things right. How silly of me to believe the policies published on the official Grad Studies website.
  • Next, these same official policies tell me I can put the electronic copy intended for the National Library in an envelope, which must be 9X12 and labeled just so. I followed the instructions to the letter. In 30 years in computer science I have learned a thing or two about executing instructions. HowEVER, for some reason, the envelope I used for the stuff for the National Library (made of recycled plain un-dyed paper, 9X12, as per official instructions) was not acceptable, so the label I made with all my info on it, and the envelope was tossed; and they handed me a brand new envelope (which didn’t even have the UofC address on it) and I had to write the information again in pen. With the ink on my brand new PhD still fresh, I tried to see how the ‘correct’ envelope, which is plain brown, but otherwise identical to mine was better than what I had used. I failed.
  • Here’s the kicker: next, they ask me for my signature pages. OOOOOPS! It turns out I DIDN’T have the signature pages with me. Being rather new to this process I had forgotten to ask for them when I was at <my faculty> and, of course, no-one at <my faculty> thought to mention it. As a result, I walked over to Grad Studies without the signature pages. Nothing happens without the signature pages. That meant I had to walk all the way back across campus to <my faculty> to fetch them, so I could once again walk back over to Grad Studies to give it to them. They won’t help me do it – I asked. They said they get SO many theses that they really can’t keep track of all these things….. Silly me, I kind of thought keeping track of theses was, in fact, one of their jobs (them being the FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES and all), but I suppose it is too much to ask that they actually DO their job sensibly. This isn’t Disney after all, just a University.
  • When I arrive back at <my faculty>, I ask them for my signature pages (they look genuinely surprised when I tell them I don’t have them), and they go search for them. After a while they return without them and say, “Gee, we don’t have them. We sent them off to your external examiner for signing just last week.” This, by the way, would have been kind of handy to know when I was in there the FIRST time. My defense was 2 ½ weeks ago, and because it went so smoothly, all the paperwork was signed on the spot. I was assured they would send the pages off to be signed right away. I asked why it took so long for them to get sent out, to which they responded, “We’ve been busy.”

Of COURSE. How silly of me again. The division dealing with the faculty’s grad students can’t be expected to send papers where they should go right away.

There was nothing else I could do but go home and wait for my signature pages. SO I collected all my stuff, and went home.

I guess I will have to try this again another day. Maybe I’ll even have a new funny story to tell after that.

Very Kafkaesque.

Does it strike you as ironic that everything at the original “Mickey Mouse Operation” (i.e. Disney) works like clockwork, yet a venerable scholarly institution like the University hardly works at all?

Attaching the label “Mickey Mouse Operation” to my university turns out to be an insult to Disney. Please accept my sincerest apologies, Disney.

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