Your chair can be your biggest advocate – or your biggest obstacle. Many chairs are worth their weight in gold… but what happens when yours is not? What should you do and what are your options?
Most people will jump to the conclusion that the best thing to do is just to get a new chair. Perhaps it is because we live in a time where it is more commonplace to replace things rather than try to fix them, but whatever your mindset, do consider the following things that can happen if you do attempt to change chairs…
First, there is a bit of leg work and paperwork that goes into making the initial request. You will likely have to fill out a form and provide documentation that your chair has been less than helpful or has been hindering your progress. This documentation will include email and feedback communication as well as anything else that you can dig up (e.g., recorded calls).
Next, the request goes to your program director who will review your request with all documentation in consideration. Then, they will contact your chair to let them know of your grievance. This is where things can get a bit tricky. Based on the meeting with your chair, your program director will either approve or deny your request. Keep in mind that these requests are denied more often than they are approved.
If, by chance, your request is approved, you will have to start from scratch with a new chair. This may even include their approval of your topic and the beginning parts of the process (such as resubmitting your research plan or prospectus for approval all over again).
If, and most likely when, your request is denied, you are going to face dealing with a chair who may hold a bit of animosity for you – especially considering the fact that you have just dragged their name through the mud with their immediate supervisor. This sort of animosity can really strain an already difficult relationship with the person who, effectively, stands between you and your degree.
When faced with the decision of whether or not to attempt to obtain a new chair, our advice is to do your best to stick it out. Try to fix things, if you can (see our previous blog post on tips for how to do this).
We work with graduate students every day and know what it takes to get your research approved.