Wednesday, July 12, 2006

binded by the light

When I finished my dissertation, I gave a bound copy to every member of my committee in addition to the official copies I gave to the department and to the university. Because I finished right before moving to Madison, I needed to pay for expedited three-day bounding at this place that was 30 miles away and involved a treacherous winter drive (for coastal people who have a resolutely undifferentiated view of Middle America, southern Indiana is both very woodsy and hilly). I spent something like $500 between the binding and the special weight paper, if memory serves.

I come to Wisconsin and it seems like people do not make bound copies for anyone but their chair. I had a student today ask me if I wanted a professionally bound copy, and I realized that was the first time anyone had even asked me about it. So now I'm trying to figure out if it was weird of me to go to the trouble of making bound copies for everyone at Indiana, or if there is a normative difference between Wisconsin and Indiana, and if the latter, which is the more normal norm.

I have heard that at least two of the five copies I gave to committee members were "donated" to where the department shelves other dissertations, meaning there are like three copies of mine. I told someone there that they should write "Vol 1", "Vol 2", and "Vol 3" on the side, so it looks like I wrote a 1600 page dissertation, but they wouldn't do it. Anyway, that would lend further evidence to the hypothesis that I was once again confused-about-norms in making copies for everyone.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

In fact, it IS normative at Indiana to give everyone on your committee a bound copy of the dissertation. When I was going through this process last year my chair told me I MUST and that it was inappropriate to first ask them each if they wanted one. She said it was like first asking someone if they wanted you to write them a thank you note before you wrote it.

(Although I'm not sure if my bound dissertations say 'thank you' so much as 'thank god that catastrophe is over'. Nonetheless, I hope my committee knows how my grateful I am.)
-TOK

Lars said...

I've never heard of any one giving any copies to any committee members, excepting those for the committee to actually read and critique (UNC-CH). But, I haven't written mine yet.

Anonymous said...

My departmental (Chicago) student handbook says that it is "customary" to give a bound copy to each committee member.
-andrea

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I gave a bound copy to each member of my committee. However, I had no money, so it was spiral bound, with a clear plastic front cover, and black back cover. They looked really nice, and it was only about $7.00 per copy to bind. I didn't look at the handbook to see what we were supposed to do - I did what I could afford beings how my first paycheck for the new job was 6 weeks away, it was around Christmas, and I had to move and support a child on a very strict budget until payday.
-jnsys

Anonymous said...

It is "normative" anywhere outside of U of Phoenix-type places. I'm trying to wrap my mind around how one could think otherwise. So, you (and your committee) invest a couple of years in your magnum opus and you...what...wave bye-bye on your way out?...send them a PDF file?...give them a $7.00 copy put together by Kinkos? Basic manners, no? I guess not.

Kim said...

Anon 4:29. Some professors (e.g., me) would rather NOT have a hard copy, especially one that's bound. A clean PDF is just fine, thanks.

Let's face it: with very few exceptions, dissertations are rarely works of art.

Yvette said...

When I finish mine I will give a bound copy to anyone and everyone who wants one. I will stand on the corner at the interstate off-ramp with the guy looking to work for food and hand them out to drivers-by. I will take a stack of bound copies to my next family reunion to pass around along with the 'tater salad so that everyone can see the "book" I've been working on for "all these years." So yeah, normative or not, everybody on my committee is definitely getting a copy!

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:29: Total cost of four copies, 140 pages on thesis paper, bound, with quite a few color prints (at a time when color was expensive) was over $250. That was hardly stinting.

At the time we were living on spagetti-o's and peanut butter sandwiches... I had a kindergartner, and was starting a new job (had to move out of family housing, so new apartment = $1350 for first month's rent plus deposit, I had to get a moving van, and it was Christmas, so I had santa/travel expenses as well, and I had to have enough money left to live on for 6 weeks until my first paycheck). I did not have a graduation party. My committee knew that I had worked hard for 2 and a half years, busting my you-know to get done so I had lower loans, and could get the job that had just opened up. I used our University document centers, so it ended up looking pretty nice, even if it wasn't book-bound.

Most people gave their committee members 3-ring binders with their thesis, so this was a step up. Yes, I value my master's degree, but it isn't the end-all of my existance. I never even framed my degree until about 3 years after I graduated.

No one used pdfs when I graduated. Of course now, that's how a thesis is submitted in our university. :)
-jnsys

Winston said...

Not being of the academic persuasion, I have not a clue, my dear Watson. It does strike me as somewhat odd and out of character that you, Jeremy Freese, would be overly concerned regarding the "norm". Please take that as complimentary, not as a putdown...

Anonymous said...

i never gave one to any of my committee members and i'm yet to hear a complaint...and yes, they have written letters of rec on my behalf (good ones as far as I know). ;-)

as kim says, they are rarely works of art.

Anonymous said...

It never fails to surprise me how often being poor in academia is perceived as having bad manners.

Anonymous said...

Kind of like it never fails to exasperate, depress, and demoralize me that being poor in academia (and I don't just mean grad student poor but I-don't-have parents-a-partner-or-anyone-as-a-financial-safety-net poor), means not only that I often feel like I've been dropped on another planet surrounded by a species to which I do not belong and do not understand but also that I worry I will not have the actual financial resources to complete the PhD (Make bound copies for my committee?? Great, there's another loan I have to take out). Oh yeah, not to mention the constant anxiety caused by the financial stress. But that shouldn't inhibit my performance, right? So yeah, it's pretty safe to say that academia was not really meant for poor folks like me.

jeremy said...

There are indeed people from poor backgrounds and without safety nets or parental subsidies or whatever who make it through graduate school and onto jobs in academia. Granted, some of those people are greatly helped by being privileged in other ways. Even so, they often empathize with the feeling of academia being an alien world from anything they're accustomed to.

Anonymous said...

I guess I should have seen this coming in my anony 4:29 post. Sure, of course, manners only matter when they are convenient, when they don’t require you to put yourself out.

Thanks for the clarification. I don't think I’ve ever seen a more concise statement of the ethic of the parvenu professional and managerial classes in the States. It explains a great deal.

Anonymous said...

When I worked at the library at my alma mater, it was explained to me that one submitted a single copy of the thesis and the department secretary made photocopies for the committee to evaluate. If the dissertaion was accepted and approved, the university then paid for three copies to be bound - one for the departmental archives, one for the writer and one for the central university library.

eszter said...

Anon 4:29pm, why are you hiding behind an Anon signature? It's so much easier to dismiss other people's actions from behind the comfort of anonymity, but it's also much easier for the reader to dismiss your opinion.

I don't even remember what I did. But judging from all the books overflowing in my advisors' offices, I can see how they could do without yet another hard-bound pile of paper. I figure, if I publish a book from all that work, I'll happily send them a copy of that, which should be more interesting.

Anonymous said...

I received my Ph.D. at UC Berkeley about a dozen years ago and am now an associate professor at a state university (it usually takes about five years after your Ph.D. to get a permanent job in my field - even if you have dozens of publications and received prestigious fellowships). I was required to send a copy of my dissertation to the graduate division - but they take responsibility for binding it and then sending it to the library (where it rests, unread by anyone, for all eternity). The expectation, however, was that the dissertation chair and committee members would receive bound copies as well. It doesn't cost that much considering how much you spend during the ten years earning your doctorate (I worked two jobs throughout grad school, except when doing fieldwork in Africa for two years). The expensive part was giving them copies with photographic plates nicely mounted - like the copy sent to the graduate division.

In other words, Jeremy, I don't think what you did was unusual by the standards of good research universities.

I don't have doctoral students - we only have a Master's program - but my heart fills with pride when my students give me a copy of their thesis. I wouldn't think of discarding them.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of whether or not it was the "norm" at your institution to provide bound copies to your committee, they were obviously not used and it was a waste of resources to produce them. A norm that results in such poor allocation of resources should be abolished.

Constance said...

I don't know if it's a norm or not. But I just defended my dissertation and am working on revisions. I'm two weeks from depositing it at the library. I have NEVER heard of such a thing. Never. I find it utterly bizarre. I sure hope it's NOT a norm, otherwise, as I've said before, "When does my cultural capital kick in!"

jnsys said...

Wow, anon 4:29/7:43. Such pretty words to mask such ugly sentiments. Thank you for making me feel like dirt.

Anonymous said...

And ugh, here we go with the bootstraps stories. "Some poor people have done it..." "I worked two jobs..." That they are exceptions simply helps lend support to the rule, and makes it invisible to boot.

--yet another anonymous