In case you didn’t know, the amount of detail required to fully submit your dissertation is a little overwhelming. It’s as if they know that you’re at the end of your rope, about to annihilate everyone around you, and just when you think you’ve saved yourself from complete insanity, you get that final test… on whether you know how to read (and follow) directions.
Did you ever do an exercise in grade school, where you’re given a piece of paper with all these designs with numbers on it (sort of a color-by-number type thing), and the teacher says,
“Alright. This is a lesson in listening. I will read ALL of the steps FIRST. Then I will read them AGAIN and follow them. The first time through, you are JUST LISTENING and NOT DOING ANYTHING.”
And then, the teacher reads through 30+ steps of instructions…
“1. Color #5 blue. 2. Color #17 green. etc….” the VERY LAST ONE of which says:
“Do not color anything with any color, starting from Step 1.”
And, of course, most of us zone out by the time the teacher reads to the end the first time around, and we miss the all important last step…
The ONLY student in the entire class who got it right was the blind girl.
ANYWAY. It’s sort of how I’m feeling about the ridiculous red tape of forms, surveys, formatting, and hoop jumping… I’m trying to do all the right things and I just know at the end they’ll probably send me back to reprint my whole dissertation because I forgot to double space my abstract or some other ridiculous thing. The Berkeley document for “Instructions for Preparing and Filing Your Thesis or Dissertation” is 34 pages long. That’s almost exactly 1/3 the length of my dissertation. Thanks for making me feel inadequate about the last six years of my life, Berkeley!
One of the more interesting (read: not mind-blowingly irritating, like making sure all of the page numbers on your dissertation are at least 3/4 of a inch away from the edge of the page) things we are required to do is complete an exit survey (called “Survey of Doctoral Students’ Opinion” which, I don’t know, just sounds ridiculously pompous for some reason) Besides the usual demographics, they ask for some actual feedback. One is to list the worst and best course you took, which I wish they asked as a undergrad. I guess they really don’t want to know your opinion as an undergrad… haha!
In any case, the set of questions that caught my attention were the following, under the category of “General University Experience”
“What was your best academic experience at UC Berkeley?”
“What was your worst academic experience at UC Berkeley?”
“If you could change one thing at Berkeley, what would it be?”
And I was blown away. One multiple levels. First, they have a lot of guts to ask such questions of tired and jaded grad students. Second, they actually might care to know this sh*t? For real?! Third, what does it mean (or not mean) that I could not immediately formulate an answer for any of them? And Fourth, it really blows that I had to answer each question in less than 75 words.
What to say?