I'm new here but I read some previous posts and I wanted to share with you my concern.
I'm in my 4th year of PhD and I still have 1 year before defending my thesis (Jan 2019). I've been working with my advisor since 2013 when I started as a research assistant. I chose her over another Prof. as I really thought she was great, personally and professionally. She was indeed in the beginning. Ever since I chose her, she started asking me to help her on things outside the PhD, like make phonecalls and reservations on her behalf, babysit her child, book appointments at her hairdresser etc. I was happy to help her initially, as she doesn't speak the well language here, but then it turned out to be too much. At some point, she told me I was incapable to do things, because I failed to make an order as she wanted me to. At that point I said I was not going to be able to help her anymore. She threatened me to leave me as her PhD student and that she was going to talk to the PhD dean. She went around telling other Professors that I was a liar and not motivated to work. I could not do much as I left for my maternity leave some weeks later. She has continued asking me to work also during the maternity leave. Now that I'm back, she asks me to work on weekends (although it's sooo much struggle with a newborn), but she also seems to keep changing my thesis, telling me to change everything. She's thrown away more than 2 years of work telling me that "it's not convincing"...I really want to drop, but I've already invested 5 years into this. What do you suggest I do? I don't think the department will be able to change my supervisor, and if she learns that I complained, she will make my life a living hell. She has already threatened me that if I'm not nice to her, she won't write reference letters for my job market. Thanks in advance!!!!
Ps. This is absolutely unacceptable and despicable behaviour. So much so that I forgot to say it in the previous post.
Holy shit this is a mess. Like others have said, change change change superviors.
Also all the "abuse of power" narrative...I would not be phased. You have a newborn now, and more than ever, they are depending on a healthy parent (mom I assume) to come home. So I would actually say, call your supervisor's bluff, and actually go through the system and go before whatever panels or committees you are required to go before to log your complaints.
Now, that does not mean you should be reckless. There must be a trail of emails you can dig up that actually shows proof that you have been asked to perform tasks well outside the purview of your role as a PhD candidate. Maybe when you were an assistant, however the boundaries have now been blurred.
Now there must be one or two people in the department you can trust or ask for help. If you are saying the ENTIRE department is evil and toxic, I would be more wary of you than them (please do not take offence, just going on experience). I would say usually the admin staff are the most helpful with issues of difficulties with supervisors and they can offer advice on where to turn.
Do you have a second supervisor? Do you have an external academic who is present every now and then who is supposed to be subjective? At my university we call them external thesis advisory panel members, and its exactly for situations like this. Your situation is now untenable and openly hostile. Id be looking for an exit strategy and a sympathetic academic to get me over the finish line to my viva.
OR, you can just eat a little more shit until Jan 2019....the term is almost over, and be done with the witch forever after that. Thats also a practical route given the proximity of the viva. HOWEVER, if you feel your work won't pass the viva as is, again, look for a way out.
Yes, I have to be honest, at this point I would be recording emails and recording all conversations to build up evidence and then going for a full scale complaint to the highest authority at the university.
This is not a situation which calls for rigorous candour. I would be looking for someone's head to roll for this and I would ruthlessly pursue it. I don't see what alternative you have.
I really feel for you. You are in a very bad situation beyond your control.
Depending on which uni you are in, they may or may not let you change your supervisor so late in your candidature. Could you consult the postgraduate coordinator of your institute or graduate school for advice?
If they do not allow you to change supervisor, is it possible for you to write up what you can now and get out of there soon? Depending on how much data you have and how much you can mentally and emotionally endure, could you either write up as a master or a PhD? (may not be the best master or PhD thesis, but as long as you can pass, that is all you can do at the moment)
If you need further guidance, could you get an informal mentor who could have a look at your data and with whom you can discuss your work without fear of repercussions from your supervisor. This person needs to be very experienced and trustworthy. Does anyone come to mind?
I won't count on your supervisor for any reference even if she does agree in future. I worry backstabbing from her. Do you have a back up referee? Maybe a postdoc or lab manager? Doesn't have to be the same group.
Keep calm as best you can. Good luck.
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