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Theresa Allen

Part VII

cc: Professor McDermid, Dean of the College of Humanities
Professor Donna Schaffer, Associate Dean of the Graduate Division

Dear Professor Vaughn;

After giving the matter considerable thought, I have decided to honor your request for a formal letter of explanation regarding my recent decision to withdraw from the Masters Degree Program in Classics at your most prestigious institution, No-Name University, San Francisco.

As I stated in my earlier correspondence to you, Dean McDermid, and Dr. Schaffer, No-Name University simply couldn't provide an acceptable "fit" for my academic needs. I will attempt to explain the reasons why I feel that this is the case.

You must understand that the institution where I completed my undergraduate work in Classics, Whatsamatta University, Minneapolis, instilled in me a certain expectation of what academics are all about. At WUM, I was a member of a large and diverse student body and treated to the insight and mentorship of some of the world's most distinguished scholars in the field of Classics, graduates from UCBerkeley, Harvard and Brown. The Classics Department at WUM boasted a total student body population of 25, 17 of those as graduate students. Since the graduate student population was so much larger than the undergraduate, many of the upper division courses that I took were graduate level. This means that as a 3rd year undergraduate, I was challenged to read selections that are typically reserved for graduates and to read them at the graduate student pace, 30 pages per week of the original Latin and Greek. Thus, I left WUM with an advanced preparedness for the rigors of graduate study in Classics. I fully expected that, at whatever academic institution I ended up at, I would, at the least, match this challenge and, at best, exceed it.

I started my studies at NNUSF blind. I needed to research this school better than I did and for this, I accept responsibility for any confusion and misunderstanding resulting from my sudden departure.

My first clue that this was not the right place for me to complete a Masters degree came on the first day of classes when I discovered that the Classics Department at NNUSF had a total student body population of only 4, I being the only graduate student. My second clue came when I received my first reading assignment. You only required me to read 9 pages a week. I read more than this during my second undergraduate year at WUM. My third clue came when you, Dr. Vaughn, offered to give 3 graduate level course credits for the viewing of the movie, "Tombstone." The reasons that you gave for showing this Western were that Val Kilmer (the actor who played Doc Holiday) was "absolutely gorgeous" and that he recited a line of Latin in the movie, "In vino veritas."

My fourth clue came when you attempted to host, at NNUSF, a Classics Conference. Your guest speaker list read like your family tree. You encouraged me to contact professors at WUM with an invitation to come and speak. I did just that but never got back to you with the results. The reason that I never got back to you on this matter was that the reception that your invitation received from those professors at WUM was not, shall we say, particularly positive. Of the 5 faculty members of the Classics Department at WUM that I contacted, not a one had heard of NNUSF, let alone its Classics Department or faculty. In fact, my old advisor at WUM chastised me, telling me that I was throwing away the promising academic career that we all had worked so hard to promote by attending such a, oh, what did she call it, "fly-by-night institution".

My fifth clue that I was in the wrong place came when, after completing my first term at NNUSF, I took a moment to view the list of faculty and the names of the institutions where each member had received their graduate degrees. I've never heard of "PhDs Are Us." Is this a mail-order correspondence graduate program? My sixth clue came when I read the dissertation of the most senior member of NNUSF's Classic Department faculty. "How To Get Laid While Digging For Evidence Of A Minoan Civilization." Call me old-fashioned, but this hardly seems to be an appropriate topic for a dissertation.

My seventh clue that I had done a stupid thing by attending NNUSF was the meeting with the so-called graduate from the Master's degree program in Classics at NNUSF. You prepped me for this meeting by telling me that he had gone on to do doctoral work at NYU. Imagine my surprise when, during this scheduled meeting, INS Agents burst into the room to apprehend this "successful graduate from NNUSF's alumni." What was it that the one INS Agent said? "This boy had just arrived in the US, two days before, via a cargo hold on a large foreign freighter"? It's no wonder that he never said a word the entire time that we sat there. My eighth and final clue arrived concurrent with my completion of a rough draft of a Masters Thesis. I needed a Thesis Committee. When I polled the faculty, none of them knew what a Thesis was. Does this mean that none of the faculty completed a Masters degree before their Doctorates? Or, does it mean that none of the faculty has actually been to graduate school?

Whatever the explanation, it's all moot. My withdrawal is effective immediately.

It's been interesting.

Theresa Allen


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