The Writers Voice
Favourite Literary Website
San Francisco Story
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
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.
Critique this work
Click on the book to leave a comment about this work