I'm a junior faculty in academia and I was asked to take a PhD student several months ago.
I was not involved in the hiring process, hence I did not have a chance to evaluate his abilities before joining the program. Indeed, this was the student of someone senior (full professor), but he was transferred to me because the senior person was too busy.
The student is in his first year, and I know he has a lot to learn. However, in these few months the student has not been able to make any progress. I am always the one who needs to keep emailing him and asking him what is happening with X or Y. I have to ask him to come for meetings and sometimes he doesn't show up.
During data collection, he was not even able to put together two columns in Excel. Since then I realized that he does not have the abilities, curiosity, and self-learning capabilities for a PhD. I talked about this with the senior person and told him that I was very concerned that the student will not be able to make it as he is not even capable of managing two columns of data. The senior person suggested me to lightly advice and see if the student could perform. Meanwhile, I hired someone to help with the data (with my own grant), which can be used for other projects if this one doesn't come to fruition.
I asked the student to do a literature review and after literally following him for two months, he submitted something and it is the worst literature review that I have ever seen (I have also worked with undergrads as RAs and they have done far better jobs for data management and literature reviews). I have sent the student several examples, commented on his review, revised it, but still the outcome is horrible.
I asked him to write the theory and he just copied verbatim from other papers. At this point, I don't know what to do. The senior person is pissed off that the student is not making progress, but the student is just not capable and I had discussed that with the senior person before.
Now the question is what to do? I don't want to write the paper for him and take him for a free ride. I don't believe on gifting papers, specially to someone incapable. What I am afraid of are the "political" consequences. There are not many PhD students around here and just because of that they may want to keep him. I am a junior and have several other projects to work on and this student is just draining my time with terrible outputs. How should I deal with the issue?
I appreciate the kind advice of everyone. I had a lengthy talk with the student, he admitted that his work is not up to the standard and that he is not putting in enough effort. He is literally taking this time as vacation by enjoying his days beside the pool (we do have a nice pool in campus btw). He just graduated from an undergraduate degree and doesn't know how to function in the adult world, or so to say. His parents always did everything for him and he has never had the need to make any effort to "earn" anything (the student said this himself; I am not making any assumptions, putting my bias, etc. just giving some background information.).
I implemented several actions to make him report his progress daily and we are meeting twice a week. We are getting connected in an online working platform and he can let me know about any issues immediately. I gave him all the materials I used myself during my PhD, which I had to self-learn and I expect him to do the same. He had taken all the basic courses (including how to write theory and do literature reviews) that our school offers, so it is not like he was "left" alone.
I also told him that he needs to fulfill our work plan with the deadlines that we established together. If he is not willing to put the hours to make it happen he has either to look for a new advisor or drop the program. I was just very honest with him.
As a side note, the student and I do not have any issues or wrong perceptions and I am not denying my responsibility. Some have also assumed that I am not willing to put in the time, which is not true. I am putting more time in than other faculty does with other students. As I mentioned in my original post, I am constantly reviewing his work, meeting with him, giving him feedback and materials.
This is just the most I could do for him. Unfortunately, I am not in a good position to devote my entire time to him. I also have to fulfill my own tenure requirements, maybe if I had tenure and more stable job conditions, I could sit with him and teach him how to use the most basic, even Word and Excel (which he is not proficient with).
I hope this works. If you have any other suggestions on how to improve the situation, feel free to post them.