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I am a STEM master's student in a University in Europe. I am going to graduate next month and I need to settle the date of my defence and other bureaucratic matters with my second advisor. He had no role in my master's thesis project but has to be part of the committee on the day of my thesis defence.

The problem is: I have been trying to contact him for almost three weeks with no success. He ghosted me.

The question is: Should I try to contact the head of the department and report his behaviour (in order to get him answering)? Or should I forget about that and look for a different second advisor?

You should consider that: he has not answered any of my emails in the last weeks. The emails were 2-3 lines long. The academic staff working with him suggested me to call him on the phone in some particular days/hours in which he was there. I did it and he did not answer. I cannot go in person to the university since the access is restricted due to the Covid pandemic (and anyway the professor goes there rarely in this period as far as I have been told).

Also, I have been told that this professor behaved similarly with many other students, but usually they managed to "spontaneously" come across him at university (there was no pandemic at the time). Therefore, I am not really sure if contacting the head of department would ever change anything. On the other hand, looking for a different advisor might be as challenging as contacting this guy, since we are close to my graduation date and there are not many professors at my university who work in the field of my master's thesis.

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    I think you should contact administration, but don't frame it as 'reporting his behavior'. Say, at my institution the 'student section' is very supportive to students, and they try to resolve issues on their behalf (contact the person themselves or even help to transfer to another supervisor). Just tell them you have a problem and ask for an advice and/or help. – rg_software May 6 at 16:27
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    I agree with @rg_software. Don't go around telling people that you think this person is behaving badly, even if they have prior form. It's entirely possible that they're sick, or on leave, or any number of other possible explanations. Simply go 'up the chain' with the straightforward facts: you need to schedule your defence; you have tried XYZ to contact this person; you've had no success; can they please help you make progress with the defence? – avid May 6 at 17:28
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    I will try to do as you suggest, as I also think that the facts should be reported in a neutral way. However, @avid , the professor is objectively behaving unprofessionally. I contacted his personal secretary and I am sure he is not sick, on leave, etc... If he is too busy to care about a single email, then he should have said no when I asked him to be my advisor, as other professors have done with me in the past. I think that it is unacceptable to cut any form of communication in this period in which there is no way to see each other face-to-face. – moonknight May 6 at 18:05
  • What does your first advisor say? – henning May 6 at 18:10
  • @henning--reinstateMonica My first advisor works at a different university (and different city) from the one I am enrolled in. He does not know the second advisor and I have not told him about the situation yet. Just for comparison, my first advisor is super. He is always very very available for any questions or remarks. – moonknight May 6 at 18:31
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If the professor has a personal administrative assistant, try contacting them and even try scheduling the defense or other meetings through them. I have known professors who rarely respond, but their personal administrative assistants are very responsive and can schedule meetings or otherwise remind them of student deadlines.

If not, try contacting the general administrative staff of the department. The professor might be more likely to listen or pay attention to an email from someone they are familiar with.

Either way, don't be accusatory and try to report bad behavior. Simply say that you are trying to get in contact with this professor and have been unable to reach them through email or phone, that you need to schedule a defense, and ask for their help. They will probably forward your email to the professor; keep contacting the administrative staff every few days if you don't get a response from the professor.

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