I am an undergraduate working on my thesis. It is a difficult situation because my thesis advisor took a new job and has left the university, and I also work part-time. My advisor goes months without responding to my e-mails, and there is no other way for me to contact him.

I am curious on who to contact when a professor is treating you unfairly. I have contacted the dean once, and because of this my professor did not grade my project for two whole months, and my complaint honestly resulted in him being way more distant. By being treated bad I specifically mean him not replying to my emails, forgetting to grade/give feedback to my drafts, and being very vague and cold when he replies to me once in a while. Many of my emails are still probably in his inbox waiting to be replied to. However, what made me really write this is him forgetting to give me feedback for my draft. Everyone has gotten their feedback, and there is very short time until our defense date. I just feel crappy, and so let down. What do I do and who do I contact?

  • 3
    I note that you asked this question: I have already used up all my hours with my supervisor. Is that the same professor?
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 18:10
  • Yes, this is the same professor and I am doing this online as I also work a part-time job. He only uses emails, and it is incredibly difficult to reach him.
    – kara
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 18:30

2 Answers 2


In a well-functioning academic department, legitimate complaints to the Dean ought to result in actual improvement to the relevant process or work that is the subject of complaint. In the case of a complaint about delays in the work of academic staff, the complaint ought to trigger action to improve work outcomes so that things are completed on time. If no improvement is forthcoming, that is bad. If additionally there are further bad outcomes imposed on the student as a result of the complaint, that may be arguably retaliatory and it reflects a dysfunctional complaint system. Well-functioning academic departments do not act in this way.

As to next steps, my advice would be: in for a penny, in for a pound --- go and see the Dean again and report that the problems that have continued without improvement, and that additional problems have now occurred that might arguably be retaliation for your previous complaint. (Bear in mind that it might be reasonable for a person to be a bit more distant if they are the subject of a complaint; ideally professionals would not take this personally and would try to improve and remain warm and approachable, but some people do go into their shell a bit in this situation.) If the Dean is not of assistance, you should consider escalating your complaint directly to the central complaints office for the university.

  • You are right, it should actually not be a problem to further the complaints. I might do that again if he continues doing that. However a fear a lot of us students have is that the situation will only worsen. I especially fear that this will negatively affect my grade. It is already affecting my grade I feel like, as he has still not approved my thesis ( second time doing it). I wonder if it is possible to ask to request another examiner if the current one is not being helpful or if I feel like I am being examined unfairly?
    – kara
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 21:19
  • I don't think you should assume that non-approval of your thesis is retaliatory, unless you have evidence for that. It might simply be that your thesis is deficient in some way that needs remediation. Irrespective of this, what you can reasonably expect in this situation is that reviews, responses, etc., ought to be done on time; your advisor should not be forgetting to give feedback on your work. If you have reason to believe that you are being punished for raising legitimate complaints about time delays then you should leave that institution as soon as you are able.
    – Ben
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 0:40

First of all, remind the professor. Unless I am misunderstanding the comments, you did that before on a different assignment, but seemingly did not explore that venue with regards to the thesis deadline.

If they prove being unreasonable, two main points of contact are the department chair and the dean office. The latter is in charge of the administrative procedures and can put some pressure on the department, and are the ones ultimately responsible for the timelines to be observed. But it can not, generally, judge some specific interactions, as those may heavily depend on the content of relevant work.

As a student, the dean is who you should be complaining to. Make sure you describe the situation with sufficient clarity and level of detail. For example, "all the other students have gotten their feedbacks" is hardly a supporting argument, at best it establishes that your expectations are not entirely unreasonable. By contrast, that you are supposed to have at least two weeks for the edits as per curriculum and are already being deprived of that time is a clear and easily provable point (assuming the e-mails from the examiner did not end up in your spam folder, of course).

Teaching is a delicate matter; students are unique and, thus, should be treated differently in order to let them reach their full potential. Unfortunately, it might be plain old discrimination at play as well, and it is hard to tell. To offer a devil's advocate perspective: what if you are perceived as over-dependent on the external input? It is not implausible that a professor could consider that student A needs some specific feedback the most, and student B needs to work on their own more.

This entire tangent is caused by most of the complaints in the post being non-specific and somewhat emotional. "Being very vague and cold" is very much your perception, it is valid and affects you, but it is not clear why that should change. Similarly, unless the professor has violated some guidelines (which?), they are upholding their end of the bargain, and formal complaints are unlikely to do any good at all.

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