I am a Bioinformatics PhD student at a US university. I left the university (stopped enrolling after informing my advisor) in Aug 2014 since I was not making much headway with my research for a long time, and felt that I needed to see the "outside world" for a bit. So I took up a temporary position at another local university to do some other research. My advisor at that point though was wanting me to complete my degree and asked that I continue my PhD research while being away. I agreed to it out of fear that he may not allow me to leave otherwise.
However in the last 1yr my research progress has not been much. I recently got called to the head of the department's office where I was informed that I had been put on "notice" for this bad performance (he did not use the word "probation"). He also said that I risk being kicked out of the program.
I have been called again to meet the department head and my advisor to figure out what to do next. Judging by the tone of the last meeting though, I expect that some pretty harsh punitive steps are in the offing.
I am not that motivated to complete my PhD. I have passed my PhD proposal and have done some work after that and I think what I have could possibly lead to a PhD, but would still need quite a bit of work. I am OK with discontinuing my PhD rather than face the humiliation of being kicked out.
I was wanting to know what actions (removal from PhD, academic probation or anything else) could come my way and how I could handle it. Who could I approach for help/support at the university or outside? I feel that I am being treated way too harshly, and should be at least allowed a dignified way out of the program (voluntarily dropping out).
On a related note, is it even possible to put a student on notice when they are not at the university?
Addendum 1: I just want to add that I have been in the PhD program for 7 years now (including the gap year), and have completed all the requirements as required by the department except PhD Dissertation Defense. My PhD proposal was cleared way back in in 2012. So I think I was expected to have defended the thesis in 2013 or 2014 at the most.
Addendum 2: While as of today I am not that motivated to finish, but I would like to leave the door open on my PhD if possible. Ideally, I would like to revisit this issue in another year and take a call on it (whether to resume or quit).