14

When I was admitted to my graduate course, I was guaranteed funding for six years.

Essentially, I have been doing research on a different school of thought, so I am not well liked by some of the senior professors (who have badmouthed me to department administrators), some of whom refuse to talk to me.

I completed five years and had a verbal conversation with a department administrator. They mentioned "you are not entitled to funding in your sixth year. We spoke previously. I asked whether you needed funding this year and you shook your head."

I am writing to the department administrator and will subsequently escalate this to the department head and deputy if things are unresolved. However, I don't know what tone to use. On the one hand, I need to convey the seriousness of this matter. On the other, they are my superiors.

I'm thinking of the following: "I refer to our conversation on date X. You mentioned that I would not be entitled to funding for the upcoming year because (repeat conversation). I would like to know if I heard you correctly. As this is an important matter, I appreciate your reply by date Y. If you do not respond, I will assume that there are no inaccuracies in my recollection. Finally, I reiterate that I made no indication that said I did not need funding."

Is there a better way of phrasing this?

  • 7
    "If you do not respond, I will assume that there are no inaccuracies in my recollection" well, not that, that just sounds incredibly rude and is kind of pointless to say - "If you don't answer me as soon as possible, I'm ending this conversation, assuming it went my way" – Azor Ahai Aug 10 '17 at 22:05
  • How can the OP better convey their desire to have something in writing? If the administrators don't reply, they may just say "we never said such a thing" if the OP escalates the matter. – wwl Aug 10 '17 at 22:35
  • 8
    "When I was admitted to my graduate course, I was guaranteed funding for six years." If this is true, you should consider mentioning this explicitly, e.g. by forwarding the email granting you admission and stating your funding terms. It might be good to phrase as a question: "To clarify my understanding - based on [Letter X], I had 6 years funding, but based on [your conversation] I was not guaranteed..." – AJK Aug 10 '17 at 22:48
  • 5
    How did your advisor respond when you asked this question? (You did ask your advisor, didn't you?) – JeffE Aug 11 '17 at 0:01
  • 1
    Did you "shortchange" your professors or bosses by doing work on a "different school of thought?" Or are they mad at you because you did "extra" that they didn't like even though your work would otherwise be in good standing? Also, what country is this in? – Tom Au Aug 11 '17 at 5:16
38

I think it is too soon to make any demands of the supervisor to answer by a certain date or anything like that, nor is there a need to ask him to explain whether you heard him correctly, or to confirm or deny anything. All you need to do at this point is to lay out your understanding of events - if the supervisor wants to contest that understanding, he/she is at liberty to try to do so. A key principle for this sort of email is that you should be very clear and factual and maintain a neutral and polite tone. Something like the following:

Dear [name of supervisor],

I am writing in connection with our recent meeting on [insert date] to discuss my status and funding in the program. As you know, my acceptance letter to the program, dated [insert date of acceptance letter (you have a copy right? maybe attach it to the email)], states that I am entitled to six years of funding. No conditions were attached to this promise other than my maintaining my status as a PhD student in good standing in the program, which has been and remains the case. [obviously, only write all of that if those are true statements...]

During the meeting, you stated however that I am not entitled to a sixth year of funding, based on your assertion that "We spoke previously. I asked whether you needed funding this year and you shook your head." [Note: if you put their words in quotes, make sure it is an accurate quote.] I would like to clarify that I never indicated that I did not need funding for a sixth year, either by a shake of the head or in any other way. I do in fact need and want funding, and was and still am expecting to receive it based on the department's promise, signed by [insert title: Graduate Program Chair/Department Chair, etc] [insert name of signatory to the letter] in the acceptance letter I mentioned above.

I would appreciate if you reply to this email at your earliest convenience to acknowledge that you received it. Thank you for your continued support and for your assistance in correcting any misunderstanding that may have occurred.

Yours etc,

[your name]

Once the supervisor replies, if they explicitly confirm that you will get the funding, great; if they do not explicitly confirm that but don't contest your understanding, you have now put yourself in a good position to go to the department head; and if they try to contest your description (like claiming that you did shake your head), I think they will appear rather foolish for relying on such signals rather than statements documented in writing or even a verbal statement, so again you are in a good position to go argue your case with the department head.

Note also that I added a polite request for an acknowledgement and nothing more. The supervisor is free to ignore that, but again doing that will make them look bad, and in any case if you don't get a reply within a few days, you can and should proceed to the next stage of the plan.

One other option I can think is to copy the department head on the email. That is a bit of a "nuclear option" and is likely to be interpreted as an aggressive and antagonistic move (nobody likes to be made to look bad in front of their supervisor), so probably it's too soon for that level of response. But it's something to consider in the event that you want to dial up the level of forcefulness of your response.

Hope this helps, and good luck!

6

You've got the facts right but maybe soften the "I/you" tone. A lot. You should sound as if you're being kind, and use words like please. It's up to them whether or not to grant this request so anything you can do to convince them they should is only going to help your case and further guarantee your success.

2

"When I was admitted to my graduate course, I was guaranteed funding for six years." that would have been supported by an offer letter, contract, or writing of some sort.

In your shoes, I would juxtapose that with the recent statements of "no funding" for next year.

Don't set any deadline dates or a request for reply or anything of that sort. The situation is serious enough without any additional pressure.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.