I got behind in my program because of illness. My university says it's ok for me to have extra time, but the department head of my program doesn't like this because he thinks all students must get a certain time. He wants to cut my funding, which would force me out of the program. He doesn't even care that right now I am doing good work. He just wants me gone. He spreads false rumors about me to other professors. The graduate director does nothing and says it is not his place.

My adviser likes me, but I don't think he is willing to always stand up to the department head. It is late in my program and I can not start over at another university. Thank you for your advice.

Edit: Getting behind was not my fault and my adviser knew of my illness. How can I persuade the department head that he should forget about my illness and let me work now so I can finish?

  • 1. What do the university rules say about the situation where a student gets behind because of illness? 2. When you say "extra time," do you mean extra time and extra funding? Did the university say it's OK for you to have extra time and the proportionate extra funding? 3. Is the department head able to unilaterally cut your funding? You say he "wants" to but he presumably has not done so yet.
    – user72102
    Sep 6, 2017 at 20:02
  • @user1310503 The university says extra funding is ok too but they cannot force the department head. I need funding to continue. He has funding but he does not want to give it to me.
    – user113878
    Sep 6, 2017 at 20:18
  • Have you contacted the department head to inform him about your situation during or after your illness?
    – koalo
    Sep 6, 2017 at 21:34
  • 4
    My sympathies for your situation. At StackExchange, we need a specific question to answer, and your post does not give one. Even if you add "what should I do?" that is too broad, you need to specify what you want the outcome to be. I.e. "what should I do to achieve X?" Sep 7, 2017 at 12:50
  • 1
    Vote to close as "unclear what you're asking" exactly as what @user2390246 says.
    – Nobody
    Sep 7, 2017 at 13:06

2 Answers 2


Have you considered reaching out to your office of the Ombudsman/woman? Often times, they serve as the official/unofficial mediator when it comes to conflicts within an organization.

  • How would an Ombudsman stop the crazy behavior of the department head? There is no conflict, he just wants me gone.
    – user113878
    Sep 6, 2017 at 19:54
  • 4
    @user113878 - because they can show the department head the discrepancy between university policy and their actions in an authoritative fashion.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 6, 2017 at 19:57
  • @JonCuster I think policy is that the department head can do what he wants.
    – user113878
    Sep 6, 2017 at 20:17
  • 5
    @user113878 - in the US at least there are tools such as university policy and state and federal law that may come in to play. Find them out and use them. Particularly if missing time was a result of medical issues. Between you and an ombuds you may be able to shake the right branch to get a realization that there is a potentially serious legal liability.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 6, 2017 at 20:27
  • @JonCuster Thank you for the suggestion. I will check.
    – user113878
    Sep 6, 2017 at 22:10

in line with the previous answer, yes you should appeal, but if you truly have a department head as opposed to chair, you might have difficulty. At least in the US, heads wield much discretionary power while chairs serve as advocates. This may be partially why the graduate director isn't helping much. Why not make a candid, private, personal appeal to your head? It's often the case that people can be softened when you become a person rather than just another student. Come armed with evidence of all you've done and reiterate your intention to graduate.

  • 2
    At least in the US, heads wield much discretionary power while chairs serve as advocates. This is entirely institution-dependent in my experience. At my undergrad, the department head did indeed wield a significant amount of power. At my current uni, the department head is more of an administrative role -- individual faculty members tend to wield as much (sometimes more, depending on the situation) power as the head does. Part of this might just be due to personalities, but I suspect it really does depend on the university/department.
    – tonysdg
    Sep 7, 2017 at 2:20

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