Student Rights and Responsibilities
One of the most uncomfortable positions for program directors is mediating a dispute between a student and his/her advisor. The most serious cases usually occur when a student seeks to leave an advisor’s laboratory for another advisor, or leave the program in favor of another program. This scenario creates a classic conflict between a student’s responsibility to his advisor or program who may have invested time and money in the student and the right of a student to seek a change if he/she becomes seriously disgruntled with the current arrangement.
It may be difficult but we must understand that the overwhelming majority of students do not seek such changes lightly and usually are quite fearful of being ostracized by other faculty in the department. They are also fearful of losing considerable time that they have already invested in the program. On the other hand, one must realize that the advisor or program may be caught completely unaware by the request for change since many students are very reluctant to openly express their dissatisfaction to their advisor, and thus understandably the advisor may feel betrayed and upset with the student. In these cases it is usually best not to affix guilt to either the student or the advisor unless blatant misbehavior is found which is rare. Try to seek reconciliation if possible but be prepared to assist the student in finding another advisor if reconciliation is not possible, and assuage the faculty member if necessary. We should not admit students if we have concerns about their abilities and their fit in the program.