Waxing Philosophical About This

| Learning | October 6, 2014

(I am a receptionist at a university’s graduate education office, which processes the paperwork for people getting their Master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Most of my job is determining whether students’ problems are something I can easily explain and fix on the computer, or if they’re complicated enough for my boss to handle. Most of the people I talk to are much older than me and extremely condescending.)

Me: “[University] Office of Graduate and Professional Education. How may I help you?”

Caller: “Hello. I want to talk to [Boss] at the graduate office there. I just got my diploma and it has the WRONG DEGREE on it. I have been working on this Ph.D. for seven years now. I need it for my job, and when I show it to my boss it will say the WRONG DEGREE ON IT.”

Me: “Okay. I’ll need to check the system to see what program you were enrolled in and what your diploma was issued in. Could I have your name and [University] ID number?”

Caller: “My name is [Caller]. What’s this ID number now?”

Me: “Your [University] ID number. It should be on a number of documents we’ve sent, and if there is a problem with your diploma you’ll need it to order a new one. But it’s no problem. I can look up your ID from your name…Yes, found it. You’re [Caller]? Enrolled [Year]?”

Caller: “Yes, that’s me.”

Me: “Great! So let me read you the ID number, so that you’ll have it just in case you need to re-order your diploma.”

Caller: “I don’t really care about that right now. I don’t know if you heard me but my diploma has the WRONG DEGREE on it.”

Me: “Yes, sir, I understand. I’m looking up your program enrollment and diploma listing in the system so I can figure that out for you. But since you don’t know your ID number, and you will need it if you want to place a new diploma order, I figured I could save you a step and give it to you now. Do you have a pen and paper? It’s a pretty long number.”

Caller: “Okay, yes, if I’ll need it.” *pause* “Go ahead.”

Me: *slowly and clearly* “[11-digit ID number]. Do you need me to repeat that?”

Caller: “Yeah, go ahead.”

Me: *again slowly and clearly* “[11-digit ID number]. Do you have that?”

Caller: “Yeah. Now can you look at my transcript please? Because this says the WRONG DEGREE ON IT.”

Me: “I understand, sir. The system shows that you received your Ph.D. in sociology. Is that incorrect?”

Caller: “No, no, I’m enrolled in sociology. But this diploma says I have a degree in philosophy. Which I don’t. I need this degree for my JOB, and it has the WRONG DEGREE. I work in the field of SOCIOLOGY.”

Me: “Oh, dear. Okay, I’ve looked you up in the diploma system, and it does say that your diploma was issued in the field of sociology. Can you tell me exactly what it says on the diploma?”

Caller: “IT SAYS, [University] and its board of trustees hereby admit [Caller] to the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY. And my degree was in SOCIOLOGY. That’s no good, I can’t show that to my boss!”

Me: *starting to understand the problem* “Sir, does it say ‘sociology’ anywhere on your diploma?”

Caller: “Yes, but it says it after philosophy. Like it was some kind of minor or something!”

Me: “So your diploma says ‘Doctor of Philosophy in sociology?'”

Caller: “YES! And I need a Ph.D. in SOCIOLOGY to get this promotion!”

Me: “Sir, ‘Doctor of Philosophy’ means a Ph.D. That’s what Ph.D. stands for. I’s an abbreviation for ‘Doctor of Philosophy.’ Your diploma says that you have a Ph.D. in sociology. Don’t worry. Your boss will understand that your degree is in sociology and not philosophy. I know it’s confusing because philosophy is also a subject that—”

Caller: “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. I HAVE TO SHOW THIS. TO MY BOSS. Just let me talk to [Boss]. She’ll fix all of this.”

Me: “Sir, I can assure you that she will give you the exact same information I gave you. Your diploma says you have a Ph.D. — or Doctorate of Philosophy — in sociology. It just says it the long way.”

Caller: “Just let me talk to Dr. [Boss]! Dr. [Boss]! Dr. [BOSS]!”

Me: “Sir, if I could just—”

Caller: “Dr. [BOSS]! Dr. [BOSS]! Dr. [BOSS]!!!”

Me: “Sir, she’s in a meeting.”

Caller: *calmly* “Oh. Then I guess I’ll just reorder my diploma. Can I do that through you?”

Me: “Sir, when you reorder your diploma, it will say the exact same thing: Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D., IN SOCIOLOGY. I just want to let you know that before you spend $86 on a new diploma.”

Caller: “Oh, forget I asked. I just found diploma re-order on the [University] website by myself. Well, you said I’m in the diploma system now as sociology, so if I reorder it, I’m sure it’ll go through as sociology. I have to show this to my boss, you know.”

(I can hear him typing in the background.)

Me: “Um, yes, sir, but—”

Caller: “[University] ID number? Oh, yeah. Could you read me that number again, please? I didn’t write it down the first time; I thought I could just put it in my memory. I have a Ph.D., you know!”

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