Until reading Ariadne Mytelka’s letter, it never entered my mind to challenge the concept of the senior thesis.
Being a public high school graduate, I struggled my first year and a half and then, in tortoiselike fashion, improved steadily through my upperclass years.
My thesis subject, the Napoleonic legend (yuck), was mercury in a bottle, and should have been challenged by my thesis adviser. It wasn’t. I spent the entire year working diligently on it, including spring break. Each chapter was submitted to my adviser on schedule. As a scholarship jock who worked in the dining halls to offset expenses, I asked my mother to type my thesis, for which I remain grateful.
When I received my grade, my adviser’s comments still ring in my ear: “Mr. Fulcomer, your title is awkward (he had approved it), the pages are not numbered, and the work is little more than a series of paraphrased quotes.” Of course he was correct, but that should have been pointed out much earlier. His “gift” to me was a 2 minus; not a bad grade, but it meant that honors had flown out the window.
As if that were not enough, I had a roommate who struggled all year with his thesis topic but had a compassionate and understanding adviser. Six weeks before the thesis was due, the topic was revised, the thesis rewritten, and he was awarded a 1 for his efforts; a lesson in reverse schadenfreude.
If given the option to pass on the thesis, I would have jumped at it.