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Unsung Heroes of the Thesis War

By Juliette N. Kayyem

HAVE you hugged a thesis-writing senior today?

Theses are not just produced by individual students, alone with their computers, fighting those annoying habits of sleeping and eating. In reality, a thesis is the product of the entire Thesis Network, encompassing boyfriends and girlfriends, roommates and tutors, dining hall workers and Office of Information Technology informants, computer paper salespeople, Christie's cashiers and courses that grant senior hourlies.

I know. I am part of this network. Like the spectators who hand cups of water to the runners in the Boston Marathon, we in the network guard the health and sanity of thesis writers.

We dilligently follow the Thesis Network code of ethics, which commands total disregard for one's own academic fortunes during the two weeks preceding the thesis deadline, as well as strict adherence to the following Network Responsibilities.

Provide food, cigarettes, soda and other Elements Necessary for Human Sustenance. The patient must be kept alive. Remind the patient that too many Pop Tarts is not good for one's digestion. If friends don't smoke, don't get them started. If they do smoke, remind them to light the tobacco side.

Make wake-up calls. Sleep is a privilege during the final hours. When writers attempt to "catch a couple of minutes," make sure they get only a couple of minutes, not a second more nor less. Thesis writers possess a mental calendar that must never be violated, lest the thesis suffer. As a Thesis Network member, you must be constantly vigilant.

Remind them that they are enrolled in courses. Despite the omnipresence of the thesis, seniors must enroll in actual courses. Petty obligations such as midterms and papers must be attended to. Sign your friends up for sections and keep them informed of nettlesome duties like attendance.

Proofread the thesis. This is surely the most cumbersome of duties. If the thesis is well written, proof reading can be an issue of spell-checking and some sentence structure correction.

If the thesis is--well--troublesome, you are left with a dilemma. If time permits, you might offer some constructive criticism. If time is short, smile and don't tell the truth. You might imbue your friend with such confidence that at least the conclusion will be sound.

Find footnotes.Something about the thesis writer's predicament makes you feel rude if you do not consent to being their slave. "Problem? No problem. Are you kidding?" you say as you rummage through the stacks of Widener for the first time since Reading Period to find the all-important place of publication.

Be a confidante. Nights can become lonely, days can become long and thesis writers can become emotionally disturbed. It is your responsibility--no, your duty--to lie. Tell your friends that the end is approaching. Tell them that nobody is doing anything interesting--ever; that there are no parties, no good movies. "It's really dead here" should be reiterated throughout the homestretch.

Prepare for the Day Of. Have ink, computer paper, a laser printer, a binder, wads of money, a title page and running shoes ready for the final race to turn that baby in. Watch the writer's eyes start to open. Watch a smile creep across the writer's pale, emaciated face.

Now, watch the unholy possession take hold as the senior proclaims that no one may touch the "masterpiece." (Masterpiece is defined as "any written work longer than forty pages which is laser printed on high-quality rag paper.") Forget content, this baby looks good.

THESIS writers have short memories, so you will hear recollections of their final hours in a grandiose style that resembles tales of a war fought long ago. What betrayal!

Ah, well, every war has its unsung heroes, and we know who we are.

By the way, I am publishing the Thesis Network code of ethics for a particular reason. You see, I'm starting my own magnum opus next semester, and I'm going to be needing a little network of my own...

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