Ramzy Baroud’s Jan. 16 article, “Political biases trash lauded Ph.D. research,” fails to make the point that thunders from its headline, and it fails to give any substantive support to Ph.D. candidate Deepak Tripathi — the primary subject of the piece.
Baroud’s article reports vague inferences and erroneous statements, while stating that Tripathi’s work was “well-received” and lauded by some intellectuals. This is hardly proof of Tripathi’s Ph.D. thesis worthiness. Intellectuals also have biases, and a book that is well received in its intended market is not proof of its correctness.
Baroud states that the “viva,” or oral examination of a doctoral thesis, normally takes an hour; this is not true. Vivas usually take one to three hours. A duration of just under two hours is no indication of bias. Tripathi’s reported description of his viva as a “sustained interrogation” is not unusual, as the purpose of the viva is to discover whether the Ph.D. candidate’s work stands up to scrutiny. On the other hand, his assertion that he was not allowed to answer is worrying.
Tripathi’s reported assertion that the internal examiner hadn’t read his thesis because of the absence of marks or signs of handling is a stretch. Some people make notes directly on the material they have been given to review; others use notebooks.
Similarly, the accusation that the external examiner had only read part of Tripathi’s work — because of the “angry notes on about a third of the pages, then nothing” — is meaningless. A thesis is like a novel; if the first third of a novel fails to interest the reader, it will be put down at that point. Similarly, if the first third of a thesis does not make the case that the rest of the work relies upon, then further notes are hardly needed.
The article also delves into the realm of insinuation. The external examiner, a former military officer, is said to have joined “the Northern Irish security service” — a truly amazing act as no such organization exists. Security in Northern Ireland during the conflict was the responsibility of MI5 and the Special Branch of the RUC, Northern Ireland’s police force.
As I am Northern Irish and interested in the Northern Irish conflict, am I unworthy to comment by Baroud’s criteria?
Baroud’s closing assertion that disagreement by an examiner with a military background amounts to government interference is both risible and worthy of a conspiracy theorist. Tripathi might have been treated very badly by his examiners, but Baroud fails to provide one piece of evidence to support this point.
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