As a glaring disclaimer, I did not write a thesis. As a BSE COS major, I opted to complete my independent research requirement during my junior year. However, I believe that my unusual identity as a thesis-less senior allows me to observe thesis season with an objective lens. First, let me say that I support the thesis as a quintessential part of the Princeton experience. For many, it is the first taste of serious research and an effective bridge to graduate level work. But after witnessing the full spectrum of attitudes and approaches to the senior thesis, I emerged with the firm conviction that the institution could be massively improved with one simple change. Specifically, there should be a single deadline across all departments.
In the current system, seniors in natural sciences and engineering endure up to one month in the throes of thesis crunch time as their peers from other departments snap triumphant photos outside Nassau Hall and boast about their newfound free time. This scenario lend itself to jealousy and resentment, and damages relationships at a critical time in our Princeton experiences, when we should be reconnecting with classmates after a long year of research and job applications before going off into a world where best friends don’t all live within walking distance. For all that we are told about the importance of forming lasting connections, the late thesis deadlines directly contradict this aim, preventing many seniors from leaving the lab and enjoying their last few weeks.
I propose a single thesis deadline on the third Monday after spring break. This date splits the difference between the earliest and latest theses and provides for an extensive three-week PTL period. I don’t think this would receive significant backlash from concentrators in departments with early deadlines. Even if it did, the extra time would allow for more meaningful research and help mitigate the hectic race to the finish line after spring break.
On the other side, I don’t quite believe that the natural science and engineering majors could not get their work done in three fewer weeks. Across all concentrations, people bear down when they need to, and the work will always expand to fill the time we allot for it. For a more precise argument, consider this: the three lost weeks in April/May would be exactly compensated for by the January term in the new proposed academic calendar. This may in fact be the critical time to implement a standard thesis deadline for that very reason. Undergraduate institutional memory is, by definition, short, and once the new calendar is put in place, people may forget that all theses were once completed in three fewer weeks.
In short, a single thesis deadline would eliminate negative feelings among friends at a time when strengthening bonds and spending time with classmates should be a priority. Under the proposed revision to the academic calendar, the extra weeks in January would more than compensate for the lost time after the new standard deadline, as the January period would be devoid of coursework and other semester-time obligations.
Graham Turk is a senior in Computer Science from Old Westbury, N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.