Wednesday, March 14, 2012

From the Annals of Academic Pranks: "Disacknowledgements"

This one ended badly for the prankster. A "Disacknowledgements" section in your thesis / dissertation is apparently not protected by the First Amendment [via Scott Lemieux].

[That this case involves my academic discipline -- Materials -- makes it doubly delicious!]

In the spring of 1999, Plaintiff brought his thesis, "The Morphology of Calcium Carbonate: Factors Affecting Crystal Shape," to his committee for final approval. Plaintiff did not include an acknowledgments section of any kind in the document that he delivered to his committee. All three committee members signed an approval page stating, "This Thesis of Christopher Brown is approved." (Emphasis added.) In accordance with UCSB rules, that approval page became the second page of the thesis.

After he had obtained the signature page from his committee, Plaintiff inserted an additional, two-page section into his thesis without the knowledge or consent of his committee members. That section, entitled "Disacknowledgements," began: "I would like to offer special Fuck You's to the following degenerates for of being an ever-present hindrance during my graduate career...." It then identified the Dean and staff of the UCSB graduate school, the managers of Davidson Library, former California Governor Wilson, the Regents of the University of California, and "Science" as having been particularly obstructive to Plaintiff's progress toward his graduate degree. Plaintiff later explained that he had not revealed the section to the members of his committee because he feared that they would not approve it.