by Alex Tranquada
USC–There is perhaps no moment more important in the life of a PhD student than their thesis defense. A thesis represents years of original work and study, and its defense is the final hurdle before the finish line of graduation. For USC’s PhD candidates, however, that finish line just moved a little further away with the addition of a new program component: defending their thesis from physical attack.
Traditionally, thesis defense is a purely intellectual exercise, with candidates answering questions about their research, methodology, and conclusions. Under USC’s revamped program, they will now also have to prevent a printed copy of their thesis from being stolen and burned.
“USC is all about preparing its students for the real world,” said David St. John, a faculty member in Dornsife’s Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature program. “It would be irresponsible of the university to focus solely on expressing one’s ideas through the written word. At any moment, you could be mugged in an alley, or your writing nook could be beset on all sides by masked attackers wielding quarterstaffs. After going through this new program, that won’t be anything our students can’t handle.”
Details about the exact nature of USC’s hired attackers, and the weapons they will use, have been kept deliberately vague, so as not to take away the element of surprise.
Candidates will be required to print a single copy of their thesis before deleting all digital copies under faculty supervision. They must then carry the physical copy with them at all times until the attack commences. If they successfully defend their work, candidates graduate with full honors; otherwise, the only remaining copy of their work is burned before their eyes. Physical defense takes place only after a successful intellectual defense, to minimize unnecessary injury.
“You’re one of them, aren’t you? Aren’t you? Get back, stay the fuck back,” Marshall Management and Organization PhD candidate Francisco Garcia responded when asked about the new requirement.