It’s not as though I don’t have anything better to do with my time. I tend to write about things going on in my life and recently that has been about deadlines, procrastination and the tenuous coexistence of the two. It boils down to just-in-time time management and at this point in my life, it’s working for me. Although any just-in-time system has an Achilles heal know as the “unexpected,” as long as time reserves are available, everything somehow manages to get done.
I am knee deep in the mid-semester crunch. I just finished the second and third to last major assignments due before spring break. The last paper is due tomorrow evening… I’ll start it (and finish it) tonight. So far, so good - right? Well, not exactly. The unexpected arrived in the mail yesterday - I should have expected it.
Sacramento State has, like other universities, a procedure for attaining a degree. Of course it entails the required curriculum and the number of years needed to accomplish said course work, but there are other formalities as well. Some are rather perfunctory: Ordering graduation announcements; arranging for a cap and gown; reserving space at the actual commencement ceremony; etc. Others are administrative and have strict deadlines. Such is the case with the Bachelor’s Degree Application.
Surprisingly enough, it’s a relatively simple form. It asks the future graduate to list the classes taken that are required for his or her diploma. Since the application is due more than one full year before the student’s projected graduation date, many of the classes listed will be taken during the student’s senior year. Officials in the admissions office have told me that the purpose of the one-year plus lead-time is to be sure there are no surprises; that the student will be able to finish his or her course work without returning for classes that might have been overlooked.
I submitted my application on April 26, 2006. After talking with various advisers - whose job is to advise, expertly, one would hope - I had collected my coursework completed and that which was still required and listed it thusly on my Bachelor’s Degree Application - Graduating class: Spring 2007. In my mailbox yesterday arrived my Graduation Evaluation, almost exactly 11 months after submitting my application. It should be quite clear by now that if all went as planned you wouldn’t be reading this. Apparently, I am still required to take two upper division electives. Color me surprised!
I immediately located my California State University, Sacramento 2004-2006 Catalog and turned to my already dog-eared major. Much to my chagrin, they were right. Although not absolutely clear, knowing what they want in retrospect, I can identify what they are talking about. However, at least three academic advisers and three other department advisers missed it. Everyone who looked at my course work, both completed and planned, indicated that it satisfied the requirements. Finally, seven weeks before graduation, they notify me that I still need two classes to obtain my degree.
Now, I’m not unreasonable and I absolutely accept my share in the responsibility, but I have issues with the school as well. Perhaps the most significant is the amount of time that elapsed before I was made aware of this oversight. Had I been notified just two months earlier, I could have adjusted my final semester’s schedule to accommodate these courses. That would have given the powers that be a full nine months to get to my application, inform me that I have not met the requirement and give me the chance to rectify the situation in time.
I won’t even go into the performance of the "advising" system. A timely return of my Degree Evaluation would have mitigated the institutional incompetence. So what. Take the two classes next semester and quit whining, right? Wrong! The deadline to apply for financial aide has passed - I didn’t apply because I thought I was done. Applications for Grad school (including law school) are fast approaching. Besides, last I checked, you have to have an undergraduate degree before entering postgraduate studies. Where it asks for my graduation date on the application, I will have to list December 2007. Lastly, there is the time and cost; both would have been non-incremental had I known before this semester started - both heavily incremental now.
This is a taxpayer-funded institution. If you’re a California resident, these are your tax dollars at work. Student fees pay for only a small percentage of the education of the University of California or California State University student’s tuition. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. When the CSU administration continues to stonewall the faculty on contract negotiations while the board of directors gives university presidents and other upper level administration exorbitant raises - and while raising student fees nine out of the last ten years - is it any wonder where their priorities are?
The Office of Degree Evaluations is only open to students by phone from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and for drop in appointments during the same hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Oh, and they’re not available at all on the third week of the month. Yup, this week. Next week is spring break and I am told that the Office of Degree Evaluations will be open. I’ll believe it when I see it. I don’t know what my options are right now, but I intend to find out - soon. I am confident that one way or another, I will persevere - know that!
I am nowhere near done with this. Once I get my situation straightened out, I will be doing a little research… I am curious about just how common this is. My guess is that what happened in my case is far more common than anyone knows. Right now it’s time to be nice. There will come a time, however, when it will be time not to be nice - and I know how to do that too.
As advertised, the department responsible for degree evaluations was closed today, however, the academic advising office was not. This office is responsible for helping lower division students nail down their general education requirements. Although I knew I stood a good chance of being redirected, I felt I had to do something... time is not on my side. After pleading my case to an understanding, sympathetic, but powerless adviser, a supervisor intervened with a genuine willingness to resolve my plight.
As luck would have it, before working in the academic advising office, she worked as a degree evaluator for 12 years. She knew what to do and wasted no time getting right to work. Yhe upshot is that all hope is not lost, indeed, there is reason to be optimistic. However, as helpful as she is, she does not possess a magic wand - there is a great deal of coalition building, networking and plain, old-fashioned work ahead of me. We have a plan and it is already off the ground.
This is not her job. She has every right to pass me off to a different department. What she said after helping me put together this plan was music to my ears: "If you run into any problems or roadblocks, you come straight to me... we're going to get you out of here this semester." I have all the faith in the world that with her help, my determination and just a tiny bit of luck, we'll do just that.