Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When It's Time Not To Be Nice, Part Deux - Updated

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.

***Update***

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.

17 comments:

carli said...

That flat out SUCKS. I know you've worked so hard, and to have it come to this is just plain wrong. It's going to cost you money, it's going to put off plans you had. They should have gotten you the information sooner, and the advisers should have told you they didn't have time to look over your coursework carefully. I know many colleges have so many weird categories of classes you have to fulfill, and it can be easy to overlook something.

Can you take the two classes this summer? That's what I did--I graduated and walked with one class left to take (not because I messed up my form, but because I had dropped science twice and was a terrible student) and took it over the next three weeks. Not ideal, but if you're applying to grad school for the fall, it may be an option.

Good luck.

kenju said...

I cannot imagine how the advisors (all of them) could let this happen. If I were you, I would be writing a letter to the head(s) of the department and perhaps the pres. of the school, to complain about it. Do your research before you write the letters, so you can tell them if it is something that happens all too frequently. I am sorry, Mike.

Jennifer said...

You're showing great wisdom and restraint here. If it were me, I would have undoubtedly gone off on somebody at this point and done something embarrassing and regretful. I need to work on my patience.
That really just sucks, Mike. I hate that for you :(

Bob-kat said...

Oh my, that sounds awful. How can so many advisors (whose job it is to know this stuff) have been so off the mark. I think a complaint is in order once you have sorted yourself out! wishing you loads of luck. This is a situation that completely sucks but I am gald someone is helping you there.

Veda said...

Isn't it nice to meet someone within a system who is willing to wield their power, even when not in their current typical directions? Good for you for taking that chance and locating the person that can make things happen. Even if that person doesn't have a magic wand, there might be an easy-button (like in the ads) hidden in a bottom desk-drawer. Here's hoping and good luck.

BarBarA said...

WOW! Yeah color me surprised that it took them so long to catch up to this "minor detail". I wish you the best in getting th is straightened out. I would really like to have a little on-line blog celebration for you in honor of your graduation...would you be up for that?

Nikki-ann said...

I'm glad to hear somebody was good enough to help you. I hope you manage to get everything straightened out and that you graduate as expected.

Take care :)

Lacey said...

That does, as often previously stated, completely and utterly SUCK. Why have anyone at ALL sign a peice of paper if their signature means nothing? Can't they be held responsible for this?!

I hope you do get out this semester. I'll miss seeing you in class, of course, but I wouldn't wish more Sac State on my worst enemy...

I wonder if I can check up on my degree application. I want out!!

Carmi said...

The stupidity of bureaucracy never fails to amaze and anger me. I am so sorry that you have to go through this, Mike. Thankfully you have found an advocate who clearly doesn't subscribe to the mideiocrity that seems to define her administrative world.

I'm pulling for you, man.

LADY LUXIE said...

That's a very nice person you ran into. Her words are precious...like sapphire stones...yes.. like finding sapphire stones in a puddle of mud..

oh' I wish to meet somebody like her today..or tomorrow..to find someone saying something..genuine...

Saur♥Kraut said...

My god, it's AMAZING that you're only a year away from your degree. Time flies, doesn't it?

Government / publicly funded institutions are a joke. It is always tremendously frustrating to deal with anything run by such organizations - employees don't give a damn because they don't have to.

Wordnerd said...

I've got fingers and toes crossed for you. So glad you found an angel of mercy!

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

that sucks - not going to give any cliches - but know someone a few thousand miles away is rooting for you

Anna said...

I will be thinking of you...

BTW, love your visual DNA! :)

kenju said...

Hope her plan works, Mike. What happened to you is not at all fair.

Michele sent me.

Azgreeneyes said...

Sooo glad to hear that you have found someone willing to help! My hubby has run into a somewhat similar bind. While he was in the Marine Corps and stationed overseas, he completed about 18 credit hours at the University of Maryland-Asian Division (or something like that) as a start on his degree. Flash forward to now, and apparently those credits will not apply towards his degree, even though they are the EXACT same classes the community college requires! Good luck with all, Karen

Hre from Michele's today with my long winded commentations!

Mustang Girl said...

ahhh you are taking me back to before I graduated from Sac State in 2005. But you were totally blessed to meet that supervisor. From my experience, my co-worker's experience from working in Admn & Records the campus is very much brushing you off to the next person you have to talk to. Best of luck to you!! And congrats on your upcoming Graduation!