Thursday, July 27, 2006

The grinding nature of university bureaucracy

As a research postgraduate student, my interactions with my university are thankfully generally confined to my periodic meetings with my supervisor which are always very helpful.

Occasionally, however, university bureaucracy intrudes to generally ruin my day/week/month and remind me that postgraduate students fit somewhere below vermin in the hierarchy as far as the authorities are concerned.

In the past couple of weeks the university has been threatening to unenroll me for not filling in some paperwork I never knew had to be filled in, and that I never received. Four months later they send me a letter to tell me that I have not filed the said paper work. My response: "Huh?". I answer via email (as requested in the letter) promply explaining, ask a question whether I should really submitting a report this year as I am a part-time student, and submitted one last year. I point to info provided for postgrads on admin website. No response.

Three weeks later more correspondence arrives, via email, stating I will be unenrolled if I do not submit said report within two weeks. This time I call. I leave my phone number. I contact my department. I copy my supervisor in, who tells me that this is not unusual.

I finally get a response to my query, as outlined below:

Q: "The website states....I was expecting to be due to submit that report next year."
A: "Well, the website is wrong. The regulation actually is...."

Okay, so we are mind readers now. Oh yeah, and no apology for providing wrong information and no stated intent to fix the website to reflect said policy.

It is not the fault of the person I was dealing with, this is the general attitude of my whole university, which considers itself so prestigious that we should consider ourselves lucky that they let us in the door at all.

I would also like to note the serious consequences such errors can have. Recently an international postgraduate student from another university in my city was placed in a detention centre because the delay in processing her extension meant that her (momentary) lapsed enrolment resulted in a lapsed student visa and immigration moved in quickly to lock her up. I sincerely hope she received an apology, both from the university and from immigration authorities.

An email from Bosnia...

I got an email from a friend and a colleague in Bosnia a couple of days ago. We both try to keep up optimism for a better future in the region, but her recent email is full of hopelessness:

"every day a bomb is thrown at a house of a returnee, every day new grave sites are uncovered, every day tears...that's how we live here..."

I hope she won't mind me sharing her words of despair. I know she is right. But I, and we, have to have hope. What is the alternative?