Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Single Student Complaint Can Warp A School





By Professor Doom

     Time and again I’ve discussed how faculty are now terrified of administrators, and it’s possible I’ve given the wrong idea here. It’s quite possible administrators aren’t out “to get” faculty, but the simple fact remains that campuses are loaded down with administrators, and they’re desperate to look like they’re doing something.

     In times past, most administrative positions were part-time positions, temporarily held by faculty, who returned to teaching as soon as possible, often holding administrative and teaching positions simultaneously. This is because most (legitimate) administrative positions don’t need to be full time jobs. The first week of semester you need full time administrators to deal with the sudden influx of students. Mid semester, you need these guys to set up the class assignments next semester. End semester, you need them again for various duties that only occur right then.

     But other than those three weeks? I doubt they have more than an hour or two of (legitimate) work to do each week. The big hiring spree of administration the last few decades has overloaded campuses with very highly paid administrators…with nothing to do.

      And so, we have pizza parties, costing $500 perhaps, organized by a dozen $100,000 a year administrators (been to too many of these to count), bizarre sex-themed workshops put on by an otherwise invisible fiefdom, or gay rights administrators trying to change the language to become less comprehensible, among many everyday examples of the madness infesting our campuses.

      Faculty are terrified of administration not only because of their power, but also because there are many of them, eager to look like they’re “doing something,” and we don’t want to end up in the crosshairs. Even though actual good leadership is often best done by doing nothing, administrators aren’t good leaders, generally, and thus engage in action even when the obviously best response is to do nothing.

      Now that I’ve set the stage for higher education today, let’s go over to Clemson University, which has a student dining center that regularly holds food-related themed events. I’ve eaten at a few student resident “cafeterias” and they are pretty nice places, even if “the freshman 15” is a bit of a myth. That said, I can see how eating at the same place every day can become dull, so I don’t fault the students for wanting a little frivolity here.

      The theme nights go along your typical cliché lines. For example, St. Patrick’s Day offered somewhat Irish-related food, like corned beef, while the BBQ Bash offered “a plate of mighty fine fixins” to the students—not just the food, but the advertisements and other “fixins” go along with the theme.

     Maximum Mexican Night was, of course, Mexican themed, and a student complained that the sombreros and such were culturally insensitive. I’ve written before of how students are getting incredibly thin-skinned on campus, to the point that comedians won’t even perform on campus anymore. 

     “He told me to get over it!”

--a student that complained about a “pornographic” drawing I made is still upset that after I apologized and promised not to do it again, I dared to tell her that maybe, after months of anger, it was time to get over it already. So, she went over my head to complain some more. I still maintain that it was honest advice she should consider taking, but there doesn’t seem to be any adults around to serve her as a role model. Three months later, and she’s still angry…what will happen with her when she makes it to the real world?


     Part of the reason students complain about the stupidest things anymore is they’ve picked up on how the leadership of our campuses is non-existent, in much the way a toddler figures out which parent will allow misbehavior. We don’t have adults running our campuses, we have overpaid stuffed suits bumbling around. So, for much the same reason our campuses are being loaded down with lazy rivers and climbing walls, we have campuses that are hyper-responsive to student complaints.

     A lone student complains that the Mexican themed event, although perfectly acceptable the previous dozens of times it was offered, is now “culturally insensitive,” and it’s game over for Maximum Mexican night.

      An administrator hears the complaint, and desperate to prove worthy of his secure, high paying job, leaps into action. So that none can claim I’m cherry-picking what administrators say to make them look stupid, I include the response in full:

Dear Clemson Family,

Yesterday afternoon, University Housing & Dining intended to celebrate Mexican cuisine with a themed dining event at our Harcombe and Schilletter locations. Unfortunately, the event displayed a flattened cultural view of Mexican culture.
In the future, University Housing & Dining welcomes the opportunity to work with Hispanic and Latino campus groups as well as community members, staff and faculty to better celebrate the food and culture of this region and better educate the Clemson community. If you would like to engage in conversation about a future event, please contact University Housing & Dining at clemsonhome@clemson.edu.

It is the mission of University Housing & Dining to create supportive and challenging environments that enrich and nourish lives. We failed to live out our mission yesterday, and we sincerely apologize. We will continue to work closely with our food service provider to create dining programs that align with Clemson University’s core values.

Sincerely,
Doug Hallenbeck, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs

---Dr. Hallenbeck’s Ph.D., incidentally, is in the administrative field of “student counselling and personnel services.” I’ve written before of administrative degrees, strange, incestuous degree programs with risible coursework, although I can’t comment on his degree specifically.

      I really feel the need to point out how excessive administration is in higher education today. America has over 300,000,000 citizens and has a single vice president, just the one. So, one vice president is good enough for a whole country. Let’s look at Clemson.

     Clemson has around 22,000 students. Within this one department fiefdom, Student Affairs, there isn’t just a president. There isn’t just a vice president. The vice president has associate vice presidents. These associate vice presidents have various levels to them, including senior. This guy is of the senior sort of the associate sort of the vice sort…of president. 

      And that’s what this guy is, a Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs. The gentle reader might recall that I proposed, as a simple measure, to simply get rid of all administrators whose title is three times as long, or longer, than their name. Layers, and layers, and layers, of thick, fatty, administration are clogging up our campuses, I promise you, and it’s time to do some prejudicial cleaning out.

     If we would just follow that guideline, this guy wouldn’t even exist at Clemson in this ridiculous capacity, and then Clemson wouldn’t have embarrassed itself here.

     Naturally, this apology has received some press, and responses have been uniform in their derision of the administrator for his action. There are many, but I’ll include my favorite:


      Seriously, what we need to do is laugh, and laugh, and laugh at the administration ruling over our campuses today, and keep laughing until they understand that we’ve figured out we don’t need them and they are hurting our students, hurting higher education, and they should just go away.

      I know, that’s a silly dream on my part…but this is our best bet for saving higher education, short of ending the student loan scam.