At the end of yesterday evening, a family
friend told me she’d sent an e-mail to the Registrar’s office at AUC on my
behalf. She’d shown them my blog entry Research
Fellowship: A Comedy in Three Acts, in which I describe my first day at
AUC, and she showed me their response.
Basically they accused me of using the
confusion and stress over the move to fabricate my experiences. They
responded specifically to the two parts they most objected to in the entry, the
bit about the Swedish student and my claims that I was misdirected over who
needed to sign my forms.
I can’t reply to them directly because I
didn’t make a formal complaint through official channels about my experience –
neither did I feel the need to do so. What
happened was a function of the move as a whole, not of any individual.
(I also wasn’t supposed to see that
they called me a liar, actually, and I suspect if they’d been contacting me
directly they would have worded their sentiments differently.) But I’ll be darned if I can’t make my personal feelings known on my personal
Now, a psychology book I once read informed
me that the best way to get out of any argument is to find something to agree
with in the charges thrown at you, apologize for that part, but know in your
head that you don’t need to give ground on the parts that matter to you.
With that in mind, this is what I have to
say: I am so sorry I failed to use pseudonyms in that particular blog
entry. It was a mistake and an oversight on my part, especially considering I’m very conscientious about using them in other entries. I have now changed all the names to protect the identities of
those who may feel I was maligning their performance, and in no way did I wish
to cause tension or distress for those individuals. The move has been a
difficult experience for the whole AUC community and if tempers were
occasionally frayed, I can understand that we are all in the same boat together
just trying to get through.
I am also extremely sorry that I made it
appear that AUC is the only university or organization to have administrative
problems that make it difficult for students or new members to register and acclimate.
Universities are by nature didactic, bureaucratically-steeped entities, fomenting complications for anyone who wishes to join their community
or maintain a connection with it. Again, the advantage of such bureaucratic nonsense perpetuated in large organizations is that it holds
true for all, so the whole community is in it together when being bounced from
office to office and signing form after form. I often find that commiserating about these troubles ultimately brings about solidarity in the group, so maybe it can be seen as a good thing.
Moreover, anybody who’s ever met me knows
that I am in no way an anarchic iconoclast troublemaker. I am the biggest
goodie-two-shoes there ever was. I will bake cookies for the people in my
department, mentor prospective students who are trying to figure out the various
intricate processes of applying to graduate school overseas, befriend those
looking lost and lonely on the first day, and sit through the tedious
machinations of staff meetings as a student representative, all because one thing that is really important
to me is contributing to the well-being of the overall university community in
which I live and work. The very last thing I want to do is alienate
members of staff in the new community I am trying to join.
Basically I just want to be all-around
liked. With that in mind, publishing my frustrations with AUC in such a
public venue may have been a counterproductive move.
On the other hand (and at this point you may wish to picture me sharpening the Battleaxe of Discontent, but only in my head since I wouldn’t dare bring these things to the administration’s attention): I’m certainly
not the only one complaining about the poor organization of the move and the
meager welcome received by students on arrival. I am not the only one
saying that AUC probably should have waited until the paint was dry and all the
windows were in place.
As far as my specific “made up” complaints
go: the Swedish student was asking for a form that virtually every other
University in the world refers to as a transcript. I’ve forgotten the
exact term that the Registrar’s office told him they use at AUC in order to
obtain the magic slip of paper, but I have to say if you’re going to use a
different term for something that everybody else calls the same thing then for
goodness sakes it doesn’t pay to get angry when people come along and get
confused. You might as well just call it what everyone else calls it and save yourself the trouble. It doesn’t have to be so fraught: at my undergraduate college, Sarah Lawrence, our academic
advisers were formally known as “Dons.” Aside from the fact that we
always got a good laugh over how mildly pretentious this affectation was (not to
mention many mafia-related jokes), nobody ever looked at me askance if I happened
to call my Don my Adviser.
In addition to the pedantry of that particular
little exercise in terminology, watching this young man’s increasing
humiliation and frustration while being stonewalled by the people working that
day was not a confidence-building moment for a new student still wet behind the
ears such as myself.
Secondly, I am completely bemused by the
claim that I was missing signatures on my letter of invitation. The best
I can say is that it is baldly false. The letter was carbon-copied to the
Office of the Vice Provost, my Department Chair, the Registrar, Business
Support Services and the New York Office. Below that there is a space for
MY signature to indicate I’ve accepted the invitation, not for theirs. Even if I wanted to
get the signatures of all the people the letter was cc’ed to, it would take
weeks. Such eminent people don’t have time to sign the letters of visiting research
fellows – and indeed nowhere is that required.
What we have here is an obvious case of
divergent perceptions. I see the events
of that day one way, the administration takes a different view. These kinds of things happen all the time.
My hope is that these additional comments won’t cement me as the
black sheep on campus. After all, whether or not people at AUC read
this blog, it’s not intended for them or in any way as a criticism.
It’s just a reflection of my experiences, and if I complain a lot it is due to my weakness and lack of competence to deal with averse
situations, not because of anything any other individual has done deliberately.
In terms of winning new friends and influencing people, if I can’t manage to charm everybody in the Registrar’s office, then at least I know my ol’ buddy the fake dead body in the corner of my hotel hallway will back me up.