Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Both Sides of Bureaucracy

I'm disappointed in myself today. I had a meeting with a student. It's part of my medium cheesiness that I meet with students, and this was part of that role.

Anyway, this student raised a question, and I answered it by suggesting he go to talk to the chair of another department because a specific requirement is associated with that department. And the student reraised the question, and I said the same.

The student raised a question about something else, and I suggested that he go to talk to a student services office, because they handle that issue. And the student reraised the question, and I said the same.

The student was getting frustrated. On one level, yes, it's a pain to work through the bureaucracy of the university. But on another level, when you're dealing with a large institution, you should know that most folks on the ground really don't have much power over other areas of the institution.

I don't think I did a great job.

I was able to offer the student some help with two problems, but rather than having me do the petition there, he wanted to take it home to fill out. And I let him. But now I regret that, because I'm pretty sure he'll miss filling it out in a way that will get through the bureaucracy and someone else will have to redo it. And that will be frustrating.

The student had met earlier with some other people, and now I'm wondering why they didn't meet with the student about the problems I can't help with. Did the student not ask them? Or did the student not get the answer he wanted and want me to give a different answer?

I need to figure out how to handle this sort of problem more effectively. I really felt like a faceless bureaucrat, and I don't think I should. I really am trying to be helpful to the student, but it sure didn't feel like I actually was, or that the student felt I was.

And I have to agree with the student: we don't have that many courses open for next semester now. Most are full. It's late in the game to be signing up for courses and with budget cuts, we're running fewer courses since we've had faculty retirements with no replacements. We simply have no warm bodies who can teach Subject X right now.

We're also not super friendly for people who have strict work schedules. If you have to take a course in the late afternoon because of work, then that might be difficult, especially if it's a course that's offered in one section a semester. On the other hand, if you can take it late in the afternoon for your work, the student I talked to earlier who works afternoons can't take it. There's no way I can figure to serve every student schedule with our size program and in person classes. (I know some folks will suggest that we go on-line. I will so want to quit if we do. I don't know if I'll have the courage to quit, though.)

On the other side of the bureaucracy thing:

Last summer, I was supposed to get a fasting blood test to test for blood sugar level and lipids. And I actually did that.

The triglycerides were high, but other than that, everything was pretty good. I got a letter that told me as much. The letter went on to say that I should cut down on carbs, specifying "pop," a word I find ridiculous in the context of beverages. Seriously. "Pop." Gah. (It's a dialect thing; it just sounds wrong.) The letter also said I should try to exercise. (Yes, obviously a template letter. Certain results pop out a certain letter [there! That's how "pop" is supposed to be used!], and it doesn't matter if your record says that you say that you exercise, because it's assumed that I'm lying about that anyway. It's also automatically assumed that I'm lying about how much I drink and my risk of pregnancy.)

The letter also said that I should get another test in 3-6 months, and that I should call the lab to make an appointment. So it's a form letter. I don't know if it really matters if I get the test. I have a feeling that no matter what the results are, I'll get another letter saying that I have to get it retested in a couple more months, because once you're caught up in the testing thing, you're caught up and you HAVE TO HAVE THE TEST OR YOU'LL DIE, or get scary letters implying as much.

So, it's six months, almost. I've been thinking about calling. I fret a lot about medical stuffs. I called the lab, and while I was on hold waiting, I felt like I wanted to throw up. Ugh. But the lab said that no, I couldn't make an appointment. I needed to call the doctor and get her to do something by way of an order, and then I wouldn't need to make an appointment anyway.

So then I called the clinic office, and waited on hold, wanting to throw up again. I did finally get through, and talked to a person who promised to talk to a nurse who will do something else and check this or that and then call me to let me know I should go get the test. I didn't get the call this afternoon, but we'll see. Maybe tomorrow.

Yep, I feel pretty much bureaucratized.


  1. Anonymous10:18 AM

    Part of our job is telling people who they should talk to about things. It isn't our job to do everything. You did fine.

    I had to cut down on carbs for a medical problem I have and it really did make a huge difference in my energy levels and unexpectedly my emotional state. Switching to whole foods (whole grains only, no HFCS, etc.) wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. A slow transition was easiest for me. (I apologize if you've already done this with the carbs!)

  2. One thing that I do if a student ends up getting lots of referrals from me is to phone to those offices while Stu is with me and, at the very least, leave a message. Sometimes I can get the ball rolling right there and that feels good.

    With regards to the blood test, I go by the rule that if your GP doesn't tell you to go back in and have a re-test, you're good enough. I expect your doctor's office will get back to you with similar word. Sorry for the stress the agency has inspired in you!