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April 04, 1984 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-04-04

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OPINION

......... Z.

.

Page 4

Wednesday, April 4, 1984

The Michigan Daily

..

F

Drowning in-

bureaucratic quicksand

By Bill Spindle
Amazing. It was absolutely amazing.
With one fell swoop to a computer
keypunch button, that wonderful
woman parted a sea of bureaucracy,
she shattered University tradition, she
became a real human being-and all
for me.
Here I was, finally a senior, finally
CRISPing first, finally with an eight
o'clock appointment. Damn, I was one
of the first people through those
venerated doors at Lorch Hall.
I HAD EVERYTHING, ready.
Nothing was going to deny me that per-
fect schedule. I was salivating at the
prospect of sleeping in until 11 a.m.,
never attending more than two hours of
class in a row, and relaxing all day on
Friday.
Yet there it was, staring at me on that
cold, computerized screen: A financial
hold credit.
Okay, so I missed one of my tuition
payments. Crucify me. I layed it down
in a big pile of papers and it slipped my
mind. It got thrown out with the rest of
the mail. My housemate used it to
clean his bong.{
Hell, I don't know what happened to
it. But it must not have been paid on
time because there I was staring at that
big, fat hold credit.r

"IT'S ONLY $422," I pleaded with the
problems desk. "The University has a
$300 million budget, for god's sake.
What can my itsy-bitsy $422 possible be
needed for. The Pentagon alone dumps
millions into research here. Can't I just
borrow a little from them?" I begged.
"At least I won't use the money to build
thermonuclear weapons."
Besides, I had paid the bill. I drop-
ped it off at the LSA building on Satur-
day and it just hadn't been processed
yet.
Anyway, the woman I mentioned
before: I found her in the student ac-
counts office-a strange place for a
savior-where I took my case after
CRISP.
There I learned that bills dropped in
the LSA box often aren't processed for
nine or ten days. Miles of closed course
listings flashed before my eyes as I
realized that I might as well come back
during the summer and CRISP with the
incoming students at orientation.
HAVING LITTLE PRIDE left after
four years at this University, I again
began to beg.
But just as I was about to crawl
across the room on my hands and
knees, she cut me off.
"You put it in the drop box on Satur-
day, hmm. Okay, I guess we can let it
go this time."

Freshpersons may not understand
the immense significance of that
moment, but anyone who has come to
know this tangled mass of bureaucracy
we call a higher learning center will
realize that the Second Coming will
have a hard time following this event.
SHE DIDN'T roll her eyes when I
began to complain. She did not refer
me to another department. She didn't
dump me upon one of her glassy-eyed
superiors who thrive on ignoring such
complaints. Come to think of it, she
didn't even hand me a form to be filled
out in triplicate and signed on each
page.
She just pushed a button and my hold
credit was gone. It was so simple it was
scary. I have never seen anything like
it at the University and never expect to
again.
Perhaps her action affected me so
because of a bureaucratic nightmare I
lived through two years ago.
THAT SPRING I journeyed to CRISP
to disenroll from my spring term
classes. Unknown to me, however, the
computer operator goofed and with-
drew me from my fall classes.
IBM has been telling me all along
that computers were affecting my life
in ways I didn't know, but I never
realized just how much until the sum-
mer following that "human error," as

the industry smugly calls them.
Within two months I was on academic
probation for flunking a spring class I
didn't even know I was enrolled in, in
debt $182 for not paying for the spring
class I didn't know I was enrolled in,
short 15 credits for the upcoming fall
term because I had tried to drop that
spring class I didn't know I was
enrolled in, and unable to re-register
for fall -classes because of the hold
credit I received on the spring class I
didn't know I was enrolled in.
That was the fun part. The real
frustration came when I tried to solve
the problem.
STUDENT ACCOUNTS sent me to
the registrars office. The registrars of-
fice sent me to CRISP. CRISP took full
responsibility for the error and advised
that I return to the registrar's office.
The registrars office decided they
definitely could do nothing to help me
and sent me to academic actions to ap-
ply for a retroactive withdrawal and to
student accounts to have my hold credit
removed.
This really happened. And the
disturbing part is that everybody at the
University has a similar story.
It's difficult to lay blame on any one
person. In fact, everyone involved was
just doing his or her job. It's not any
secretary's fault that the University is

i

0

Computers and the fingers that punch them have the power to create or
eliminate mountains of red tape at this university. The push of one button
can make or break your day . . . or your term.

organized with the kind of planning that
made the Bay of Pigs famous.
It's just that in a bureaucracy this
size, where everyone is just doing his or
her job, complaints-even the
legitimate ones-get lost in the shuffle.

All I'm asking is when you see
someone wading in the quicksand of
bureacracy, do them a favor: throw
out a rope.

Spindle
chief.

is the Daily's editor-in-

I - F

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

LaBan

L 8i I

6

Vol. XCIV-No. 147

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the, Daily's Editorial Board
More knuckle rapping

FACULTY MEMBERS will now be
urged to comply with guidelines
that passed the LSA Joint Student-
Faculty Policy Committee Tuesday,.
While previous drafts of the guidelines
required faculty members to abide by
certain standards and would have
provided a means of enforcement, the
latest guidelines only suggest that
faculty members "should" obey the
standards. What could have been a
powerful statement and may have led
to a better understanding between
faculty and students is now basically
another useless document.
Under the guidelines, "The
Counseling Office should provide
adequate individual attention . .
Academic departments should have
statements of their waitlist policies
readily available . .cInstructors
should be able to communicate
adquately in the English language ...
Instructors should inform students
early in the course about the system of
evaluation which will determine the

final grade ... Faculty should strive to
meet all classes and to make up, at a
convenient time, any class which must
be canceled ..."
Question: but what if the instructors
do not do what they should?
Answer: it doesn't really matter.
These guidelines don't provide for a
means to deal with those who should,
but don't.
If some faculty members didn't
know that they should "provide
adequate instructional commentary"
on students' work they may know now.
The guidelines might actually urge a
few faculty members to clean up their
act and improve the quality of
undergraduate education. But such
hopes are nothing but a pipe dream.
The committee's watered-down
"urging" will not improve teachers
who don't already pay attention to
quality and common sense in
education. Those kind of professors
need a good rap on the knuckles.

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LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Organize against tuition waiver tax

Rough RSG elections

R ACKHAM students have been
notoriously apathetic toward their
student government. But this year
there are two very unapathetic can-
didates running for the same post.
While this would seem like reason to
celebrate considering that the top
position almost went uncontested, the
recent questions surrounding the
ethics of the two candidates should
make Rackham students wish they had
taken their recent elections more
seriously.
Angela Gantner and Kodi Abili, the
two candidates running for RSG
president, have shown they are fierce
political opponents, perhaps too fierce.
The latest controversy involving the
race for the top RSG seat came up at,
where else, the polling booth. Just last
month both candidates were found
guilty of violating election guidelines

and a new election was scheduled. On-
ce again the two have charged each
other with unethical conduct. Abili
even went so far as to claim that, in the
latest election, members of the current
RSG had formed a "conspiracy" to in-
criminate him of violating campaign
rules. He also charged that the director
of RSG and the current president had
improperly influenced voters near a
booth in the LSA Building.
Without evidence or a court
proceeding it would be unfair to say
Gantner or Abili are corrupt represen-
tatives of the more than 6,000
Rackham students. But in the future,
RSG should look for a way to restruc-
ture its elections. The elections this
year have been dragged out over three
months and student input despite the
controversy has been low. Something
needs to be done to end this charade.

To the Daily:
In the Opinion Page column
"GEO provides collective
benefits" (Daily, March 14)
about GEO's enforcement of
agency shop there were several
small editorial alterations made
to the copy I submitted. Virtually
all of those changed the intended
meaning, and in one case suf-
ficiently that a correction and
explanation is necessary. The ar-
ticle as submitted was attributed
to myself "for theGEO Steering
Committee," the latter phrase
being dropped in publication.
The difference is that an in-
dividually written, informally
discussed statement of
organizational policy almost in-
variably entails alterations in
presentation and formulation
that the author would otherwise
not have made. As a Steering
Committee member writing on
the union's behalf, I was bound to
the limits of its current policy
consensus. The most important
example of this concerns my
view of the tuition waiver tax
issue, which I also offer as partial
response to those who have writ-
ten the Daily complaining about
GEO's bargaining weakness as
an excuse for not paying their
dues.
I have argued since January
that GEO would have gotten the
tuition waiver tax problem
resolved had TA/SAs been
willing to strike. A demon-

what is on our pay checks this
term.
By April over half of all
TA/SAs will have had to suffer
needlessly, and GEO's collective
passivity in accepting the
University's excuse for this
situation has allowed it to last
much too long. Thus, my conten-
tion is that graduate student
assistants should join and
become active not just to
generally make GEO a larger
and stronger collective, as the
March 14 column stated, but
specifically to turn around the
way GEO as a whole has respon-
ded to the tax issue.
It must be added that I think
the union leadership has been
quite correct in trying to shift the
focus of this salary issue. from
Washington, D.C. to Ann Arbor.
A look at the tax waiver's status
in Congress shows why. In spite
of thousands of phone calls and
letters from upset University
students backed by AFT lobbying
in Washington, the House Bill has
a June 30 starting date and is not
amendable on the floor. Ac-
cording to Senator Levin's office,
the Senate version is retroactive
to December 31, but only has a
two year life. The latter means
that the issue would have to be
BLOOM COUNTY

part of next year's contract
bargaining, which is exactly
what GEO's demand to reopen
tuition and salary negotiations
now tries to avoid.
The GEO Steering Committee
has also noted that support for a
particular bill containing a
tuition waiver clause should be
contingent upon the context in
which it is proposed. At the
moment the waiver clause is but a
miniscule part of bipartisan
"deficit reduction" legislation
that is apparently designed to
fund, among other things, the
government's preparations to
launch a war in Central America
and against Russia. To support
legislation in which a little kicker
for TA/SAs is sandwiched bet-
ween direct or indirect funding
for missles, tFoops, and cuts in
social programs would be the
height of self-serving oppor-
tunism, and demonstration of a
be-damned attitude toward the
destruction of humanity. In any
case, President Reagan may well
veto the final bill, and all the lob-
bying could come to naught in the
ensuing legislative mess.
Where the GEG leadership has
failed is by refusing to tell its
membership the full truth con-
veyed by administration

representatives about what is
necessary to solve the tax
problem. They effectively said,
"If you cannot force us to
negotiate, tough luck. And don't.
count on Contress." Or as
University tax counsel Bill
Lemmer put it: "What is GEO
complaining about? You;
teaching assistants have it better
bha.n dishwashers." Their
message is clear; now when is
the leading core of GEO going to
tell it straight?
Certainly any sort of work ac-
tion requires widespread support
to be effective. In addition to the
present supporters of GEO, if the
TA/SAs objecting so vigorously
to paying about one percent of
their salaries to the union, turned
their energies toward mobilizing
our collective strength against
the administration's handling of
the problem with 20 percent and-
greater pay cuts, we would be.
able to get the waiver loss made
up and along the way have,
created a strong organization and,
leadership., As a small step in
that direction TA/SAs should
support-. GEO's salary:
renegotiation petition.
-Gene Goldenfeld
March 30
by Berke Breathed

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