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Complaint Department

19 Jan Posted by in Uncategorized | 8 comments

Ends of term bring a variety of complaints, probably more to other offices than to mine. But we’ve had a few, and they trigger several thoughts.

First, I hope we all take complaints seriously. Students can be annoying, and they are often wrong and/or manipulative, but it is important not to prejudge, for a given complaint (even from a difficult student) might be valid.

Second, it is amazing, though happily rare, about the packages complaints come in. We recurrently get stuff from parents, that really should come from students themselves. I doubt that extreme helicopter parents read this blog (and the category is small), but we really need to encourage more students to carry their own flags, for legal reasons among other things. There are sometimes some other issues here, about parents misunderstanding what the problems are or even outright misrepresentation by students themselves, so some real caution is warranted. The old days when institutions were assumed to have been probably correct, students probably wrong, had their own flaws, but we need some balance.

Then, whether from parents or not: please do not immediately threaten to disclose the issue to the governor, state legislators, and the United Nations. This actually risks making us shut down in response, rather than take a careful look. Now, if a problem has been run through the system and either not addressed or stalled, I grant some heavier artillery may be needed, but the initial impulse here, the fruit of extreme helicoptering combined with facile technologies, is not helpful to anyone. (A variant of this: I will never contribute another dime to the University. Often this comes from people who have yet to show us a nickel, but whatever.)

The point is: mistakes happen. As officialdom I hope we don’t too quickly get defensive, and I know that sometimes we really need to admit not just that a mistake happened but that a defective policy is uncovered for remediation. But complainers can help too, by giving us a chance and not throwing up smokescreens that actually make constructive response more difficult.

And if all this improves the situation one iota, I will be amazed. But blogs are therapeutic, so forgive me.