If you are a student at Auburn University, you have probably at one time or another had an issue with changing your major, class requirements or scholarship funds. It is likely that you have bounced from one administrative office to another, each time hoping that this next person will be able to help you overcome the necessary bureaucratic hurdles. Often, the process is frustrating and tedious, though not usually harmful.
But in my case, Auburn’s bureaucracy cost me more than $3,000 in scholarships.
In April, while I was completing my fourth year at Auburn and planning out my remaining two semesters (I am graduating in December), I received word that I had been awarded a scholarship I applied for a month earlier.
As I logged onto AUAccess to click accept, I saw that the scholarships would be distributed over both the Fall and Spring semesters. I wasn’t concerned. I figured that someone would consider the fact that I was graduating in December and shift the scholarship to that semester to accommodate for my situation.
The donors and the University already determined I was both eligible and deserving to receive the award. Surely they wouldn’t take it away from me on a minor technicality.
So I decided to seek out a real human being I could speak to about my problem. That was more difficult than expected. I went from the College of Liberal Arts, where nobody was available that day, to the Financial Aid Office, who told me this was out of their jurisdiction, to the Scholarship Office, who said they weren’t actually the ones who had awarded it to me.
The next day I went back to the College of Liberal Arts, where again there was nobody available. I finally made it to the Honors College where I was politely told that I would not be receiving half of the scholarship I was awarded.
Many of my friends have reported similar experiences where an unjustified, bureaucratic decision had significantly impacted their educational experience here at Auburn. One told me how Auburn had taken back a scholarship they awarded him because they didn’t receive an “official” response in the mail.
Another friend told me about being forced to take a lower level class even though it was a prerequisite for many of the other classes she had taken. One person even mentioned having to delay graduation and pay for an extra semester because of an advising error.
These incidents show how difficult it is for students at Auburn to receive the educational services they need. Why have offices become decentralized enough to where staff in one office can’t answer questions about the basic functions of another? Why are some advisers not available to see a student at all without an appointment?
By not providing adequate support to our staff and faculty, Auburn University is failing to meet the basic expectations of its students.
These bureaucratic policies reveal a more insidious truth about the profit-oriented nature of our school. Note how all of the incidents above resulted in the student having to throw more time and money into the University. When you compare the multi-million dollar salaries of University elites like Coach Malzahn and President Gouge with the poverty-level wages that a significant portion of Auburn employees live on, the profit motive becomes even more clear.
The University is meant to be a center of knowledge and openness where students can develop and grow. The adulteration of that concept results in a school where advisers, tenured professors and counselors are severely undervalued and underpaid, while there is always money in the coffers to pay for a $16-million jumbotron or a $50-million recreation center.
When I was pleading with the Honors College not to take away my funding, the bureaucrat I was speaking with told me an anecdote of another student who had lost half of his scholarship because he had decided to co-op for an extra semester, as if the consistency in injustice somehow made it “fair."
At the end she told me “it’s not personal,” and she was right. There was nothing personal in that entire interaction. This was not a discussion between an adviser trying to understand the situation that a student was placed in and responding appropriately to it. I was just a banner-ID number, and she was simply following the business rules that had been decided from above.
I look forward to the day at Auburn when “it’s not personal” is seen as a problem rather than an excuse.
Dannial Budhwani is a senior in Philosophy and Wireless Software Engineering. The opinions expressed in this letter are solely those of the author, not of this paper. Send your own letter to the editor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org