Bravo to Dannial Budhwani for his eloquent complaint in the Aug. 18 Plainsman.
For those who didn’t read the article, it seems that he applied for and was awarded a scholarship of $3,000 per semester for two semesters.
Upon receiving the grant, he noticed that the funds were to be disbursed in two very particular semesters. Apparently he had committed to plans that made it necessary to postpone the disbursement during one of those semesters to a later semester.
After a long and frustrating hike through several offices, he was at last informed that the postponement was beyond the powers of the administration, and he would just have to lose half of the grant if he couldn’t take it during the semester to which it had been assigned.
If the binding of the scholarship to particular semesters was the wish of the donor, then that constraint should have been made clear in the call for applications.
If that was not the case, how could it be impossible to arrange to postpone a disbursement for a few months?
Postponing payments is generally thought to be to the advantage of the payer.
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Mr. Budhwani’s misadventure reminded me of difficulties I have experienced from time to time, over the years, in extracting grant money from Auburn University for expenses that seemed to me to be eminently reimbursable under the terms of hard-won external grants.
My current conjecture is that parts of the Auburn bureaucracy are suffering, not from the proverbial sclerosis of a mature, complacent, smug, bullying bureaucracy, but from rather the opposite: the adolescent fumbling of a well-intentioned but immature bureaucracy that isn’t sure what it is supposed to do, or whose interests it is supposed to serve.
It bravely but unwisely deals with its uncertainty by making up policies and procedures that it then endows with the force of law, ensuring inflexibility and unfortunate incidents such as Mr. Budhwani’s.
To those of us on the wrong end of such transactions it seems that the bureaucracy sees itself as defending the money it is supposed to disburse from misuse by those to whom it should be paid.
There is such a thing as misuse — but spending scholarship money for tuition in a semester just after the semester at which the money was originally aimed is not misuse. Scholarships and grants are conferred for a purpose.
It is the primary job of the offices administering these funds to smooth the way to the application of these funds for the purpose for which they are intended.
That means that the administrators of the funds should think of themselves as making things easy for the recipients. They should be on our side.
Pete Johnson is an Alumni Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
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