When University Admin Systems Attack

When Animals Attack? Kid’s Stuff! When Stunts go wrong? Kindergarten! These shows have nothing on When University Admin Systems Attack!

As I announced here back on the 13th of September, I have handed in my PhD Thesis in Philosophy at the University of Otago. Here’s what was supposed to happen next: I applied (via my supervisor – who I have to say at the start, has been great, none of this is his fault or directed at him) for what’s known as a bridging stipend. It’s three month’s worth of income while I prepare work for publication, including a presentation at a conference in Washington DC in mid November. This application would have been completed, and I would go about my work for three months. Now, of course I won’t have a job in three months. Well, not a job in philosophy anyway. Those things don’t start until the academic year of a University starts. But anyway, this is the deal with the University.

Here’s what actually happened: After I handed over my PhD, it sat in a box in an office for a month. Since the University people who deal with bridging stipends didn’t know it was submitted (it was, after all, in a box in an office), they hadn’t approved the application for the stipend. So we’ve been sitting here on a grand income of zilch, wondering when I’ll get paid. I phoned them up the other day: “Any idea when this is going to happen?” The answer: “We can’t approve it until you submit your thesis.” Uh oh.

Now that the thesis has been passed on to the right people, the application process is about to get underway. Problem #1: I have about 60 copies of my dossier to print out for job applications, and I have to then send them away with application letters for jobs. Printing costs money (especially 32 pages per copy, x 50 copies, as does international postage (these are not little envelopes, they are thick and A4 size). None of this can be done until we get paid, which will probably not be until late November. Further problem: Most of the academic jobs I am applying for have application deadlines of mid November. Why is this a problem? It wouldn’t have been if we had an income. Was this my fault? Not at all. Is there anything I can do about it? Apparently not. How many employment opportunities am I missing out on? Oh, about 60. But how many more vacancies are still open after that deadline? Very few.

Problem #2. I’m flying to Washington DC in mid November. The Airfare is taken care of, fortunately. Accomodation is booked, but not yet paid for. I’ll be paying for the room, and then splitting the cost with my roommate from England when I get there. But not to worry, now that I’m on this bridging stipend because the University did what it was supposed to, I’ll have the money by the time I get there, as well as transport costs and meals- Oh wait, no I won’t. I’ve prepared this paper, made all the travel arrangements, made sure that my thesis was submitted in time, made sure that all the right applications were filled out, gone through numerous hotels until I could find one with vacancies, and now – Oh woops, while you were waiting after you did everything you were supposed to do, we left your thesis sitting in a box in an office for a month, so you won’t be paid until after the conference is over. But don’t worry, your current income of $0 will get you through!

Oh, and it’s even more beautiful. Since my thesis wasn’t noticed for a month, there is another month’s worth of University fees to pay. The joy of admin “systems.” A system doesn’t feel bad, and doesn’t have to compensate you for its mistakes. When University Admin Systems Attack! Too scary for TV.

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