Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bureaucracy Breeds

Whenever yet another set of bureaucrats needs to make its existence and its huge salaries justified, universities bend over backwards to accommodate. The amount of time we, the academics, waste on filling out paperwork that has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the quality of instruction is unconscionable. With nothing to check this disturbing trend, it will only continue to grow. Take, for example, this new policy adopted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that will make paperwork proliferate to the delight of the school's resident bureaucrats:
Starting next fall, transcripts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will include information about the median grade in each course a student takes, along with students' rankings by percentile against their peers in every class. The move to adopt "contextualized transcripts" was approved a year ago by the university's Faculty Council. On Friday, the council approved additional legislation that defines what data will appear on the new transcripts. Beginning in 2012, each student's transcript will include a "Schedule Point Average" both for individual terms and cumulatively. That number represents the grade-point average for the average student taking the same courses. The Schedule Point Average will give an idea of how rigorous a student's schedule is and how that student performed compared with others in the same courses. (Think strength of schedule for academics, not just basketball.) Transcripts will also include a breakdown of how often a student has scored above, at, or below the median grade in a course.
Bureaucratic flights of fancy like this one abound, and I wouldn't bring you this particular one so early on a Sunday morning, had it not been for the last sentence of the article which is too hilarious for words:
Graduate and professional schools at Chapel Hill gave their input about what statistics would be useful on transcripts, Mr. Perrin said, but the university didn't consult any employers for feedback. He said he's not sure how­—or if—employers will use the data, but he expects that the new system will show them that the university is "serious about maintaining and increasing educational quality." 
I can just imagine those employers who have absolutely nothing else to do with their lives than to pore over a huge stack of paperwork trying to figure out how a schedule point average is different from grade-point average. Once you get infected with the bureaucratic insanity, you begin to believe that everybody else in the world also considers many confusing numbers on a transcript to be more valuable than the actual skills that an employee brings to the workplace. 


Anonymous said...

Although I understand your contempt for bureaucracy, I don't see how this should put any burden to you as a professor. It seems simply like some work for the IT department.

Students could use the information to realize other students have used better learning strategies and learn from them, or apply different ideas for the next semester.

Employers on the other hand would probably find this information utterly useless.


Clarissa said...

That's what we say every time, but the bureaucrats are crafty, they come up with very inventive means of occupying us with paperwork. Tomorrow, for example, I will be filling out separate forms for each course that hasn't changed. The question why one needs to fill out new forms when nothing has changed remains unanswered.

Pen said...

As a student, I believe that this can cause some serious issues.

In February, I fell into some big trouble with grades. My ex-boyfriend and I used to compare grades in the classes we shared; that stopped because I fell into a depression while thinking about it. If students (especially those who are serious about their studies) are forced to compare grades to the "average," then what will they do to themselves if they're below?