Graduation Drama

I had planned to take today off and relax but clearly I didn’t have that luxury with college graduation looming. I scheduled meetings with my academic advisor, Paul Greenberg and Marline Otte, academic advisor to the history department who was working with me to get my minor done. In January I met with her and we arranged for me to complete my minor in history. There were no 400-level classes available to take so I signed up for a 300 level class and we arranged for me to write a research paper in addition to the regular work to essentially “upgrade” the class. I had some paperwork to turn in to Ms. Otte and I wanted to meet with Paul just to make sure everything was in order for my impending application to graduate. When we spoke on the phone that morning he told me I was missing a requirement and would have to attend a summer class to finish things up. I was shocked to learn this as I recalled meeting with Paul last June and walked away sure of what I had left to do and sure that last semester and this one rounded out my hours and requirements.

Dad took me to campus for around noon. I was hoping to meet with Ms. Otte before noon but I didn’t get to campus early enough. With about an hour to spare I decided to check out Grad Fest but it made me sick looking at all the stuff there while thinking I would not be finished in May.

At one I met with Ms. Otte in the history building and the day got even worse. She had a problem with the form I turned in, but more importantly, she was no longer satisfied that the class I was taking and the accompanying research paper would satisfy the credits of a 400 level class, essentially changing her mind about the agreement we made in January. Now she wanted me to finish the class, a 15 page research paper as well as an independent study in which I would read six or so books and meet with the professor privately every other week. As it is already late March and I am working about 60 hours a week, that plan wasn’t realistic, even if the professor did agree to take on this extra work.

We spoke for about 40 minutes but ultimately didn’t agree to keep her original terms and expressed no particular understanding of the situation or regret for backing out of our agreement. I could express my feelings in substantially more colorful terms, but let’s just say it was a dick move… and I’m sorry I didn’t get our initial arrangement in writing.

With an additional disaster looming, I went to Gibson Hall for my meeting with Greenberg. Like me, he was appalled at the situation but not entirely surprised. Apparently the history department is the source of a lot of trouble for people in other university departments. I’ll leave it at that. As departments enjoy a certain level of autonomy, there was nothing anyone at the School of Continuing Studies could do about it. Paul suggested I might meet with department head Randy Sparks, but there was no expectation he would be accommodating. I suspect Ms. Otte may have spoken to him earlier in the day when she left the room briefly during our meeting. This late in the game, I am willing to overlook formally completing my minor as long as I can graduate. I did have better luck with that, the larger issue.

As Paul briefly explained to me on the phone earlier in the morning, I was missing 3 credit hours in the sciences category, which requires 12 hours (three classes), only one of which can be a computer science. I already had one computer science class in there as well as a weather and climate course and introductory psychology. I have met the total hours requirement and I had several electives pooling at the bottom of my transcript but none of them qualified.

I was not remotely happy with the prospect of walking at Graduation only to go back to school for six more weeks. I know lots of people do just that because there is only one ceremony a year but I wouldn’t want to do it. I was to attend my graduation with the full knowledge I have completed something in full. Paul implored me to take more time to consider that decision.

Before giving up on finishing in May, Paul arranged to have me meet with associate dean Terrence Fitzmorris. If anyone could pull some strings and fix my problem it was him. Mr. Greenberg had partially explained my dilemma to Mr. Fitzmorris when I sat down with him so I only needed to elaborate on my situation. He was very sympathetic to my situation and explained the circumstances related to a rule change a couple years ago which restricted the science category to only one computer science class to force CS students to take a more diverse selection of classes. I’ve taken quite a wide variety of classes myself and Fitzmorris appreciated that I have largely followed the spirit of the rule. I don’t recall the exact exception but Terrence stepped out the room briefly to check on an elective class I had taken to see if it was some sort of core requirement or something. Ultimately, Mr. Fitzmorris filled in a CPST class I took a couple years ago, “Technology and Ethics” to stand in as my fourth science requirement, clearing me to graduate in May.

I can’t immediate remember a time in which a bad day was immediately made so much better so quickly. It was an incredible relief to be able to finish on time. The prospect of participating in the graduation ceremony and dragging friends here from out of town for what I would have considered a false premise was unthinkable. My brother Jeff walked across the stage before he was finished and it seemed completely absurd to me, especially since my parents and brother Andrew flew all the way to Ann Arbor from New Orleans to see it. I still got screwed out of my minor but compared to not graduating it seemed like a small thing.

After I left Gibson Hall I walked back to the LBC to visit Grad Fest in the upstairs ballroom to pick up my cap and gown. I also ordered a handful of graduation announcements to send out to people. I don’t have a great number of people coming to my graduation but I have some family and friends I want to send these to. The bookstore was managing things there and my old boss Larry Jones and Frank were there. I got to speak with both of them briefly about finishing up at Tulane.

After I left with my cap and gown I eventually met Dad who drove down from the office to pick me up. As it was a Wednesday we went back to the office until about six this evening. I don’t recall much in particular from that evening.

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