Thursday, February 17, 2011
What's a deadline?
She was on my waiting list, but she didn't have proof of prerequisite. In its ebb and flow of procedural enforcement, my college is currently at a high-water mark of insisting that students demonstrate that they have passed their prerequisites. I informed my potential student that she could enroll in my class if two conditions were met: (a) she provided proof of prerequisite and (b) I made it down the waiting list as far as her name.
Like most students who are eager (or pretend to be eager) to get into a class, my potential student dutifully attended each initial class session as I took roll, checked off prerequisites for students who presented their transcripts or verification slips from counselors, and gradually worked my way down the waiting list. It usually takes only a few days for things to shake out. Some students slip quietly away, blocked in their attempt to take a class for which they were not prepared, and others are too impatient to wait more than one day to get admitted. The attrition benefits those who stick it out.
Each time I called roll, I reminded students who had yet to present their qualifications. Each time the number dwindled. The student in question was particularly slow in clearing up her paperwork, but at last the glorious day arrived. When I called her name, she handed in a verification slip to which a counselor had affixed a signature. Since the class had thinned out to a manageable level (in other words, everyone had a desk to sit at), I grandly presented her with a permission slip to add the class.
“Use it right away,” I informed her. “We've come up close to the end of the enrollment period and you need to add before it closes.”
She made some kind of noise, which I hoped was intended as an affirmative acknowledgment, but I wasn't sure. She was the last of the students in attendance who had yet to enroll. My roster was all but complete and I was happily contemplating the end of this particular flurry of paper-pushing.
On the morning of our next class meeting, I checked my on-line class roster. My student's name was still on the waiting list. She was not on the roster of enrolled students. I went to class and observed that she was present, so I asked her to come up to talk to me at the end of the period. This she did (perhaps because I called out to her by name before she slipped out the door with her classmates).
“You know, I hope, that this is the last day to enroll in classes using the permission slips,” I reminded her. I gave her additional detail: “If you don't use it today, you'll need a late admission that requires the signature of an academic dean. The deans do not like doing this and aren't obligated to sign, so let's not go there, okay? Go directly to enrollment services now and get added to the class. Do it today. Tomorrow will be too late.”
She made that odd noise again and headed toward the door. I fancied that she had nodded her head ever so slightly. In any case, I had explained things with a particular lack of ambiguity.
Two days later our class met again. That morning I discovered that her name was still missing from the roster. Surely she had decided against taking the class. A pity, but these things happen.
My surmise was incorrect. She showed up for class, strolled up to the front of the room, and presented me with a late-add form.
“You need to sign this for me,” she announced.
I admit that I was displeased.
“My signature isn't enough,” I replied, rather tight-lipped. “This will have to go to a dean.”
I pressed her a little: “Why didn't you use the permission slip?”
She shrugged. She kept her gaze carefully averted.
“I tried, but they gave me this. They said you have to sign it.”
Yeah. Exasperated, I took the form. The date on it showed that she had waited till after the deadline to try to add via regular permission slip.
“I'll see what I can do,” I said.
After class I took the late-add form to my dean and explained the situation. The dean rolled her eyes.
“There's one in every crowd,” she said. “Has she been attending class? Do you have room to accommodate her?”
When I answered both questions in the affirmative, the dean picked up a pen and scrawled her signature on the form.
“All right,” she said. “Give this back to her and tell her to return to enrollment services with it.”
On the morning of the next class session, I was surprised when the student showed up in my office. She had discovered that her financial aid check would not be released until she was properly enrolled. She earnestly asked me if her late enrollment had been approved. I handed her the form.
“Yes, the dean signed off on it. Take this to enrollment services and they will let you in this time.”
“Okay. I'll go now.”
“Actually, it's nearly time for class. You should wait till after class.”
“I better go now,” she said. “I have a family emergency and I can't go to class today.”
I considered expressing the hope that no one was bleeding to death at home while she came on campus to visit my office, but I waited too long. She was already gone. Her regular attendance became a thing of the past.
Not long after this incident, I gave the class their first exam. My late-enrolling student didn't pass. She lost several points because she couldn't seem to follow instructions.
It was not exactly a surprise.