trying to open the box

 

Looking at how academic institutions deal with applications by students – and with lecturers who support their endeavour – when it comes to applications there seems to be little hope: one meets ignorance, lack of respect and unqualified ways of handling procedures – I referred to this issue earlier.. I suppose part of the problem is also that we usually accept such misbehavior and move on, allowing ‘them’ to move on their way. Hopeless …

“HOPE is what makes us strong. It is why we are here. It is what we fight with when all else is lost.”
– Pandora’s last words

With this attitude I wrote the letter/mail to some completely ignorant universities: if asking for a reference that supports students to follow their path of curiosity, has any meaning, there are some institutions that themselves delve in complete lack of meaning.

 

Dear colleague, I am writing to you after overcoming some hesitation and also after reflecting if there is any point in it.

Still, for the sake of students and due to my commitment to academia and academic standards I feel obliged to follow up on the way your university is dealing with applications. If there is any claim on hour side to be an academic institution of reputable rank and with an international standing, at least revisiting the following is highly advisable – to say the least.
Lecturers today are encouraged to move, and some actually manage to be engaged by different universities and research institutes – for my part I can humbly state that I had been in the lucky situation of being involved in teaching and research in different countries, linked to various institutions, amongst them those with high international standing. However, this also means that e-mail addresses change. Apparently, so I had been informed, your institution requires students to submit contact details of lectures whom they nominate for their recommendation, valid at the time of teaching. In other words, I had been teaching students who asked me for a reference after I left the respective university – and still the students are asked to provide contact details from an outdated position. In this light, what is really outdated is the requirement you set. It shows that your institution does not reflect standards of todays academia, and instead follows somewhat ‘provincial’, ‘parochial’ ideas. – I may add, that historically at least in Europe, the mobility of academics had been the norm, the settled, academic the exception – settled in terms of space usually also meant settled in thinking, lacking openness to exchange and innovation.
Now, moving on to the next point: In several cases it is [was] possible for me to keep the e-mail address from an earlier position. One option to deal with this is to check different mail accounts. Sometimes it is possible to forward mails; and another option is to set an automatic reply, informing and asking the sender to use a different e-mail-address. I had to chose with one of the accounts the latter option. So, the request for a reference, sent by our university to the one ‘official’ mail address, was answered by such automatic reply, providing an alternative address. Although the mail from your institution was not sent by a completely automated system and replies had been received, the responsible department or person did not consider to react in an appropriate way. On the contrary, later a reminder was sent to the same, inactive, address. This behaviour from your institution shows in my opinion cum gram salis the same attitude as that mentioned previously. It is highly disrespectful, ignoring the serious interests of students and showing no collegiality to academics. It is even topped by the fact that I once set a mail to the relevant department of your institution, using the ‘dormant address’. The rely I received gave apt evidence of the fact that the mail I sent was not properly read.
I may then add: the standardised ‘questionnaires’, used to ask to assess students, are substandard. In general I think it is questionable to use multiple choice questions and similar for such assessment – it is about young personalities and not machines or fat-stock. Still, if such approach is used, the design requires a bit more reflection. If a student of mine, would submit such questionnaire which I had been asked to complete, as part of exams, that student would end, on a generous day, with a very low grade.
Again, the way your institution is currently handling – at least – this part of the application process is simply appalling and lacks any respect towards students and those lecturers who are in a position to support their curiosity about learning. This part of their learning experience provided by you is apt to undermine such curiosity, and teach that studies you offer may not deliver what they promise.
Sincerely disappointed
Peter Herrmann

 

Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann
Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy/
Max-Planck-Institut für Sozialrecht und Sozialpolitik
[section social law]
– Research Fellow –
….
skype: …
QQ: …
__________
University of Eastern Finland (UEF)
Department of Social Sciences
PL 1627
70211 Kuopio
FINLAND
—-Corvinus University
Institute of World Economy
Faculty of Social Sciences and International Relations
Fővám tér 8
1093 Budapest
HUNGARY
_________
Active Member of the European Academy of Science and Arts
Annunci

Just a reminder

Pensions do not exist to increase national savings or to provide jobs for actuaries, tax lawyers, accountants, fund managers and regulators. Their purpose is to allow the elderly and disabled to retire from work with dignity

Willmore, Larry: Three Pillars of Pensions: Is there a need for mandatory contributions? in: OECD, Private Pensions Series OECD 2000 Private Pensions Conference 2000. Insurance and Pensions; Paris 2001: 385-397; here 385

Kafka – or: The most reasonable person in town …

Well, one of the most reasonable I met occasionally in Rome – I mentioned this guy yesterday in a mail to a friend. Here the little story:

Had been to the post office today – guess there I meet (or just see) one of the most reasonable people …, every time I am going early to that place I see him – so I assume it is a “daily event”: He enters, bids good morning to everybody – mutters something that nobody understands – and after having reached the one end, he leaves again – same muttering, same smile on everybody’s face. And probably what he mutters and nobody understands is more meaningful than all this nonsense official stuff that is exchanged when it comes to transferring money, buying a stamp etc. (the good news: for buying a stamp you still do not need your fiscal code …)

What I did not mention …, well, the real post office experience:

Queuing at the post office: number A4.
It is showing up on the display: counter 5. You start going there, but some customer is still standing there.
You wait, near to counter 5, holding number A4 between your fingers.
The customer is still there.
The display changes: A5.
While the customer moves away, you approach the counter, but another person too, holding A5 in her hands.
“Sorry, it is A5, you see ….” – comment by the clerk

So you feel like a drowned rat – which is in German a “begossener Pudel” and as such you put the tail between the legs and say to yourself:

Yes, I came, I saw … and I lost.

(But in all fairness in the Italian system A5 is followed by A 4 …)

It is easy to forget – as before going to the post office, actually the day before, I received a mail: Please, contact customer service, the booking of your flight could not be completed. So I contacted customer service of the dot.com business immediately … – dot.coms are global and do not any time: open 24 hours. Well, I waited for a reply. As I din’t get any reply, and also as I understood immediately as being valid on both sides, I sent 16 hours or so later another mail …., and finally thought 24 hours after the first mail (the one I received) check the website and you will find at some stage a premium phone number (as I booked premium service … Actually the premium number on the booking form had been an alien one: Mars, Neptun or UK, some strange place that cannot be reached from Italy. Finally I found another phone number (probably on Jupiter – but it worked). “Yes, how can I help you.” – a friendly voice. I provided the booking number, she found my name in the computer – (I could have told her; actually I did tell her after she sled “How can I help you?” And she found the information: “Everything is fine, the booking is confirmed, There had been a technical problem on our side.” “So everything is OK then?” “Yes, you don’t have to worry. … Thank you and have a nice day.” Gosh, all this is so mind-boggling: a friendly word at the end – I had been near to tears, wanted to hug her …, but tuuut, tuuut, she had been off, probably to next customer, booking number [Ticket#2014030218470056]  8K6zKJ.
Why did I check yesterday evening the Internet for something nice – pure incidence? And why did I end up on the website of the AUDITORIUM CONCILLIAZIONE ……did google know already what happened during the day, now offering with the magic calculation. Perhaps they have an conciliation algorithm?
Probably not:

“No tickets available”….

Even algorithms fail … – or should it be: algorithms fail?

What today then,
yours Kafka the Second (I know, many can claim this)