David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
We Are Not United . . . Oops!

April 18, 2017

For those of us working in higher education, let's face it, we have a pretty decent gig.  Our work can be mostly autonomous, whether as faculty or administrator, even if the administrator is trying to dictate the faculty member's work, or the government is trying to dictate the administrator's work.  Even on our worst days (don't ask my why I might think of this tonight), we can always say, "hey, at least we aren't United Airlines!"

Heck, I have been tempted to write a song:

We are not United and it feels so good,

Not United cause we've understood,

Our work results in a perfect fit,

And, sugar, ours is it,

We are so excited 'cause we're not United.

Or, are we?

  • Colleges and universities have been known to overbook (over-enroll) dorm rooms. It's not just in Revenge of The Nerds: "You can stay here in the gym for as long as you want . . . at least until basketball season."  It basically happened at Quinnipiac just two years ago.  Many of us over-enroll classes. in the hope that students don't all come on the first day or drop within the first few days, resulting in either fire code issues or a large number of students dropped from a course at the last minute.
  • We have our own dizzying array of "minor" fees that add up rather quickly, turning a "ticket" marker price into a hefty bill not easily discerned on paper.  The New York Times a few years ago identified a college student's average fees to be about $1700.  Read the article to learn about fees that make overweight luggage fees seem like a deal: "student success fees" are my favorite.
  • In rare instances, colleges can institutionally withdraw our own Dr. David Dao's.  We hope it never comes to that, but I am sure United hoped it never came to that either.
  • Our schedules are, also, only as good as our best-laid plans.  Course schedules can change at the last minute as a result of low enrollment, changes in instructors, or mechanical failures.
  • When these changes happen, our front-line staff, usually in the advising office, had nothing to do with the change; however, they face the angry customer as new arrangements are attempted.
  • We sure try to ban cell phones and other electronic devices from our classes.  We are probably as successful at that as the average airline is at banning them during their flights.
  • Much of the frustration with our day to day business comes from the other students.  Much like your average flight goes smoothly but you are still stressed by the selfish behaviors of those around you, this is what occurs in our classes, too.  If someone is unable to sit peacefully in an airplane seat for two hours, they probably are no better at sitting in a classroom seat for the same amount of time. 

The truth hurts, especially when we try to see it from our high pedestals in our highest of ivory towers.  Probably the same view of United's air traffic controllers.