February 22, 2004

Inmates Running The Asylum

However Berkeley would be rolling in revenue if they taxed stupidity.

Snafu means UC students miss out on Fulbright grants

Applications will not be considered because mail courier did not pick

Thirty graduate students at University of California, Berkeley will miss out on the chance for a prestigious Fulbright-Hays research abroad fellowship next year because of what the campus has said was a Federal Express snafu.

The courier didn't pick up a packet containing Berkeley's applications on time, and the U.S. Department of Education has told campus officials they won't consider their students because they missed the application deadline.

The decision, announced Friday, has stunned and angered Berkeley officials and students, who contend that the applications should be considered because the mailing date on the package airbill met the Oct. 20 deadline.

"No one could have imagined the Department of Education could have reacted the way it did," said Chancellor Robert Berdahl, who made a special trip to Washington, D.C., last month to lobby on the students' behalf.

Yes, those mean old Republicans at Dept of Ed are such sticklers about deadlines and such. Meanies.

Because of the problems with the online system, Berkeley officials extended their internal deadline to allow students more time to complete the paper versions. The applications were ready on Oct. 17, a Friday, and the campus arranged for an overnight express pick-up on Oct. 20 -- the deadline by which application packages were to be postmarked.

But FedEx never showed, even though a university employee called FedEx on the morning of Oct. 20 and again that afternoon to confirm pick-up.

In two letters to the university, FedEx took responsibility for the missed pick-ups, attributing it to problems with a new computer dispatch system.

The packages went out Oct. 21, Berkeley officials said.

Despite the late start, Mary Ann Mason, dean of the Graduate Division, said the FedEx airbill was dated Oct. 20 and met department regulations that a properly dated shipping label meets the application deadline.

"This is really just unbelievable," Mason said Wednesday. "I can't believe it has come to this. It's so senseless. The Department of Education is supposed to be helping students, and this kind of stupid regulation is hurting students."

Stupid regulation? Okay, let's think... if your company's continued operations require a package delivered by a drop-dead date and you simply left it sitting in shipping for the weekend and then went home after Fedex failed to show on the given date. Would you still be employed? Of course the numbnuts working in the dept can't be fired, so the question is rhetorical.

Department of Education officials, however, have a different view. Sally Stroup, assistant secretary for post-secondary education, issued a statement saying the campus is solely at fault.

"The university blames Federal Express and the Department (of Education)," the statement said. "However, the reality is that when it became apparent that Federal Express would not arrive in time, a simple trip to the post office would have ensured that the university's application met the deadline. Sixty other institutions met the application deadline."

But student Carl Freire, whose fellowship application asked for upward of $30,000 next year so he could complete his studies in Japanese history, said the department's stance seems "mean-spirited."

"When I've told the story to various other people, the response I've gotten has been that it seems rather petty" of the Department of Education, Freire said.

Stroup said officials are sorry that Berkeley's students will lose out on the fellowship opportunity, but she said the deadline ensures fair and equitable treatment for all applicants.

University officials said they will assist the affected students to help ensure their research opportunities aren't hurt.

Mason said lawyers for the university were "talking with FedEx about sharing some responsibility." She said one idea is that FedEx would provide some doctoral research grant money.

Freire said he doesn't know if he would have received a Fulbright award anyway, but that's not really the point.

"You just want the opportunity to compete with your peers, and that's being denied," he said.

Boo-hoo. Would you hire this hapless whiner? Sorry to point out the obvious, but in the real world those who do not perform or compete effectively are soon left behind or hired by academia.

Posted by feste at February 22, 2004 11:37 AM | TrackBack
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