The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Bearer of Bad News

Posted by Seeking Solace |

One of the hardest things I had to do as an attorney was tell people things that they didn't want to hear. Sometimes, the client would take the bad news well. But, more often than not, they would not take the news so well. I've had clients emotionally breakdown, scream and cuss me out. Once, I had a client threaten to kill me, literally.

Funny how my current role as a college professor/administrator is so similar. It's never easy, either as an attorney, professor or administrator, to tell people things they don't want to hear. Particularly, when it means that it is the end of the road.My academic peeps know from where I speak. We've all had the student in our office crying, begging and/or cussing us out over a grade or policy. All of us have our share of student meltdown mania. It comes with the territory.

My role as an administrator raises the bar. As the program chair, I have to tell students things that affect their academic career. And just like my role as the instructor, I've had my share of student meltdowns.

Today, I had to tell a student that because she has attempted way more credits than she has completed,  it is mathematically impossible for her to complete her degree without resulting in significant debt. (My academic peeps know this as Sufficient Academic Progress). What this means is that she can no longer continue at the college.

This was not a surprise to this student. For the past year, I have advised, counseled and warned this student of what can happen if she does not complete her courses and stay on track. This term was her final warning. If she withdrew or failed any class, she was done. (She had already used her one and only appeal). Yet, she sat in my office begging and pleading with me to make the instructor for whom she was receiving the failing grade to let her pass. (Based on the instructor's calculations, even if she was to make up the work, she would still earn a failing grade based on her performance on the work she did complete).

This lead to a full-on tears and meltdown right there in my office.

It's not easy to see someone realize that it's game over. I honestly think she believed that she would get another chance. I tried to explain to her that although she made decision regarding her education, they were neither right or wrong, they just were decisions. And, when we make a decision, we have to live with the consequences of the decision, even if it means that the consequence is not what we expect.

I also reminded her that the knowledge she gained while she was at the college is something that is hers forever. She is richer for what she has gained.

For what it's worth, I hope she realizes that. Maybe not now, but it time. 


Alice said...

I had a similar conversation yesterday when I had to tell the student s/he won't be able to graduate, after failing the same course three times. S/he was pleading, then accused me of being heartless. Sigh... I warned him/her about this outcome so many times, to no avail...

abcsofra said...

Somehow this story reminded me of when I was first diagnosed. It has taken me all of the thirteen years to learn what I have gained but I have learned. We can only hope that this student will rebound and find their solid footing.

Anonymous said...

This is happening A LOT. The government is cracking down on fin aid abuses such as taking courses multiple times and taking way too many hours without graduating. It hurts individually but overall it helps the system.

Seeking Solace said...

abcofra: I went through the same thing when my RA doc told me that I should stop practicing law because of how the high stress affects the RA. I just lost it because of all the blood and sweat it took to become a lawyer. Ultimately, it was the right decision.

Anonymous: You are so correct. With all the new mandates, it is even more important that we reach students before they encounter more debt with nothing to show for it. I have a post in mind about this..which may piss some people off.

Alice: Yep. I hate those conversations. I've learned to explain these situations to students in a way that puts the responsibility them.

Anonymous said...

Student is scamming the system. School became a source of income. S/he had no intention of graduating at all. That is why all the warnings were ignored. So now they go to an online school ... which has much higher tuition ... so the loan amount will be much higher ... it will be interesting to see if they graduate or not.