How Can We Help the Registrar?

I rarely take to social media with my opinions. As a communications student, I fully understand the problem with online debates: once something has been posted, it can be read at any time and interpreted in any way. Nothing can guarantee that a message will be received as it was originally intended. After all, how can you expect someone who reads a few of your emotionally-fueled sentences to understand the entire logic behind them?

That being said, there is one issue that I took to social media recently, and anyone who is a part of the JCU Undergrad Facebook group will know that I have posted about it not once but twice in the past month.

My post about the Registrar was originally intended to be an eye for an eye. Social media is a perfect forum for facilitating such confrontations, allowing each side to continuously lash out at the other with snide remarks and criticisms. Debates can go on endlessly without any real productive outcome. I knew that many students shared my thoughts on the email that the office had sent to all degree-seeking students that day, so i posted a snide remark, feeling glad that this would be the last time I would have to deal with them. I do recognize, however, that posting on Facebook is not actually ‘dealing’ with anything.

As the likes, reactions, and comments started to flood in, as I knew they would, I started to reflect on the consequences of my quick attention-grabbing post. My frustration had not been articulated, and nothing would actually be done with respect to the concerns voiced by such a large number of students. It’s my last semester, my last time registering, so why do I really care? Precisely because I believe that my opinions are shared by many, I would like the chance to articulate my views beyond a three sentence Facebook post. So, here it goes.

Students should take responsibility for their education. They should take the time to familiarize themselves with the system, what classes they need to take, what deadlines they have to meet. University students are, after all, adults.

That being said, a student’s undergraduate years are a time for learning and growth, when he or she hopefully learns to become a professional by graduation. The various offices and departments of a university serve to assist students along this path.

What’s more, John Cabot University is an extremely international university. I’m not sure if there is another university quite like it. Students come from all over the world to study here, to learn to speak and articulate themselves in the English language at a university level, to be confronted with international ideas, dialogue, and opportunities that they would not have experienced had they stayed within their culture.

I first wish to highlight that it is difficult for those who are not American to understand the American system according to which John Cabot operates. It is also important to note that this particular American university is run by many non-Americans. The inevitable misunderstandings that come from working in and attending a university in which not all students, faculty, and staff speak the same mother tongue or think in the same way should be addressed with respect and understanding. That is a key component of JCU’s mission: to facilitate international communication and understanding.

What I find unacceptable about the recent communications from the Registrar is their manner in addressing such misunderstandings. I am not arguing that their email was addressed exclusively to non-Americans; even American students are sometimes confused by bureaucratic university procedures. Part of the Registrar’s office’s job is to assist students in understanding academic policies, procedures, and the steps required to graduate. Sending spitefully worded emails to the entire degree-seeking body is not the appropriate response to the questions of a few students.

I can imagine that the Registrar’s role is challenging. They are in charge of transcripts, class scheduling, graduation requirements and eligibility, credit transfers and much, much more. However, if the office cannot execute their responsibilities while maintaining the level of customer service that is expected in a private American university, perhaps the University needs to hire additional staff to do the job.

Every office deals with difficult customers: that’s business. I know that the policies are written down somewhere, and that students should take responsibility to read them and familiarize themselves with how things work before firing off an email. But no matter the amount of stress, pressure or frustration that comes with the job, no office should be addressing students with such blatant hostility.

From what I have read on the community group and heard from classmates first hand, there have been many instances in which the Registrar has acted in such a manner, whether it was in person or via email. I have heard accounts of the office being unclear in their policies, assuring students that policies exist that in reality do not, and generally acting unkind.

School is, for many students, their entire life. Everything revolves around taking the right classes, getting the most out of the large amounts of money they pay to attend such an institution, and being able to graduate on time without any problems.

So I apologize for taking my frustration to social media, for succumbing to “slacktivism” and indulging in the pleasure that each like, reaction and supportive comment brought me. What we need to be focusing on is fixing this problem. How can we help the Registrar from being so stressed out and frustrated by students that they respond to us in such a distasteful way?

We are all human. We all behave less than respectably sometimes. Miscommunication can be deadly. This is no excuse, however, to act so childishly. To both sides of this argument, my suggestion is to keep your composure and address your questions and concerns in a respectful way. That is the only way the system will work.

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