I discovered today that I did not graduate in August as I should have.
Now that my head is starting to clear from the turmoil of the birth, I recalled an email message I received at the end of July from R, the incompetent Graduate Program Assistant at my University. It was a bulk email, sent to many students, telling us that she had received notice from the graduate school saying that we were missing paperwork for graduation. She wanted us to tell her if we had thought we were graduating and when and how far along we were and what paperwork we were missing. Let me just say that that is her job. Her job is to maintain our records and transmit them to the proper authorities (among a very few other things, such as maintaining the records for applicants to the graduate program). Still, it's my degree, so I shot back a very polite email telling her that I had thought to graduate in May, but had had problems with my thesis and so was now set to graduate in August. I asked her to let me know what paperwork I was missing and how I could rectify the situation to keep me on track to graduate. I didn't hear back from her. Then I found out that I was out of a job, that the non-profit I had given my heart and soul to was going to go out of business, and Kristin's pregnancy got exponentially more difficult than it had been. I had other things on my mind, and when I thought about it at all, I thought that R must have gotten her shit together and decided to do her job and that she must not have needed anything from me to keep me on track to graduate. I don't know why I thought that. It must have been the sleep deprivation.
So, this morning I decided to check and see if I had, indeed, graduated. Imagine my upset to discover that I have not. The information I could gather on the university website said that I needed to update my application to graduate and pay $10 to reactivate my file. I couldn't remember ever having applied to graduate before, but I had gotten a bit behind with the disagreement over format with the thesis office, so I thought I'd done some self-sabotage again. The problem, as far as I could see, is that I have a full-time job now, and in order to go to campus and navigate the bureaucracy I would need to take some time off, and I'd need to do this soon so that I could at least graduate this year, and I don't have any leave or sick time saved up to use to take off. I decided to call and see if I could do the form on-line or mail it in or something. Only to find out that that information only applies to undergraduates. Graduate student graduation is completely a thing of the graduating department. When the department sends all the forms in, the student graduates. And my department, specifically R, hadn't sent the forms in. Suddenly the impact of that little email she sent me sank in. They weren't giving her notice so she could let the students know we had fucked up our graduation by not turning in forms; they had been giving her notice that she had fucked up our graduation by not turning in our forms.
So, I sent her (again) a very polite email inquiring as to the status of my forms. She replied that I was missing the report of my final exam and had my committee waived the requirement? I replied that as an MFA my final exam was my defense (something she should know) and that my committee had signed my Final Exam Report at the same time as they signed Approval of the Final Reading form immediately after my defense and that the chair of my committee had, himself, taken the forms to her right that minute. I went on to tell her (very sweetly) that since she hadn't infomed me that I was missing the Final Reading form, I assumed that she had received the forms, but that I had kept a copy for my own files (thank God, since I certainly don't have time to track my committee down and gather signatures -- that would take even more time than navigating academic bureaucracy) and I could fax it to her this evening. She replied that ha ha, hadn't we lost my paperwork once already last spring? I wrote back that if my paperwork had been misplaced last spring I certainly hadn't been informed of the fact. She ended the email repartee by letting me know that once I get that copy of the form to her she will "zoom it through the hoops" so that hopefully I can graduate in December.
Now I realize that it's my degree and so no one will care about it the way that I do. I should have been more insistent during the summer, but then, I'm not the one receiving notices from the Graduation Office about the status of my file. I'm not the one who is supposed to be collecting and forwarding my paperwork, and I'm not even the one who can find out what paperwork I am missing. All I can do is trust that she's doing her job, and try to remind her of her responsibilities when it seem like it isn't.
This isn't the first time her incompetence has affected me. Last winter I applied for the PhD program in our department. When the time came for us to hear our results, I never received a rejection letter. For 2 months I waited for word. Everytime I asked about it, I was told that the responses had been mailed. I started thinking that I had been put on a mailing list. Other friends in the program started trying to find out what was going on on my behalf. Finally, there appeared PhD applicants in our classes. They had been accepted into the program and were touring the University to try to decide if they were going to attend. Finally, I went to the Director of the Graduate Program and found out that he had been under the impression that I had received my rejection letter 2 months prior. R had lost my letter. I finally got notice of my rejection via email.
So here I am. You know, I applied for a job at the Utah Museum of Natural History over the summer. I kicked ass at the interviews. They were looking for someone with an advanced degree. I told them I was not yet graduated but that I had completed all my requirements and would be issued a diploma in August. Then suddenly they stopped considering me. I was confused. Now I wonder if they looked up my status and saw that I was not listed as graduating. I wonder if R cost me what would have been pretty darn close to a dream job (if I couldn't work at the non-profit where I had been). I don't think I'll ever know. Not that I could do anything if I did. It's not like they're going to fire the person they hired instead of me. All I can do is fume, and post angry rants, and make a voodoo doll and fill it with pins.
Oh, and I can write very eloquent and angry (and rhyming) letters to the Director of the Graduate Program, the Chair of the English Deptartment, the Dean of the Graduate School, the Dean of Students, the Dean of the College of Humanities, and the President of the Fucking University. So there!