Policies that Cause Rather than Solve Problems

Today I received an email from a student in my 9:30 am class. it read:

“Forgot my id. I will be late. I’m in the front but they won’t let me in.”

This particular student is a student with special needs, and so this student has a note-taker. The note-taker was there at 9:30, but the student was not. By 9:45, the student had not arrived in class. Unfortunately, I checked my email early this morning, but did not check it in the time between my arrival at school and first class, and so, following policy, the note-taker left.


About 20 minutes later, just under the halfway point of the class, the student came in to see a board full of notes and material on Categorical propositions. The work we did in class today laid groundwork for the next three weeks worth of material. Students who were there experienced a huge and important front-load the second major unit of the class. Students who missed it will be scrambling to catch up  right up until the mid-term exam.

Her email was sent at 9:04 am, by the way.

So, this student did everything right except bring her school ID with her, and now her success in the class is imperiled. All for a policy that is ostensibly aimed at “improving student safety.” Do we really need to say that most of the college shootings of the last 10 years have been carried out by people who had IDs? Do we need to point out that our college is objectively safe–relative to other colleges and other City Colleges, based on the Clery Report data? Do we really need to point out that the last time we did a security survey, there was much more concern among faculty about students than about strangers? About being alone in stairwells and hallways and offices than about people without ids wandering in?

If a few students can bring about a policy change (that was the reason provided at the State of the College address, right?) with major potential implications on student learning and work and the rest–without consulting Faculty Council or anything else–then perhaps a few faculty belly aching about a stupid policy that creates problems without solving any can get a similar result. Let’s say my bag is stolen with my wallet and ID in it. Let’s say further that I don’t have cash on me (typical). I suppose I could borrow some, but let’s say I arrive at a time and day where the people I see that I know are, like me, without cash or access to their ATM cards for some reason. Should I take a sick day? Should I send a note to my students to wait, ride the train home, scrounge up some quarters from the couch and laundry room and my kid’s bank and return and pay $10 so I can work?

“Of course not,” someone will say. You will see someone who will vouch for you or loan you the money or whatever.” And they’d be right. I would be slightly and probably only temporarily inconvenienced by the situation, because I’m white, I’m old, I’m male, I’m employed, I’d be in professional (or semi-professional) dress and so on–take your pick of possible reasons I’d have it easy.

My student, however, and likely many students, does not live with the same privileges. My student was sent home on a day that she needed to be in class, on a day when she arrived 30 minutes before class was to start, only to return to find that, because she had been sent home to get a piece of plastic with her picture on it, she had not only missed important material but missed out on the chance to have her special needs accommodated. And for what? To what end?

I am hopping mad right now.

3 thoughts on “Policies that Cause Rather than Solve Problems

  1. PS: I wonder what data this new policy was based on. Surely a data driven institution like our own did not affect a big policy change on the basis of a few conversations and anecdotal observations, right? Surely there was inquiry and data collection regarding how many people were allowed through the gates without IDs over the course of a week? A day? And whether they were students? Employees? Visitors?

    Does the data show a problem? And will the data show the efficacy of the new policy?

    How will the success (or stupidity) of this new (stupid) policy be measured, I wonder? When a school starts measuring their success by counting “people turned away” it’s time for some serious introspection.

  2. PhiloDave, I feel your frustration. I’ve been frustrated since the security gates were installed. I wonder how much they have discouraged unwanted guests from entering the building. This new policy of $10 is ludicrous. A few years ago, at the dawn of the lounge, I said to follow the money. How many major purchases have occurred in the last several years with no faculty input? Let’s see…security gates, finger printing, idea paint (please correct me if I’m wrong on this one), an online bookstore, etc. More often than not, those making decisions prefer to ask for forgiveness (although that would imply admitting an error) rather than permission (really just communication). How does $10 for a missing ID relate to the reinvention goals and help with student success, retention, attitudes, satisfaction, etc? All I know is that once the policy is put into full force, many instructors will have more problems with absences rather than tardiness. Which is worse, a student showing up a few minutes late or not at all? Students, many of whom are working full time to fund their education will be further financially strapped. Is there any 4 year college that charges students for forgetting their ID? I’m just baffled and happy to vent about it. If anything I claimed in this rambling paragraph is completely fallacious, please correct me. (If I had my way, I’d rip out the security gates so I could walk into the building without stopping to pull out my ID, wait for the ding and enter through the slowly opening gates. It’s not that I don’t value our security, it’s my curiosity as to whether the gates really are a deterrent for someone already planning to do harm.)

    • I would be standing next to you as you readied to rip out the gates, hammer in hand, Mathissexy.

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