Thursday, July 11, 2013

Education Bureaucracy in the Twenty-First Century

I received a couple of messages dated July 10, 2013 right next to each other in the inbox for my e-mail account at Housatonic Community College, where I am a member of part-time faculty.  I thought the combination of those two messages have a lot to say about the state of the educational bureaucracy in the twenty-first century.  The first message was resending a message dated June 17 with an additional comment.  The original message said that because of a serious budget deficit at the college, agreement was reached in a recent Administrative Team Meeting to adjust the air conditioning temperature at the college to 74 degrees (Fahrenheit). A comment added when the message was resent on July 10 said, “If anyone is having difficulty with this temp. setting you should contact your Dean with your concerns.”

This message raised all kinds of questions in my mind, including the following:  Why does it take an Administrative Team Meeting to determine the temperature at which to set the thermostat?  If saving money is a goal, it seems to me that much money could be saved by having an individual make the decision to adjust the temperature of the air conditioning by a couple of degree rather than using up the time of several people who are making a good salary and who could be doing more productive things with their time.  Why was it necessary to tell everyone about changing the temperature on the thermostat?  Not knowing at what temperature the air conditioning was set at before, I assume that it was set at 72 degrees.  Would anyone in the buildings have known that the temperature had gone from 72 degrees to 74 degrees?  If the goal is to save money, why is the temperature set as low as 74 degrees?  Why is the school inviting anyone who feels uncomfortable at 74 degrees to complain to the dean?  Is anyone who claims that they were comfortable at 72 degrees and uncomfortable at 74 degrees going to be referred for a mental status evaluation?  Is any dean who takes such a complaint seriously going to be referred for a mental status evaluation or a job performance review?  When I read the message, I checked the temperature in my office here at home (I work at home, since the classes I teach are online) and it was 82 degrees.  I was not uncomfortable enough to bother turning on the air conditioning, but then an online instructor can get by with working in shorts, sandals, and a sleeveless T-shirt during warm weather.

The second message was from the Director of Public Safety announcing that the college is hosting an enrichment program, emphasizing math and literacy skills for students entering high school in the City of Bridgeport.  The program includes security provided by the Bridgeport Board of Education, with guards posted outside the classrooms and in the cafeteria during lunch.  If the guards are needed, they I am happy that they are being provided, but the fact that all those guards are thought to be needed shows either that Bridgeport schools have a serious issue with security, or that a lot of unneeded security guards are drawing paychecks.  Neither conclusion gives me comfort.