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Red tape and bulldozers

January 31st, 2013

“Bureaucracy is an obstacle to be handled with a cool head and a bulldozer when necessary.” I stumbled upon this quote five years ago, and have lived by it ever since.

One of my greatest experiences at JCU has been serving my peers in leadership roles. But over these past four years,  I have discovered that no leadership comes without its fair dose of red tape and paperwork nightmares. And let me tell you something – bureaucracy makes me bureau-crazy.

That’s right, I simply can’t stand working between different parties to accomplish a little task. Teddy Roosevelt felt the same way while he was trying to authorize construction of the Panama Canal. At the time, international treaties, government legislation and a whole array of other red tape were preventing the approval of the Canal. And the whole malaria thing didn’t make it any easier.

So, after getting completely stranded in the quagmire of bureaucracy, my man Teddy exclaimed: “Damn the law, I want the canal.” The Panama Canal was promptly built.

Now, maybe it’s my lack of hat/ mustache combo or the fact that I’m not a registered Bull-Moose party member, but I have not been able to overcome the red tape with the same integrity that Roosevelt did.

In fact, I almost wasn’t allowed to come back to JCU this semester because of red tape. So allow me now to issue some sardonically intended shout outs to my favorite departments here at JCU.

First, I would like to thank the Office of the Bursar for holding my records, transcripts and eligibility to register for classes until I was thoroughly bloodied from the process that is so affectionately known as “verification.”

For those of you who are fortunate enough to not be familiar with this term, let me simplify it. Based on a “random selection process,” a handful of students are chosen every year to prove that what they wrote on their FAFSA (the financial aid document submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Education with all income and tax information) was not falsified (even though it’s a federal crime to falsify tax records in the first place; but, hey, JCU, thanks for playing).

For the record, it’s the Office of Financial Aid that actually deals with this process. The Bursar’s role is seemingly just to complicate the matter.

Personally, I was “randomly selected” twice in my time at JCU. Getting selected for verification is what I imagine it must feel like to be chosen to compete in the Hunger Games. There’s a chance you’ll make it through, but the gamekeepers have evil tricks to try to stop you. May the odds be ever in your favor.

If you like puzzles, then this one’s for you – JCU randomly selects the students; the students then have to contact the IRS to get the required information for verification; the students then submit the forms back to JCU; JCU then submits the forms to the Dept. of Education, who sends them back to JCU. If the DoE is happy, then the process ends there. If not, the process repeats.

It’s like being stuck in the “It’s a small world after all” ride in Disney for three months. The puppets go from cute to terrifying after the third refrain.

So, after four months of the back and forth nonsense between the government, JCU and another arm of the government, my financial aid was approved with money to spare. Naturally, I bought a bigger meal plan.

It bears noting that the administrators of this process claim that they have no control over it, and they were unable to allow me to register for classes until the government gave them the green light to use loans they had already approved eight months earlier. Administrators who can’t administrate? I think I just found a salary we can afford to cut.

Who’s next? You guessed it, CSS. Back in September, I became the president of JCTV-4. By the second week of classes, my name was on a list to be allowed into the television studio (you know, the place where we produce and edit almost all of our content).

The constitution of the club, as required by the JCU Office of Student Activities, clearly states that the president of the club shall hold their office until the end of the spring semester. However, my “authorization” to get into the studio expired at the end of the fall semester because they haven’t received an updated list (even though my name was on the list for both semesters, but that would require actually reading), according to CSS. I guess I just can’t be trusted.

Naturally, just like with my financial aid holds, these all-powerful administrators sit in their thrones and claim it’s not an issue of trust, “it’s just procedure.” Maybe that’s just the way it is. Maybe I’m the one who’s wrong. But if that’s the case, then in the spirit of good old Teddy Roosevelt (and arguably Burger King), “Damn the law, I want to have it my way.”