Bureaucratic Catastrophe

My alma mater, the College of Charleston, was the site of an utter disaster. It had a homelessness crisis, a substance abuse crisis, a mental health crisis, a food insecurity crisis, and the administrators were feckless. I did, publicly, call for the Dean of Students to be fired once and I stand by that. She was, by all statistics, possibly the most incompent college administrator in the history of the State of South Carolina. Looking through the statistics of her tenure and one wonders why she was not fired. Now, none of these were blamed on her but her office oversaw almost all student life so the buck, in part, stops with her.

Working in politics, I understand that statistics are too boring for politicians to get taken down by, usually. Juicy scandals ruin politicians, being too feckless to accomplish anything doesn’t tend to harm their reputation. A complete failure, perhaps, but a complete failure devoid of scandal who, by virtue of the wonkiness of her job, would nary elicit the ire of a soul. I met the Dean of Students a few times and she possessed neither benevolence, malice, or any personality. She was something like Jared Kushner. The only real personality trait she possessed in any considerable volume was a pride in her having climbed to the top and she expressed an air of snobbery.

She was the big fish in a small pond and her primary concern was staying on the throne of her fiefdom. To her, this meant avoiding risk. There were no consequences for passive failure. Neglect would not make headlines. Only active scandals would. A fraternity rape or someone saying a racial slur or something like that. Hungry, homeless, addicted, anxious, students were out of her purview because she wouldn’t be held accountable for those things. It is not that she wished ill on the victims of those things but devoting time, resources, and effort to those things would do nothing to secure her job.

Her greatest threat was the PTA. Now, colleges don’t have PTAs literally but the parents of the more affluent students functioned as one and she was a slave to them. The College of Charleston did a great job of pasting over the dumpster fire that it was. Most colleges are, to a degree, an animal house of partying but the College of Charleston was insanely so. The Dean of Students could have curtailed the alcohol, drugs, sex, and the symptoms of them. Yet, it would make it less enticing to the out-of-state rich kids and they’d have to replace them with in-state middle class and poor kids. The college had clean alternative events but they were G-rated and lame, making them cool enough for normal kids would diminish the hard-partying reputation of the school and ultimately the bottom line of their budget since the alumni donations came from that demographic. Moreover, it would compete with the greek life which didn’t want such competetion.

The homelessness crisis could have been abated by downsizing the larger dorms to make room for studio dorms. Whenever I brought this up, the most common answer was that it would deter the most affluent clientele from attending the college. The Dean of Students should have done a malaise speech and told the students to make a sacrifice for their homeless neighbors. Nah, man, they didn’t want to hear that they were their sibling’s keeper. They wanted their asses kissed and the dean looked for a way out that didn’t involve offending the entitled asses she oversaw. If students are unwilling to make a sacrifice for literal homeless students at their school out of love and civic responsiblity, those aren’t students anyone should want at their school.

Returning to the paragraph before last, there were a number of fraternity rapes, one presumes many were unreported. Not only would making an earnest effort at outcompeting the parties with non-lame clean parties scare off the most hardcore greeks who wrote big checks but it also would get no headlines while rolling the heads of the few rapists who got caught got decent headlines. The CAB, who organized the alternative events, put on shit like Finding Nemo. If you don’t want the kids to drink vodka then serve mocktails, not juicy juice. (that one’s metaphorical) Of course, I am not saying unintentional fecklessness had nothing to do with it but they can’t suck that horrifically badly without, on some level, wanting to lose. I am not against kids’ movies or apple juice. They’re both perfectly fine and I occasionally indulge in them as an adult. Especially apple juice which I only relegate to sparing consumption of because of its sugar conent and thoroughly enjoy drinking it. Also, Disney princess movies are excellent. It’s just that they both are not what I would compete with frat parties with.

Playing Finding Nemo in the student center while there is cocaine down the street is a joke. Especially, when a lot of the kids who aren’t sleeping in a house with cocaine are sleeping in a car, alone. The government is using the Hays Code and pretending everything is sunshine in 1959, half of the students were spoiled brats at drunk ragers doing lots of drugs and sex, and the other half are living out The Grapes of Wrath. I used two examples, primarily, but the rest is the same. Her aim was to avoid bad PR and to appease the wrath of the PTA. Anything counter to or not contributing to those ends was not done.

The dean, ultimately, lacked moral courage to do what was right over what was easy. As she saw it, the buck didn’t stop with her if she didn’t get blamed for the problem which is a sentiment betraying an almost complete lack of character. She was a tragedy; a woman who desperately and successfully remained the big fish in a small pond out of shameless cowardice. As the statistics grew worse, she cowered at anything that might cost her anything. Telling the students they would get smaller dorms to house their peers, competing with frat parties to save girls from sexual assault, all would offend people and might cost her something. In the end, she didn’t have the moral spine.

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