Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Schol*ar*ship


Disclaimer: We here at Dissent vigorously support the scholarship program and have over the years done so in a variety of capacities. In fact, we recently helped raise more money for creating an endowed scholarship. Rebel Girl is even a former scholarship girl. Thank you Assistance League of Long Beach!

However, we are worried about the program. And we're not the only ones. In the past few months, Rebel Girl has received multiple requests for blog coverage of the program. People she didn't even know read the blog, came up and asked her why she hadn't written about it. She promised she would.

So, here she is, keeping her promise and doing so by way of passing along the concerns she has collected. She will resist the urge to go on and on 'cause she still has papers to grade and finals to give. You know how that is.
A 1 x 3 inch box for "academic ability & accomplishment"
The Form
The form used this year to solicit recommendations left something to be desired. Ahem. The tiny boxes where one was to submit thoughtful assessments so candidates could be judged deserving of monetary award or not were, well, tiny. How tiny? Too tiny. Even the students with the most modest of achievement deserved more. Considering the form could not be filled in on line, one either had to track down a typewriter (Rebel Girl owns an IBM Selectric) or simply do the best one could with a pen or pencil. The results? Not a pretty sight. And certainly not comprehensive. If it was her money that was being handed out, and Rebel Girl guesses at least some of it was, well, she'd like to think that there was more evidence submitted in order to evaluate candidates.

To be fair, recommenders could submit additional letters — as indeed, Rebel Girl, frustrated by the boxes and the whole set-up, did. She wonders how many others did so.

Well, as one venerable grizzled faculty member quipped, at least this form was better than last year when no recommendations were solicited at all! He shuddered to think of the results of that. Scholarships handed out using - what? - the students' own testimony (at times unreliable, perhaps self-serving)and transcripts. Scandalous. But that was last year.

The Process
Concern about the process by which the form was submitted was first brought to Rebel Girl's attention by a student who had asked for a recommendation — and echoed by several faculty members.

Despite the form's header of "Confidential" there was little confidentiality. The applicants were asked to upload or fax the forms themselves, which meant, of course, that they read the assessments written about them. As more than one faculty pointed out, there could be an opportunity to add later information as well, if say an applicant desired to give himself or herself a 5 instead of a 3 in "motivation" or "leadership ability." In addition, Rebel Girl was told by several people that because of this absence of confidentiality, some faculty simply gave the same "score" to each applicant — worried perhaps that the students would compare the forms after receiving them back.

Everyone she spoke with bemoaned the absence of the former system (last seen in 2009) where letters were solicited online, confidentiality intact, with electronic reminders about deadlines, etc.

Evaluation and Criteria
This perhaps merits more time than Rebel Girl has. Needless to say, she heard from everyone about this one. There were concerns about the time given for review and evaluation, with many pointing out that the material was submitted early in the semester but evaluation was done quite late and under considerable pressure for swift deliberations. Students were wondering about how the criteria were applied and whether or not the process could be more transparent. Some raised the issue of favoritism and patronage, with worries that people could bend the rules for applicants as they saw fit, perhaps even rewarding those who had not applied in the program.

Rebel Girl did go on and on despite her promise not to. Sorry. And she could keep going, but she won't. So there.

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19 comments:

  1. Really? That's the form?
    Ridiculous.
    Maybe they think IVC is a grade school.

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  2. It would be nice if all applicants were notified of the results - whether or not they were chosen for awards. The winners are notified but others are not. This is a problem. Also the timeliness of the notification.

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  3. Perhaps the deadline should be pushed back to late fall semester to give people more time in the Spring. I do think the committee should be convened earlier and the process explained BEFORE deliberations begin. That could happen in the fall.

    I too like the program but like you said there's problems.

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  4. What is the difference between "motivation" and "self-starter"?

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  5. Can you receive a scholarship is you didn't apply for one through the official process?

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  6. I served on this committee years ago. It's an important committee whose processes need to be well-managed and transparent because they distribute THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. It has crumbled in recent years - just as funds have increased. Odd that.

    You are too kind. The application form insults students, faculty and donors. It reduces scholarship and achievement to a bumpsticker - less than a bumpersticker. Reb's car has longer bumpersticker slogans than what's allowed on that form.

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  7. Who designed that form? In what way is it "confidential"? I put it in an envelope but the student told me that he had to scan it himself - so - well - no confidentiality there.

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  8. Interesting questions. I have often wondered about the protocol for the dispersal of such funds - who makes the rules? Where is the oversight? I think the donors and the applicants deserve better frankly. Yes, trust has been eroded over the years. Few people really notice because the students move on and the donors are just around for the photo op - but faculty and staff and admin see this. We have to get beyond the idea that we want to put on a good show - it has to be more than that. Especially with funds at stake. Are their any laws that deal with this?

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  9. Thanks for this. As usual, people don't want to speak up - and are discouraged from doing so.

    There is so much pressure just to say how nice everything is - that's why this kind of forum is important.

    No one would say this stuff in a meeting for fear of hurting feelings or offending. Those who would say these things are not invited to meetings.

    This is why this kind of stuff keeps happening.

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  10. It's a real problem. No one wants to say anything because they think it's bad to criticize something that does good for students but there's been real issues at nearly every level. If the process is poor and prejudicial then whatever "good" is done for students is also damaged. It's not enough just to raise money and distribute it - the process has to be sound.

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  11. 4:34 - Scholarship recipients are supposed be applicants but that is not always the case. Now THAT is a real problem.

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  12. How can you get a scholarship if you don't apply for one and submit all the paperwork? That doesn't seem fair to the people who do.

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  13. Perhaps a 1 x 3 inch box for "academic ability & accomplishment" is all that some need. Some of your colleagues might not want to put all that efforts into writing letters. Maybe some of your colleagues don't want to read those letters. Maybe this is the way to go. Streamlined. Expedited.

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  14. I've never been at any college in which a 1 x 3 box was regarded as sufficient for a recommendation. How does one write even one paragraph in such a space?

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  15. If money is being dispersed outside the process - that is given to recipients who have not submitted applications in a timely manner - well that violates not only the spirit of the program - but I am sure some kind of policy. Board policy? Foundation policy?

    At the same time, I would be not be at all surprised to see this kind of behavior. It is the result of the cavalier attitudes in fashion around here - reward friends and allies, cultivate friends and allies by telling them to rewrad their own friends and allies, etc, etc.

    They feel justified doing this too.

    Think of the students who did everything right only to be overlooked by those favored by the powers-that-be.

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  16. What regulations, if any, guide the foundation and the scholarship program?

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  17. If scholarship funds are being distributed outside the approved process that is BIG NO NO. But I can't imagine how that would hsppen without approval by higher-ups. Which suggests a even bigger NO-NO.

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  18. Hmmm. Where's the oversight on this?

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  19. But how could students recieve scholarships if they didn't apply? It sounds like people would just be giving money to whoever they want.

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