“For now, let me try to give you a basic idea of what you’ll be required to do. You are lucky that you have a decent Director to work for at the Queens school as far as they go, and that you also have a pretty stable slate of teachers there. Also, your enrollments are within acceptable limits and the support staff has been fairly stable, thanks in no small part to Marvin’s leadership style, which is generally supportive of his managers. And he treats his staff decently. So, they’re relatively happy with their lot and you don’t have too many serious issues to worry about immediately.”
“That’s good to know,” Dan noted, grateful for that assessment.
“Having said that, this is a tough business. We cater to the lowest common denominator as students go. Many choose the business school only because they need to work or study to keep the welfare checks coming, and school is easier than actual work. At least half of the students are here just to scam the system—even the ones who actually want an education. They will take out student loans they never intend to repay—just like any other credit they may have had in the past, if any—and will take advantage of the federal and state grants that pay the majority of their tuition. This is as true for the Queens school in general as it is for the rest of our schools and for the whole industry. We are basically being subsidized by the government and by student loans that nearly half of the students have no intention of repaying. And that is the perpetual sword hanging over our heads, as the government can cut off our ability to qualify for guaranteed student loans and grants any time if the default rates become excessive—and they will judge what that means—usually around a 50-55 percent student default rates.”
“I had no idea about any of this,” Dan said.
“Of course not. Nobody outside of the industry does. Moreover, the State Education Department, SED, does not in general think very highly of our industry so they can be a real pain in the ass when it comes to periodic audits or turning down new course proposals. You have to make sure that your teachers keep up their lesson plans and that these contain reasonable, relevant information. That is a major part of your job. Many, if not most, of your teachers will likely be a lazy lot and they will delay that part of their jobs as long as they can get away with it. You have to make sure they keep their lesson plans current and that you review and keep them on file regularly. I suspect you’ll have issues with a number of your teachers—even ones who are actually pretty decent in the classroom based on conversations with your predecessor. If you don’t crack the whip and stay on top of them, they will walk all over you and do the least amount of work they can get away with—and writing lesson plans is not a favorite part of the job for any of them.”
“Since you mention the faculty,” Dan interjected, “how and how often do we evaluate them, and do we have students evaluate them regularly?”
“That’s actually up to you, Dan. If you have the time, you can evaluate them annually, quarterly or any time you damned well please. SED does not much care about that—as long as their credentials check out and they have current lesson plans on file in your office during an audit, that’s all they will want to see. Student evaluations are irrelevant, as are your class observations—except in cases where you have suspicions about what’s going on in a classroom or want to build a case against a given teacher. As you know, they are employed at will and can be fired at any time with or without cause. But you have to beware of firing anyone in a protected class as they will likely sue or file charges of discriminatory firing regardless of fault or galloping incompetence. The white males you can chuck out the window for no reason and nobody will care—but watch out for just about everyone else. I personally don’t evaluate my teachers unless I have a problem or suspicion of a problem from one of them—including too many student complaints.”
“I see,” Dan said, not really seeing at all and having no intention of following the advice on evaluating faculty only as a risk management protocol.
Just then, a young woman peeked into the open door and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, Dr. Green. But there’s a student here insisting to see you.”
“He rolled his eyes and asked,” What is it about?”
“She won’t say but says it’s urgent.”
“Fine, send her in.” Then, looking at Dan, “It never ends.”
A moment later, a young woman of perhaps 18 or 19 was shepherded in, with the secretary announcing “This is Tenisha, Dr. Green.”
“What do you want, Tenisha,” He responded, looking at the young black woman dressed in jeans and a faded T-Shirt in nondescript pastel colors.
“I’m sorry to bother you, dean, but I need subway fare to get home tonight.” The woman looked at Dr. Green intently, in neither a pleading nor a demanding tone, looking down from time to time as if embarrassed.”
“You need money for a subway token? Why are you coming to me? What do I have to do with that?”
“I don’t know who else to ask,” she answered, scrunching up her nose as if the answer should be obvious.
“You did not know that you would need money for a subway ride back home when you came in just now? What happened? Did you lose your purse on the way here? Get mugged?” His tone was sarcastic, and unnecessarily hurtful to Dan’s ears.
“No, I just did not have enough money for two tokens.”
“I’m not made of money. I don’t have a slush fund for students who can’t afford to pay for their transportation. Why don’t you walk home?”
“It’s too far. I live in Brooklyn and it would take me hours to walk home after my classes.”
“Well,” he retorted, still in a sarcastic tone and louder voice than necessary, “That’s something you should have thought about before coming, don’t you think? That’s why you have student loans, or maybe you need to get yourself a job.”
“I have a job,” she said, defiantly. Anger now tinging her voice. “I just don’t have the money for the subway fare today. I have never asked you before.”
“No, you haven’t, maybe because you’re new. But others do it every day. I am not your piggy bank. Why don’t you go see your admissions counselor? His salary depends on your coming to school regularly. Mine does not.”
“Please,” she pleaded for the first time. “How am I supposed to get home?”
At this Dan could no longer remain silent and pulled out his wallet, offering her a $5 bill. “Here—and get a sandwich or snack for lunch too, OK?”
“NO!” Exclaimed Dr. Green as the girl extended her hand towards Dan’s offered bill. “They have to understand that they can’t just panhandle every day.” With that the girl pulled back her hand as if stung.
“Just this once,” Dr. Green continued, “I will help you out. I won’t give you any money, but,” he stopped and reached under his desk pulling out a plastic bag, “here—take these cans and bottles. The corner deli across the street will take them and give you back the deposits. There’s more than enough here for a token. That’s a lot of money. But I’ll do this just this once.”
The girl reached out for the proffered bag, taking it and giving a very quiet “Thank you” while turning towards the door.
“Wait a moment, Ms.” Dan said. “Please take this and when you go to return the cans and bottles get yourself a sandwich,” he said offering the $5 still in his hand to her. You can’t learn on an empty stomach. Go on, please take it. Maybe someday when I forget my wallet home someone will do the same for me.” She looked up into his eyes with a thin smile and took the money, once again saying “Thank you” while holding Dan’s eyes for a moment longer. Then she walked out of the office.
As soon as she walked out, Dr. Green got up, walked to the door and closed it, returning to his seat. “Don’t ever do that again!” he said to Dan with barely suppressed anger in his voice. “You don’t know these kids, but you will. They will bleed you like leeches if they think you an easy mark. If you do that in Queens, you’ll never get rid of them.”
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