‘An Open and Shut University’

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
(Reinhold Niebuhr - 1892-1971)

If you don’t want to read my whinge – look away now.

Back in October 2012 I was 9/10 of the way through my final module for a degree in psychology.  I had only the final exam to go and then the prize that I had spent six years, thousands of pounds and as many hours working for would be mine.

I wanted this degree so much – not just for myself but for my Lovely Mum, who had been interested in psychology long before it became fashionable.

A week before the exam I was involved in an accident that left me in a great deal of pain, with an infection that wouldn’t go away, poor mobility, stress, anxiety, deterioration in pre-existing health issues, the loss of my job and career, and in a horrendous situation where I was stopped from talking to many of my friends and colleagues.

Legal constrictions prevent me from writing any more about that horrific year but those who know us will understand the impact the accident has had on me and on those I hold most dear

I went ahead and took the exam because I thought it was too late to cancel.  The combination of pain, strong painkillers and antibiotics put me on another planet and I fell asleep during the exam. I’d already managed to get Lovely Friend very lost in the middle of a not nice bit of town when she took me for the exam.  Apparently I had the sat nav upside down. I don’t remember much about it.

Not surprisingly I failed the exam and was offered a resit  – for a mere £97.00. My GP didn’t feel that I’d be fit to take the exam in April 2013 and I was booked to take it a year after my original exam  – in October 2013.

I was studying for another course and was relieved when the exam venue was changed to one closer to home.  The exam for that course went well and so I felt optimistic about my resit – especially when I found that I passed, and passed well.

Because it had been a year since I’d studied the resit subject I was told that I would have extra tutorial support.  It never materialised and I had great difficulty getting any information that other students taking the exam had access to. I dug out my books, drew up a revision plan and set to – optimistically – despite all the other hassle that was still occupying my time.

I tried so hard to revise but for the first time in my life, the ability to retain information had gone. I would sit for hours going over my notes and reading the course books but pain would intrude after an hour or so and taking the painkillers sent me to sleep. Subjects that I had found so interesting and enjoyable a year before now seemed to swim on the page in an unintelligible sea of words.

At the time of the resit I was embroiled in the legal wranglings that I’ve been gagged about – so needless to say  – my mind was elsewhere most of the time.

When I went into the exam hall – same place that I been to earlier in the year and successfully passed an exam – I felt nauseous.  Hot, cold, y head began to swim. I turned the exam paper over and my mind went blank. I hadn’t taken any painkillers in case they made me fall asleep in the exam again so three hours of sitting still took its toll .  Halfway through the exam I had to go out to the toilets and throw up.

I did my best. I answered all the questions. I tried to pull every piece of information out of my fuddled head.

It wasn’t good enough. I failed.

I was told that the only way I could get my degree was to take the whole year again. Not only had the fees had gone up, but this seemed so unfair given that I had passed all the coursework and the residential  school section of the course.

There was one other chance to salvage my degree – aegrotat credit.

This is a bare pass that is awarded if a student is no longer able to continue their current studies due to ill-health, are on the last course for their degree and are permanently unfit to study. You don’t have to have a terminal illness – but apparently it helps.

I discussed this with my GP.  We were both of the opinion that the content of the course had become so linked with the stress of the past year that no matter how many times I took the exam, I would not be able to pass due to the physical symptoms I experienced.

I applied for the aegrotat credit and they turned me down because they didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be able to study any more. They suggested that I took the course again.

In desperation I wrote to the vice-chancellor – who NEVER deals with this kind of situation. I was passed back to student services who advised me to get further medical proof regarding the permanent cessation of my studies.

I paid for another letter from my doctor.

They rejected it on the grounds that the phrase ‘for the foreseeable future‘ doesn’t mean permanent.

They offered me the opportunity to progress to a level 2 complaint but said that I would need further medical evidence.

I went back to my GP – who not unreasonably was rather peeved that his wording had been questioned.  We put together a letter that we thought would be acceptable and in it he emphasised that it wasn’t just the difficulty in concentrating on my studies, the pain and stress of sitting through three hours in an exam hall, but it was primarily the fact that the content matter had become so inextricably linked with the accident and subsequent issues that it had caused a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. He also felt that the stress of wrangling with yet another bunch of bureaucrats was having an adverse effect on my overall health and preventing me from getting better.

I sent off the letter.

On Friday I received the reply.

It is with regret that they have turned my application for aegrotat credit down again because they still don’t believe that I am unable to continue my studies permanently.

I can progress to a level 3 complaint if I want to.

They even came out with a heap of sanctimonious claptrap about their compassion and understanding for students with disabilities and that they could make alternative exam arrangements for me should I wish to take the course again and give them some more money.

I don’t understand their logic.

I have no intention of studying with this organisation again – ergo – permanent end of studies.

Both exams were failed by a couple of points and I had done all the work to pass the rest of the course.

I have provided them with more medical evidence than you can throw a stick at – and despite the fact that the people making the decision are not medically qualified – or psychologists even – they have the power to rubbish everything my GP has told them and branded me a liar.

Do they think I am going to sneak back and take another course if they give me the degree I have worked so hard for?

Is it really just about the money or have I come across some petty-minded group of administrators who move the goal posts according to their whims and don’t like giving in?

Hub and I have talked and I think it is about time I drew a line under this farce.

I learned a great deal in the past six years, so the knowledge for the degree is mine and nothing can take that away.

The establishment that I have been studying with has shown a total lack of compassion, understanding and integrity so – is their degree really worth the paper it is printed on anyway?

In my opinion they have moved away from their original ethos and become greedy and grasping in an effort to compete with other educational establishments.

I want no more of it then.

To be honest, I never use the string of initials after my name that I’ve earned over the years.

I need to think about my health, my family and friends – not a bunch of anal retentives wandern amongst concrete cows  whilst they make up rules to suit themselves.

Shut the door  – close that particular book – and move on.

With particular thanks to Paul McGee  – The SUMO Guy

http://www.thesumoguy.com/

Oh and Flower, if you are still reading this and are about to put a another thinly disguised rant about me on FaceAche – don’t bother – just unfriend me please – time you moved on too.

 

 



 

 

 

‘Three Degrees of Social Influence’

“Jason! Hey Jaaaayssssonnnn!”

Jason looked up from his laptop and smiled at the vision before him.  Nico; red skinny jeans, lime green polo shirt,virgin white Converse and a casually draped peach cardigan that was in danger of slipping off his fashionably slight shoulders.  Pulling out the chair opposite, Nico sat down with a flourish and crossed one leg over the other, his foot flipping in an attention-grabbing manner. He was being watched by the other students in the room and he knew it.

“Guess what!”

Jason shrugged his chunky and less fashionable shoulders, camouflaged by a uniform black tee-shirt and grey hoodie that enabled him to blend in with most backgrounds.  “What Nico?  What have you heard?”

“Well.” Nico leaned forward conspiratorially, “You know like, I was going to a party at Amelia’s last night?  So sick! Huge country farm, parents away, big brother in charge but like he is always SO out of it!”

Having been omitted from the invitation list, Jason had tried to ignore the buzz that had gone around college regarding the party. As it was a major talking point, this had not been easy and packing up his books to go home on Friday night, it had been particularly painful listening to the excited babble.  He slid out of the room as quietly as he could and walked home trying to convince himself that the party would be a total failure, that Amelia was a stuck-up phony and that he wouldn’t have gone anyway even if he had been invited.

“Anyhoo!  It was a DISASTER!” Nico squealed, his expressive legs crossing and recrossing themselves. “Somebody put the address on FaceAche! There were like literally HUNDREDS of people there!  Police, ambulance, fire brigade – did I tell you that someone torched the barn?  Amelia was like totes DEVASTATED! She’d been so careful just to keep the invitations to friends ONLY but one of her friends must have like posted the information to THEIR friends and then like  they posted the invitation to THEIR friends and ZILLIONS of strangers turned up!”

“Much damage done?” Jason said as he executed a couple of swift keystrokes on his laptop.

“Oh my days yes! The barn burnt down.  Rooms were trashed, all the booze went and like the caterers left once the food fight started.  Amelia’s brother was arrested for a public order offence – he was like TOTES drunk – and Amelia threw everyone out.  Some of the girls were supposed to be staying the night and they had like NOWHERE to go!”

Raising his eyebrows slightly, Jason stopped to take a sip of his Americano coffee from the utilitarian white mug.  The waitress brought over Nico’s beverage; creamy beige in a tall glass with a long spoon and accompanied by a flake and marshmallows.  It rejoiced in the name of Choco-Mocha-Vanilla-Latte-Macchiato; Nico had opted for extra whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. It was a barrista’s work of art with a carefully executed heart-shape in the cream.  Other students rushed to the counter to order the same, but no one came back with a solid white mug.

“Is that your essay?  I’m going to have to ask for an extension.  I just don’t understand this three degrees of social  influence stuff at all.”

Smiling slowly, Jason saved his essay, emailed it to his tutor and pressed delete in his FaceAche settings. He looked pensively at his friend.

“How many FaceAche friends do you have Nico?”

“Oh, like hundreds I suppose.”

“So suppose you had some good news.  Such good news that you wanted to tell ALL your friends on FaceAche.  That’s one degree.  Then one of your friends decided to tell all of their friends, none  of whom actually know you personally. That’s two degrees. One of your friend’s friends thinks that the news is SO wonderful that she decides to tell all HER friends too.  Suddenly loads of people who you don’t know are aware of your good news.  It’s been established that good news spreads more quickly than bad.  Isn’t social media a wonderful thing?”

Nico’s gorgeous brow furrowed.  He opened his mouth to speak, looked over at the innocent face of his friend and tried to remember if he had actually told Jason where Amelia’s party was being held. He felt a little nauseous and pushed his coffee creation away.

Satisfied that the fake FaceAche profile he had created on Sunday morning had been well and truly deleted leaving no trace to himself, Jason closed down his laptop, drained the last of his Americano, and got to his feet.

“You coming Nico?  Class starts in five minutes.”