Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Exceptional Exceptions Committee

 I had mentioned to my Professor that I was interested in doing a Master’s degree at some point. I had also asked him if it was possible to get a raise once I finished my Bachelor’s degree. He thought that there was an automatic raise from the university once you finish your bachelor’s degree but that I should check with the secretaries about it. I did, and unsurprisingly no such thing happens for hourly workers, only for workers with a set monthly paycheck (who are these mystical people and do they actually exist?). So as a college graduate with a B.Sc. who regularly does DNA testing and engineers bacteria, I essentially earn the same amount as the guy who spreads chumus on your pita at Shlomi’s Falafel. Luckily for humanity, my main motivator is not money, which is why I still work there. I happen to love my job and feel somewhat appreciated by my coworkers and boss (less so by the mice). That doesn’t mean that this job is sustainable for the long term. I have bills to pay and mouths to feed (and Johnny’s is a large mouth to feed).
He asked me about it one day, if I had checked with the secretaries about a pay increase and I informed him that unfortunately hourly workers do not receive a raise upon receiving a degree. He thought about it for a few seconds and asked me if I’d be interested in applying for a Master’s degree starting next semester. So I though about it for a few seconds and answered that I just might be. The only problem? My grades. I was 2.2 points short of the acceptance requirements. On the other hand, I have two things going for me- 1) I’ve been working in a research lab for over a year 2) I’m an immigrant who finished university in a foreign country with a foreign language. So it’s entirely possible that they could make an exception for me, as I’ve heard has been made for other olim.
So “we” started the process- first stop, set up a meeting with the professor in charge of advanced degrees to discuss my chances of being accepted. Easier said then done. She was out of the country for a week, then couldn’t fit me in for another two weeks after she got back. When she did finally get around to speaking with me, I was informed that they had decided this year that they would not accept anyone with an average below an 80, no exceptions. Buuuuuuut, if the exceptions committee (yes, HU has a committee for exceptions though there are no exceptions. Unless they make an exception.) decided, they could accept me “on condition” which would require a year of make up classes, and then if I had an average of above an 80, I would be accepted to a Master’s degree. Well that sounds super fun. Another year of school for no reason! All I had to do was write a request letter, send in my grades and a recommendation letter from my professor, and they’d decide what to do.
Well, I didn’t really have much of a choice. This is life for Natania. Jumping through hoops of fire has become something of a habit for me. I suppose if this whole science thing doesn’t work out, there’s always the circus. Maybe I could even bring Johnny. He’s certainly something of an attraction. I would call him “the Mighty Vegetable Hunter” or “the Majestic Biting Viking Cat.” If not, maybe Shlomi’s hiring.
The good news is that in the end, they only gave me two make up classes next semester so I can start the Master’s next year (assuming I don’t completely drop the ball on this one. And then trip over it, falling on my face). I think the university just enjoys torturing me.
Speaking of which, they seem to have “forgotten” to pay me this month. This is what happens in an overly bureaucratic system where every step requires a special form and 3 different signatures of very specific people who are either on vacation/sick/have a sick kid/are out of the office at the moment/etc. I checked my bank account on the first of the month, when I get paid. No money had been deposited but since it was New Year’s day, I figured maybe the banks were on vacation/sick/have a sick kid/out of the office and I cut them some slack. When I still had not received my paycheck the next day, I went to the secretaries to ask what was going on. They looked quite harried and were running around like ADD kids given too many tasks at once. It turns out that when the head secretary had left her post at Ein Kerem to work at Har Hatzofim, she had not quite finished everything that she had needed to do. In addition, her son had been sick so she had been out of the office even when she was technically still working there. I was informed that the head secretary has to fill out a form every 2 months for all the hourly workers to renew their work approval so that they can get their paychecks. This sounds like more unnecessary paperwork to me, but HU has an entire department dedicated to creating more paperwork and other obstacles standing in the way of a generally uncomplicated life. At least in my imagination they do. With a row of elves tapping away at typewriters, and Soviet bureaucrats hovering over them devising more and more ways of making everyone’s lives hell.
In short, the secretary had not taken care of such trivial matters as people’s ability to pay rent and buy food before she had left and no one else had access to her systems. Nor could they decipher the notes and tables she had left on her desk which allegedly documented her activities (though they could also have been bets taken on the races for all I know). Her replacement is only arriving in a few weeks (probably with absolutely no idea of what’s going on) and the other secretaries were swamped (a line of unhappy looking people had begun to form behind me). They tried calling various people (none of whom answered) and looking stuff up on the computer (which froze), so I left them to it and went back to work (which I would hopefully be paid for eventually).
The next day I planned to go back and check on their progress with the matter. But with all the work they had to do, and backlog of urgent matters, they had decided to take a day off. The next day I again intended to check progress but couldn’t get to work due to the drivers of my favorite bus company going on strike and shutting down an entire city. I finally made contact on Thursday and was informed that they were trying to get me an advance so at least I’d get something. I thought that was very generous of them since I hadn’t gotten paid in 5 days due to their bureaucratic incompetence, and general ineffectiveness, but you take what you can get.
In a normal company, this story would have gone like this: “Hey, I didn’t get my paycheck this month.” “Oh, the secretary who deals with finances left and I guess she never got around to it. I’ll call the accountant and have him write you a check by the end of the day. And as an apology, please take this plate of cookies.”

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