Chapter 22: The University Credit Card

Just headed back to school to begin my 37th year in education.

The initial meeting of our department is always one worth attending. The highlights of the meeting for me were the (1) the rationale for not including an extra elementary Italian section despite a huge waiting list and (2) the rationale for the golden handshake to a university official who got caught using his university credit card for clandestine retreats with his girlfriend in Alabama.

Which story do you want me to write about first?

I know! The credit card story is way too juicy to pass up.

A year or so ago, an unnamed church-going university official, around my age, married with children, got caught using his university credit card in a slightly inappropriate manner. He got caught using it for clandestine meetings with a female companion somewhere romantic in Alabama.

The news in our local newspaper was Pulitzer-worthy. TV cameras set up shop all over campus. Headlines about the scandal had a week-long shelf life. I remember the noteworthy marketing theory my president once told me during an overseas trip: “Any news coverage about the university is good for the university.” He didn’t look too comfortable during the entire scandal coverage.

Everybody in town was shocked! I wasn’t shocked! I immediately applied for my university credit card. I discovered, from a rudely written email, that faculty were not entitled to THE credit card. Other faculty followed suite, but to no avail.

“But, I’ve got good credit,” I explained in a followup email.

Shaking my head after the credit card rejection, I knew this guilty party was not a Calabrese from Chicago. (I know my cousin Gene wrote his name on the church facade but he was in 8th grade at the time.)

In any case, the official resigned but was awarded a six-figure golden handshake! This special handshake was worth approximately 30 sections of classes for our students, who seldom graduate in less than 5 or 6 years.  When I brought this up to the president at a college meeting he responded that faculty like me don’t understand the complexities of university administration. That’s the mantra around campus. We hold PhDs, publish books,  and bring in millions of dollars in research funding but university administration is too complex for us to understand.

Back to the hope of adding an section of elementary Italian. Fifty-two students (52) signed a petition to add a section for a 10:00 time slot that normally holds 32 students. The response from an assistant VP: “We cannot add another section of Italian unless 82 to 100 students sign a petition.” Figure out the logic and send me an explanation.

My section of elementary Italian has 32 students enrolled in a room that resembles a closet. At most the closet holds 25 students. My department administrator, who understands SDSU culture better than I, explained that she would be happy to add another 7 desks.

This seemed strange to me so I conducted my own experimented. I secretly added another 7 desks. Four students will now be sitting between my desk and the white board. The other 3 students will be attached to the other white board.

I’ll let you know how teaching in the closet works out in a later blog entry. I hope no one farts during class!



About growingupcalabrese

Professor of French and Italian at San Diego State University
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