South Park Self

heaven knows what keeps mankind alive

So, is it just me, or are we - in the sense of Western culture generally - raising our young these days to be more and more entitled, and less and less in touch with reality? I have had in excess of twenty years on this campus dealing with undergrad students, and I swear there's been a noticeable increase over the years in what I think of as the Unique and Beautiful Snowflake problem: individuals who present with a sublime obliviousness to or disregard for the rules, because the rules can't possibly apply to the narcissistic urgency of the individual's particular moment. A lot of these kids have apparently never been introduced to a boundary, or to an obstacle which someone - I suspect helicopter parents - hasn't caused to magically dissolve. They don't get "no you can't" on some profound level - it does not compute, captain.

If you're trying to wrangle student curricula as a day job, this becomes very quickly exhausting. It's worse at the moment because mostly what I'm doing is signing forms to add Summer Term courses, and statistically students who are using the Summer Term - a repeat of a few select courses in a compressed one-month format - are somewhat more likely to be flaky because they are doing so to compensate for failed courses. But, ye gods and flying spaghetti monsters, this week has been hell. I would estimate that approximately a third of the students I've seen have arrived without the necessary documentation (a printout of their transcript) and have breezed straight past THREE large-lettered signs on my door, one in bright red, which announce that I CANNOT give any sort of curriculum advice without it. Probably a quarter of them have arrived outside my consultation times (also clearly outlined on my door), and have blithely bounced in regardless. I am more or less inured to the failure to read notices, there are some brick walls against which one does not continue to beat one's head. It's the attitude of surprised confusion when I point out that they're out of line, usually followed by a helpless blank look, as though they're expecting me to somehow make this problem go away. If I tell them to come back later or send them off to do the necessary printing they are often angry, resentful and slightly hurt. But I need this now! and you're here! and there is no way that anything you could be doing right now could possibly be more important than what I need this instant! You monster! or, worse, you're not doing your JOB, which is clearly to pander to me in every possible way!

Yesterday was particularly bad, because I saw in quick succession two young ladies of the more overtly gazelle type (blonde, fashionable, wide-eyed) who didn't play fair because they erupted into my office outside my consultation times each with a parent in tow. It's very difficult to establish boundaries when there's a parent in the background tapping a foot in a what-are-we-paying-for-anyway sort of mode. (One of them sent the parent in first, because she knew damned well I'd turn her away). It's all very well to do a we're-both-busy-adults, hail-fellow-well-met performance which says that we're just making an exception for your darling daughter out of courtesy and because you, the grown-up, are too important to wait, but are they aware that there are four and a half thousand undergrad students in this faculty? Most of them have parents. A high proportion of them have the same narcissistic sense of their own unique importance. If all of them do this, it'll never stop. The boundaries are there for a reason, because I have a number of important and demanding things to do other than deal with students, and boundaries make my job possible.

But they weren't the problem. They annoyed the hell out of me, but it was the last student of the day who sent me home shaking, weepy and feeling slightly sick. He arrived outside my consultation times and without the documents. I sent him away. He arrived back with the documents, still outside my consultation time, and did a loud, over-acted surprise and annoyance thing when I said I wouldn't sign the form, because the front desk had sent him to me! Which I know they hadn't, because I went down there twenty minutes earlier and specifically reminded them NOT to send students to me outside my consultation times. So I signed his damned form to get the hell rid of him, but told him that this was unacceptable and he should read my door notices in future, and that he couldn't assume I'd be able to drop everything to deal with him. At which point he yelled at me for yelling at him (which I hadn't done), yelled about being a student so I couldn't treat him like this, threatened to report me to the Dean, shouted a bit more, and left. He was very large, very loud, very male and very threatening, and the fact that he was utterly and completely in the wrong did not in any way stop me from feeling sick and shaken, and from lying awake half of last night rehearsing ways in which to defend myself to the Dean in case the wretched student does actually take his self-importance that far.

I have lots of friends who have kids, and they certainly aren't raising them to display any such self-entitlement, but clearly they're a minority. What the hell are we doing to this generation? How are they going to react when they get out into the real world and it hits them with real consequences and limitations which they can't simply ignore? Are they going to crumble and flounder, or are they going to evolve into sociopaths, sublimely detached from empathy and perspective, wresting the world to their will because they can't conceive of it being any other way? Either way, I'm a bit scared for the future.

On the upside, my car music has now done David Bowie A-Z (literally: Aladdin Sane to Ziggy Stardust) and has ambled onward to the David Byrne/Brian Eno collaboration Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, which is beautifully soothing. My subject line is from "Home", possibly my favourite track on the album.

Ye gods. I'm sorry you have to deal with this kind of crap. A thread on FB earlier this week alerted me to the horrifying fact that a significant number of female academics and university staff feel threatened by male students at least some of the time, and that is very clearly an Unacceptable Condition of Employment. Apparently UCT's Discrimination and Harassment Office is pretty good, so I would definitely seek advice. If someone yelled at you sufficiently loudly to leave you weepy and shaking, that is straight-out harassment and intimidation and someone needs to throw the book at the little shitbag.
In other words, just in case you were in any doubt whatsoever: It's not you, it's him. And his toxic sense of entitlement needs to be checked very firmly before he takes the all-too-common next step of actually assaulting someone. These are classic Warning Signs.
You know, it completely hadn't occurred to me to report him in any way until I read all these comments. I am slightly horrified by the extent to which nastiness from students is clearly normalised in my day-to-day existence. I have, in fact, emailed a sort of general theoretical query to the harassment people, it'll be interesting to see what they come up with. I don't think I'd want to file a formal report, and even if I did, I was freaked enough at the time that I didn't get the student's name. And your point re escalating to actual assault is very well taken. The body language was not pleasant.
Perhaps they'll go into Parliament. They'll fit right in :(

Sounds like a nightmare of huge proportions. I agree 300% with Pumeza - pre-emptively let the Harassment Officer know. Sterkte to you.
Err, are aforementioned students white?

Otherwise 'tisn't just in SA that we're raising 'entitled' young, unfortunately.
So sorry you had to go through that :(
What an awful student!
I would recommend reporting it, even if nothing happens after that, just to leave a record.

I'm all worked up on your behalf. Grrr.
See comment to pumeza, above: have left a record, if only vague general terms, and I shall totally wave it at the Dean if the student has actually tried to escalate. Which he really doesn't have grounds to do, unless he's going to flat-out lie about the exchange.

Thank you for your growling on my behalf! It actually helps a lot with the wibblies.
Thank you for that confirmation - I sometimes wonder if I'm simply being codgerish, so it's reassuring to know that independent sources have verified the trend :>.
I am sometimes very grateful for the bars between me and the students. I have not yet had any abusive students, but I have had a few very creepy and unsettling ones. When alone in the office, we lock the door :(

Edited at 2014-11-16 01:26 pm (UTC)