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  • Writer's pictureKane Murdoch

"Let me talk to your manager"

Evening all,

As you may or may not know, I have three major parts of my job. Not only do my team and I deal with serious misconduct and appeals, but also complaints by students. Now, these complaints span across the plains, as you'd imagine in an operation the size of a public university with 45,000-odd students. We receive every type of complaint, from complaints that can expose systematic failings (or malfeasance by staff), to incredibly petty complaints that should invoke self-reflection in the complainant (but won't, naturally).

I'd love to be able to see more of the complaints that in being raised with us may genuinely make the university a better environment. We can help with that. I once investigated a complaint (at a previous university) that, as a result of my findings, led to the student receiving several hundred thousand dollars in compensation- and rightly so. I'm glad that the disinfectant of light was shone on some shitty people and their shitty practices. That's why it's so frustrating when complaints are simply expressions of consumer outrage. For the record, female students are not noticeably more prone to complaining, there is a Kevin to every Karen, so to speak.

I'm sure it's yet another example of the way in which the modern university has changed, and in terms of students not being trodden on, I'm all for the change. As you may have noticed, I'm not the world's greatest fan of authority, and I'm positively the enemy of arbitrary power employed arbitrarily. Having said that, there a few things that I wish students understood.

A complaint, in its best form, is as much about how a student's attempts to resolve the complaint haven't been successful as the original issue. It shows me that they gave an honest go, and I was their last port of call.

But a significant majority of complaints are what I like to call "Flanders' parents complaints." This is much easier to explain with visual aids:

In other words, encounter a problem, do not attempt any resolution (or even understanding) and take it straight up to the manager. High dudgeon doesn't look as good upon close inspection as students think it does.

Now, to be clear, we treat all complaints on their merits. However, when a complaint is extremely emotional, contains little to no actual information, and there is no indication that any resolution has been attempted, it's truly unhelpful for us. Almost literally, we can't help you resolve your complaint when it comes with this...baggage.

So, not to absolve myself of responsibility, I'm working on our complaints website to attempt to explain this to students in plain language. Should we look forward to lines like "I get you're pissed bro, but calm the fuck down"? Only time will tell.

Until next time,


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