August 24th, 2010

Harriet Vane

Queens College, CUNY: corrupt place supporting bullying/harassment; a scam

Dear friends and readers,

Before you read the following you should know a cruel series of events happened to my daughter, and she is now home safe.  After all Queens College, CUNY, fleeced us --  it's one of the many badly and corruptly run institutions of this world and I advise you to stay away from it. They have $9600 of my money and I can't get a dime back nor probably even an apology for what occurred.  I did know (and said below) it was a place for the unprivileged. I should have put it that the past history of being in effect for free still affects the way individual students are treated as cogs that must fit in the wheels of the powerful in the school with no concern for their well-being beyond them doing that.  When I was 17 to 20, it was all that I could reach to help me escape from my wretched limited existence, and I did win a scholarship to go to England and found an alternative livable existence that way; if I had forgotten or began to live under delusions about its behavior to its students, I will do so no longer.

10/16/10: Having received not even an acknowledgement about their behavior -- I would have to call a lawyer and start painful protracted negotiations, pay a great deal of money, I want to announce to anyone who comes here what a terrible place Queens College, CUNY is appalling: it fleeced us, did nothing about a nightmare of bullying and terror.  Their musicology program doesn't exist for real.


Yesterday the Admiral and I drove many hours in his spacious, comfortable (if beaten-up and on its last legs) 1996 off-color Jaguar to and from Queens (the borough and senior college), NYC, starting around 6:30 am in the morning, to get there around noon, and again 4 or so in the afternoon, to arrive back sometime after 10:30 pm.  Together with Izzy, we achieved our purpose, which was to help her begin to install herself and her stuff for the fall term in the one large garden-apartment looking residence hall at Queens college.  Once there -- and I recognized the familiar place as ever from the dome of Colden Auditorium, the gym and center and the tall thin tower as we neared it --  everything was made easy for us.

Paul Klapper building is no longer the library, but otherwise it's not changed much

We were ushered past by a security officer, pointed on by a grounds person, and drove up to a parking lot where yet another officer came over and suggested we put our stuff out on the sidewalk, I ("the mom") go with Isabel to start registering while Jim (the "dad") park the car in the garage across the way.  I was a little nervous about leaving the stuff on the sidewalk, but soon realized all was fine.  There were what seemed squads of young "summit volunteers" around to help us carry our stuff up the three flights and put it in the room, other people to direct us to the registration desks, which were, a bit absurdly (because it was windy and coldish) outside the building. There Izzy filled out forms, got her room number, keys, instructions to return at 7 pm when a large meeting would be called.

The three of us worked steadily for over than an hour putting her stuff away, setting up her computer (which we now know does not have internet access in her room), stereo, walking about and deciding that we needed to shop for her.  So off we went past the central entrance on Kissena Boulevard (which was the one I used to enter when I'd arrive by bus) around a corner until we came to two supermarkets, and a row of shops that included a drug store.  We thought we were just buying a few things as snacks and ahead in case she wanted to cook at night because we assumed the cafeteria was opened. We discovered it was not until classes started.  But we did get a strong whiff of NYC borough culture: there was gefilte fish with splenda at the supermarket (run by Jewish people), tons of stuff, really a lot crowded into a relatively small space, a fruit market outside; Izzy had to make do with what hairwash and conditioner she could find. In NYC I found new reading glasses. A few days ago in a fit where my mind slipped so tired was I at night driving to the supermarket that I had the wrong glasses on. When I got out of my car, my glasses must've slipped off my shoulders chain and all and so my reading glasses slipped away.  I've grown to dislike so much about Kaiser now.  For glasses I'm ripped off (over $250 and more for this tiny gadget), glasses pushed on my nose at trying-on sessions: if I move back, I'm looked askance at for expecting some respect for my body space.  I have to endure condescension at eye-testing sessions (I'm spoken to as if I were a child -- this time he will let me get away with this or that but next ...) Well, we found a pair which did the trick in a local pharmacy. $17.99, pretty, $5 for a light-beaded looking chain, so $22+ w/tax.At Kaiser this costs $250+ for glasses, $20 for chain, another $20 for the useless irritating sessions w/doctor & person supposedly expert in glasses but who doesn't know what is in the catalogue and I end up with much uglier glasses than I wanted.  Here I had them in my hand so no mistakes possible and it took me 5 minutes of my trying to read different pairs to read tiny blurbs on nearby medicines, no embarrassment, little time.

Then back to the room to walk about the college together.  This was an emotional moment for me.  As I've written before (on my old blog), I went to Queens College, CUNY, between 1964 and 1968; I was a student in the English department and, with a chancellor's scholarship which took me to the UK, it became my lifeline and springboard to take me to a life of study, reading, writing, teaching I could endure. I could not have done it today:  the cost then $25 a term, and luckily I could get there by 2 buses. Today there is no meritocracy to take individuals past their origin to another class to fulfill their inward gifts in institutions and middle class jobs.  Then I went onto England: a 12 day boat trip which took me to the white cliffs of Dover and the feeling that imaginatively I had come to a place where I had an imaginative affinity through my beloved books. I'll never forget that moment or the green sparkling channel on that (happily) sunny day.

How little Queens has changed. Unlike GMU (where I teach now), it's still basically a commuter school. This residence hall (the summit) is at the back and is the only one in the college.   The college has grown a lot and there are a number of beautiful new buildings, but the center is the old quad and there are still 3 or 4 Spanish style buildings. The building I registered in is at the fore; the building I took my first English class in with Clinton F. Oliver is there. At the back is a new fountain and sculptured arrangement but the aspect remains the same. 

The quad looking at one of the Spanish style buildings -- now they are fixed up, with air-conditioning with names of those who donated the money to fix them. When I was there, they were pretty shabby :)

The population of students I saw were lower middle class white, black, Spanish, the equivalent of what I remembered in the 1960s -- the customer or client base.  We saw huge SUVs drive up just loaded with stuff for some of the students; others had more modest amounts like Izzy brought.  Today Izzy has some misadventures: wrong information, huge lines to suffer through, chaos, and things are not convenient: she has to go to the library for her access, gets mixed messages, and it appears that she was under a wrong impression about the music history program for an MA. She may be the only MA music history student. No particular effort is made for anyone as an individual at all. Queens College is a place for the unprivileged still. It was so before open admissions.

It's a culture shock for her in part. 

Indeed it looked so small  I realized how shabby it must have been in 1964.  Then it looked like some kind of haven to my eyes and I was stunned by chaos of it all.  What I must've been to react that way. How pathetic. Today it's a small sort of version of GMU or (better yet) Buffalo, but much plainer than either, unassuming but academically sound city college.  I like it for that.  I can still be comfortable there and recognize how I managed it.

Queens is not a place of privilege. If it's no longer $25 a term, it's not like GMU, seeking prestige. It's still a city college with a history of lower middle class customers and is still 80% commuters.  It was a remarkable contrast to even GMU - which is such a phony driven place. Now that we have about 50 or more % of students on campus, they are thinking they are on the way to being Stanford -- the commuters are being punished and sidelined as second class citizens by upping their parking rates and providing much less parking at the same time.  Soon they'll charge us to sit on the benches as I've said.  Everyone unfriendly; you must go on the Net for everything. I now have 69 students; no one gives as shit how large the classes get just as long as they get rid of teachers. On facebook there were 3 (three in the small group I know) stories of people desolated because the classes they expected to teach were cancelled for insufficient registration. Meanwhile corporate profits are up 35%.  All their priorities at GMU are now into buying prestige events, with prestige people coming to talk.  Queens is not grown half so much, changed little; the population looks much lower middle class.

It was an autumn-like day, cooler in NYC.  Jim and I visited my mother who lives about 15 minutes away from Queens College by car -- so Isabel does have a close relative not far away, even if my mother (88) can't help her much.  We stayed about an hour and a quarter with her, which threw us into the later afternoon rush hour going come. It took a full hour to get out of Queens and Manhattan into the Holland tunnel.

We are at the tail-end of what has been a super-hot summer. I'm doing my syllabi for my 3 sections (I've got 69 students) and next Friday I begin to teach again.  GMU is hungry for more upper class customers, to be a school where people live on campus, and determined to gouge everyone there (for parking for example -- if you are a commuter as still the majority of the population is, probably still 50 or more % -- you have to pay through the nose for an inferior right to find a space where there are not enough spaces), enlarging classes, cutting numbers of sections, putting prices up on everything.  They would charge us to sit on the benches if they could.  I didn't quite get that open disdainful feeling of take it or leave it, we couldn't give a shit about you if you stay or not (despising and disdaining) as I nowadays do at GMU. For me the symbols of the changes include a fancy hotel taking up yet another parking lot, police who intimidate and bully you if you sit in your car waiting for someone without paying the 75 cents for each 15 minutes, that parking lots are set aside for students living there so each privileged person can have a space.  An Indian caste system in the public physical arena. I should have mentioned GMU is not a private school; like Queens, it's a state-supported place whose money base is taxes across the state; the difference is the individuals who run GMU tap private donors and the result is a much worse place, much worse.

I shall miss Isabel; we've grown together in the past two years and end this commemorative blog with a few photos of her and me and Jim too.

Isabel and me in front of the president's house at Sweet Briar, 2006, her graduation

Two years later, her graduation, with an MLIS at Buffalo: that's Niagara falls behind us

Jim with her

Our last summer vacation, at a Landmark House in Vermont, she and I, perhaps that sam