06 January 2014

a rough route marked by colossal statues

It happens, occasionally, that I have to prove to someone that I did actually earn all the degrees listed on my curriculum vitae. Usually this demonstration is performed for my employer, when OPM audits the personnel files and decides they can't read my academic records.

I keep copies of my official transcripts in a folder at work against just such a need, but recently, when called upon to produce these documents yet again, I couldn't find the letter from St Andrews that affirms, on their sacred word, that I really did spend those years hunched over manuscripts in various sub-basements of various libraries.

So, I contacted the appropriate office at the university to ask that they send me a fresh letter, and they obligingly promised to post it within a few days.

'A few days' turned out to be longer than expected -- more like a fortnight -- because apparently my degree is old enough that my records have been moved to archives somewhere beneath the ruins of the College of Poor Clerks. A pale hunchback had to be dispatched into damp catacombs lit only by the glimmering eyes of rats to fetch them.

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The delay caused no real harm, and when the letter arrived it contained the necessary information, namely that I had attended the university between the dates given, and completed the degree, but it also had one very strange error. It said I carried out this work under the direction of a professor in the School of Modern Languages.

The name of that professor is vaguely familiar to me. I think he was an eminent scholar. I may even have met him at some university function. But I remember quite distinctly studying with a senior lecturer in the School of History.

Or at least, it was the senior lecturer in history who met with me, critiqued my drafts, and bought me quite a few hot meals and wee drams over the course of those years. The eminent professor never offered me a sandwich, much less read a chapter of my work.

I would also submit that there is no rational argument for including Middle Scots and Latin (the languages I dealt in the most during my St Andrews years) among 'modern languages' in the 20th century. Tragically, St Andrews did not have a School of Mouldy Old Languages.

I am trying to decide if it's really worth my effort (and the inconvenience to the hunchback, to say nothing of the disturbance to the rats) to request a corrected letter. I am leaning toward 'not worth it,' but still. Professor who in the school of what?

Josephine Miles

1 comment:

  1. I think the rats must be disturbed. A correct letter is your only sure defense against whatever evil lurks in the heart of upper government. If someone decides to look closer you may well find yourself required to release the long-form of your birth certificate, and who knows what dusty basement filing cabinet that's in. The door probably says "Beware of Jaguar."

    Plus, if you ask soon they might remember you and it will be quicker for them. Perhaps your file is still on someone's desk, waiting for some better reason to return to the dungeon and the rats than the return of a single file.


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