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When did America become so rude?

I know that this is nothing new, and that the downward cycle in common decency and civility has been occurring for a number of years, but it just hasn't affected me as personally as it does in my current position. Both parents and students have been uttering apalling things to my staff, and to me, when they get to me. On Tuesday, following Monday night's orientation, we received a very patronizing, condescending email from a parent who didn't like the orientation; one of his complaints was that we were being patronizing and condescending to the "capable young adults" in the audience. The same day we received phone calls from parents who had been at orientation the previous night asking questions about the material we covered in orientation and that is covered in the student handbook, which the emailer complained about our referencing too much (because the students "already want[ed] to" read it cover to cover). We also received a phone call from a parent who said right up front that neither he nor his student was going to read the handbook so could we please just give him a copy of the powerpoint we used.

Last night's orientation was even better. Due to certain regrettable (and irrational) policies of a certain building on campus, we were not allowed to be told that a high school graduation was going to be happening at said building; one of the largest metro area high schools, no less. Whenever this happens, we always have angry parents. While I truly understand the frustration of not having parking, perhaps running late, etc., do they really need to express those frustrations to us in such colorful language? One dad, who was there in plenty of time, by the way, kept stomping in and out of the room muttering about how horrible "this is" and how "bad" everything was, and how "sick [he] is with this [my program] bu&&*%$t."

Then there's the father who asked for a student calendar. This is the first year we've been able to provide these planners to new students; I'm really proud of that fact, and I think it's not only a great way to welcome students to campus as well as help teach them time management skills. This parent (who kept butting in front of other people in line) refused to accept that we had planners just for the students; "but I'm faculty here, and I never got one." I was actually a student here (granted, a graduate student, but student nonetheless) and I never got one either. They're available through the bookstore for $6. We just don't have enough to provide to students and their parents.

The same dad was also demanding preferential treatment in appointment scheduling. I misspoke and said we had an appointment time (generically) available starting at 5:15, when it actually starts at 5:00. Said parent kept demanding that we go back to the office and reserve the 5:15 appointment for them; if not last night, then this morning when we got in. He was continually corrected and just refused to hear the correct time. He came in this morning to schedule in person, and the first question he asked was if he could have one of the "extra" planners.

What makes it okay for parents to behave this way? At what point is it permissible for us to stop being nice and actually call them on their behavior? With Mr. "I'm sick of this ... b------t," I really didn't even want to say anything to him because he was just in the right foul mood to start something. And he's not necessarily the only one. We had one parent of a denied student threaten to come straighten us out. My staff has been told that they don't know how to do their own jobs. What makes this last one the most fun, is the problem is usually something relating to a different office. Last night one of my staff members was told by a student that "these people are so stupid" because of a typographic error in her name (taken from her application which had the same error in her own writing)--just so happens that this staff member is the one who had typed the list.

I am just appalled by people's behavior. I don't know if we see more of it because of the nature of our program, but it has gone beyond acceptable.

Comments

People can be incredible jerks. It sounds like they're treating you and your staff in a way not far removed from the way they treat your average retail worker. When I worked for best buy, I was threatened with lawsuits (personally), of all things, by angry customers (usually when we wouldn't fix their PC for nothing after they poured soda into it) and routinely treated to abusive language. To these creeps, your staff are just another form of service employee, there for them to abuse. The fact that this is about their kids, just gives them (in their view) more justification to act this way.