Finding a job in this market is hard. Being a recent graduate with little to no real work experience makes finding a decent job even harder. My post-Amherst plans have been to join the workforce to start paying off my loans and to save for graduate school, which I start this coming fall semester. Since 2012Es have not yet been given our degrees because the Amherst College Board of Trustees only approves degrees at the end of each spring semester, I have been presenting my official transcript to potential employers as proof that I have earned my bachelor’s degree. Though this has been sufficient proof for some, it has not been enough proof for all. As a result, I contacted the Registrar to send a potential employer a letter on my behalf stating that I have completed all the necessary requirements and had earned a bachelor’s degree. They enthusiastically granted my request. I thought this letter, supplemented by my official transcript, would be enough proof that I have earned a bachelor’s degree, but unfortunately it was not.
There are very few things more humiliating than being fired on your first day at a new job, especially when the cause for termination is not having the bachelor’s degree you claimed to have. As I was escorted out of the building, with my tail between my legs, I tried everything to save face, and more importantly save my job. In the midst of my pleas, I even told the head of Human Resources, “But I have a cane!” Though our canes may be all the proof we Jeffs need as verification that we are in fact graduates of The Fairest College,” in the real world, our canes do not matter. Unless you have a piece of paper stating that you have been awarded a degree, then you do not have a degree. And without my degree in my hands, I had nothing, so I lost a good job. The corporation I was set to work for refused to hire me because of a technicality. The letter the Registrar sent on my behalf stated that I had met all the requirements for my degree, but that I would not be issued the degree until April 2012. This told my potential employer that I was “still in the process” of earning my degree, and that there was still a chance that the Board of Trustees could refuse to grant me a degree. This made me a liability. The head of Human Resources told me that if they hired me, they would be violating their contract that states that every employee must have been awarded a bachelor’s degree. A letter saying I will be awarded a degree is not the same as a letter saying that I have been awarded a degree. This small but very important technicality made all the difference.
After I was unceremoniously fired before I was officially hired, I blew up the Amherst College phone lines. I called the Registrar’s Office, the Dean of Students Office and if I had Biddy’s personal cell number, I would have called her too. I was irate. I served my time, and I earned my stripes. I am an Amherst College graduate. All the Amherst faculty members I have spoken to about my situation have been sympathetic and share my frustration. However, there is nothing any of them can say, or write on my behalf, to fix this problem. Without a piece of paper stating I have been awarded a degree, which is only something the Board of Trustees can say, their hands are tied. In the many conversations I have had with Amherst staff, the phrase a faculty member said that stuck out the most was, “Amherst College is not a fan of change.” Though this may be a harsh assessment of the school, this situation proves it to be true.
Unless the Board of Trustees decides to meet twice a year — once to specifically approve degrees for ‘E’s at the end of the fall semester, in which they have completed all the necessary requirements — then ‘E’s will continue to be forced to wait until the Board’s meeting at the end of the following spring semester in order to get the stamp of approval they’ve earned. It is time the Board of Trustees considers meeting at the end of each semester to approve students for the degrees they have earned. There is no legitimate reason why ‘E’s should remain degree-less for a whole semester after they have completed all the necessary requirements. This is not right, and it needs to change. I should not be forced to put my life on hold or be penalized for taking medical leave for a semester on my Dean’s recommendation. Something like this should never happen to another Amherst student again.
At the 2012E dinner, President Martin asked why Amherst had the tradition of giving us canes upon graduation, a fellow student said that it was to represent how Amherst would continue to support us the rest of our lives. I took comfort in those words and believed them to be true. However, instead of a cane for support, my Alma Mater gave me the shaft, so I got the boot.