Saturday, February 28, 2015

Life in the Pissant Swamp: The Incompetence and Arrogance of the Command Bureaucracy

I have been working in the State University of New York system, the SUNY system, off and on since 1987, the year I came to SUNY Albany to do interdisciplinary studies under the mistaken impression that SUNY Albany was similar to the great state research universities of the Midwest. It wasn't. It turned out to be akin to the second and third tier research universities in the Midwest, schools like Ball State, Ohio University, and Bowling Green. I thought about leaving but I had moved from university to university previously because I was unhappy with them and had reached my forties. It was now or never, I thought. It should have been never.

So I hung around SUNY studying and working. Because I did I began to accumulate hours toward my retirement. So from 1987 to 1989 and from 1994 to 1999 I worked at SUNY Albany and from 2006 to today I worked at SUNY Albany, SUNY IT-Utica, and SUNY Oneonta. In 2012 I officially joined the SUNY retirement system paying over $10,000 dollars in back service. I would have joined earlier if I had known a little trick SUNY uses: though my service allows me to include service back to what the SUNY bureaucracy calls tier three, I was classified as tier five because while the SUNY system allows you to grandfather back service in it doesn't allow you to grandfather the tier in. Sweet trick for them.

When I joined the retirement system and paid for back service I received a letter from the New York State Retirement System saying my retirement would be vested in April of 2014. I thought sweet, I will have an adjunct to my social security retirement when I retire, so I stopped even thinking about other jobs outside the SUNY system (not that any other university or college would have me; experience has left me jaded by academic reality). Then I learned that my retirement would not include the state health insurance unless I worked until the fall semester of 2015. Then I was told I was told my health retirement would be vested in the fall of 2016. Needless to say all this was frustrating since as a part-timer working term by term or year doesn't make it easy to reach SUNY retirement benchmarks.

Recently I decided to contact the Oneonta person at SUNY Comptroller Central to inquire about my retirement since almost a year had passed since the date my retirement was supposed to be vested and I had heard nothing from this supposedly efficient bureaucracy. The Oneonta retirement agent informed me that despite the letter listing April of 2014 as my vestment date I had not yet reached my vestment date. Was the date in the letter a mistake based on the assumption I was full time? Even a SUNY bureaucrat doesn't seem to know. To me playing the SUNY retirement system seems like a game of football in which the SUNY team keeps moving the goal posts further away from its opponents, those simply seeking a decent life after retirement. Bureaucracy's paradox.

Needless to say I was once again frustrated with SUNY, something that happens again and again. As of this writing I am requesting every bit of information including correspondence the retirement system has had with me as I contemplate what I am going to do next. Should I go to the union? Why should I since the union is largely ineffective and when push comes to shove it doesn't really care about adjuncts. In fact, the union advised adjuncts not to walk out on the national adjunct walk out day saying we would be fired if we did. Should I file a lawsuit against SUNY? Perhaps. But that is expensive and usually those with money and power prevail over those with neither like me. Isn't life for the marginal, those who don't have the work luxuries their parents had, wonderful? Welcome to modern America generation nexts. Good luck making a living in the United States of Koch. You are going to need it.

Postscript
I received notification recently from the bureaucracy indicating that I will have the requisite amount of service in April of 2015 (the 2015 was missing but the context suggests this year) to have my back service credited to my account and I will be vested. In other words, the letter saying this would happen in April of 2014 was inaccurate. Presumably, the bureaucrat who wrote it mistook me for a full-time cap. Who pays for the mistakes of the bureaucracy? Me, of course. Such is life.

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