Colleges seems like frightfully commercial enterprises to me.
They enjoy pretending they're about education. But they do seem to charge absurd amounts of money in order to give the young and impressionable the often erroneous belief that they're worth something. For a price that can be $50,000 a year.
So I find myself curiously unsurprised to hear the story of Hanaroo Kim, a student who thought he was entering San Jose State University.
As CBS 5 in San Jose describes it, Kim turned up for freshman orientation, only to find it utterly disorientating. For he was told had had been un-enrolled from the school.
Had he been spending his summer rioting? Had he been part of a notorious glue-sniffing incident? Not at all. He had failed to read an e-mail. Yes, that's it. Nothing more.
You might feel a twitch of disbelief, but no one seems to dispute the facts.
The school had originally sent him an e-mail telling him to disregard all communication about his placement tests. Then it sent him an e-mail about, um, placement tests that happened to mention a problem with his, well, placement test.
Kim admits that he had stopped checking e-mails from the school because they had all seemed unimportant. But he says he had been told to ignore e-mails about placement tests. (And CBS 5 saw the evidence.)
What's odd (at least to these naive eyes) is that the e-mail account in question wasn't Kim's Gmail, but a personal e-mail on the San Jose State site, one that some commenters to CBS 5 say is very troubling to use..
The school told CBS 5 that it expects students to be responsible for checking e-mails. But would it really tax these academic brains to send a copy to the student's personal e-mail? Would it destroy their employees' ability to have lunch if they also, say, copied the parents who just might be paying for the education?
And if a message is as important as removing someone from your school, would snail mail truly hurt the school's pride? "If you sent a letter to accept us, then if you're going to withdraw us, you need to send a letter," a confused and angry Ric Bussey, Kim's father, told CBS 5.
The school--alma mater to such greats as Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, Amy Tan and, um, Stevie Nicks--declared that there's no way San Jose would it be making an exception. Kim reportedly may not be able to enroll for two years.
Some will have sympathy with the school's Tough Luck Club position. They will say that Kim should have looked at every mail, however dull, however pointless, however self-contradictory.
Others, though, might wonder about a school that sends e-mails telling a student to disregard further e-mails about placement tests and then allegedly kicks them out because of an e-mail about a placement test.
I see that another alumnus of San Jose State is Omid Kordestani, senior advisor to the office of the CEO and founders at Google. Would it be fanciful to suggest he might consider persuading founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to buy San Jose State and turn it into the University of Google?
I mention this not merely because the university's actions seem slightly myopic and petty. I mention it because this is a university that is so keen for its students to be electronically responsible.
Oh, well, everyone makes mistakes, don't they?