Tag Archives: ripple effect
By Tedd Emelianov
I find myself at a rare loss for words when it comes to current events. In the past few weeks there have been many occurrences on the internet worth discussing. Such as the Justin Bieber twitter follower who besmirched the name of Kurt Cobain, or the ongoing legal struggle between comic artist The Oatmeal and Funnyjunk.com’s lawyer Charles Carreon. Yet both of these topics have been beaten to death by those far more knowledgeable than I, and most of my time over the past two days has been preoccupied by my University denying that I earned a second bachelor’s degree.
I would like to start right off the bat by saying that this is not some childish revenge fantasy where I attack my alma mater for making a simple clerical error. I am writing this because I believe my situation merit’s analysis, and can be used to explain a very important facet of our current economic system. Furthermore, I would like to state for the record that I harbor no ill will towards the university, though my willingness to donate time and money back to it has been lessened.
To start off, I will describe the situation in full from my perspective and understanding. In May, I graduated with what I assumed to be enough credits to earn two bachelor’s degrees, one in philosophy and one in economics. Over the prior months, I had to submit multiple forms in order to get my degrees authorized, you know how bureaucracy is. I was meticulous, seeking the aid of multiple advisors to be sure that at the end of my 5 years, my time and parent’s money had not been wasted. Fast forward to Monday, when I received an envelope from my school, containing a single piece of paper. This was my degree in Philosophy, but it was the only one there.
I spent the next 3 hours playing phone tag with the university staff, all of whom could not help me understand why I did not receive my second degree. The fact that it was a state holiday and most of the advisors were not available didn’t help my situation. After taking most of the time I should have been spending on preparing for an afternoon job interview on phone calls, I resigned myself to leaving a few voicemails and hoping that the issue could be solved the next day. I headed off to my interview in an angry sweat, ending up 15 minutes late.
While I spared most of the details as to what I went through, the ending of the story is happy and yet disheartening at the same time. I was contacted by my advisors, who told me that I had in fact completed every requirement of me, and that the school registrar would be informed of this so I could get my second degree. As far as I can tell, a mistake was made by a registrar employee when examining the approval form for my second degree. At the time I filled it out, I still had one required class to take, and this was noted on that form. I can only assume that this caused them to deny me the degree, but I cannot be sure since they never did tell me what actually happened. In the end, I have both degrees and all has been rectified.
But I would like the situation to be viewed from a broader angle. Firstly, the stress that I felt from a single clerical error was pretty heavy. I had been worrying about completing my requirements for months prior to this. Having the school tell me I didn’t complete them but not telling me which one it was caused emotions that I am hard pressed to describe. Furthermore, being a recently graduated senior, I am in the middle of a job hunt. And as stated above, I had an interview the same day that I this issue occurred.
As for my personal situation, there was no real damage done. The job turned out to be undesirable, and all I lost was an hour of my time which was already a sunk cost. But what if the interview had been important? What if it had been for a company that I had been dreaming about working for? Should I have just ignored the issue completely until after my meeting, and what if I had and they asked me if I really had two degrees? Would it have been ok to lie, or should I have told the truth?
All of these questions are, again, moot in my situation, but the possibilities that they raise are important ones to understand. The thing that most people do not understand about the economy is that everything, absolutely everything, affects everything else. My situation could have been different; I may have been going in for a great job interview only to fail it due to my emotional state. My presence at that company may have saved them from collapse, or caused them to go out of business; unlikely but still possible. What’s more, the presence of this error may indicate that there is a serious issue at my school’s registrar, and many more people may have not gotten degrees that they earned and paid for. These students may be denied jobs and this could have a drastic effect on their personal spending habits.
Am I trying to paint an apocalyptic picture where a single bad decision is responsible for the downfall of the American economic system? Certainly not; the other important thing to realize is that the sheer number of potential decisions makes it virtually impossible for any one to make a significant impact. Even the famed housing bubble which some believe to be the cause of the 2008 recession was influenced by literally hundreds of thousands of individual decisions, and any exploitation on the part of the larger investment banks would not have been possible without them.
And yet, the influence of such small decisions cannot be wholly discounted either. While it may be true that your decision to buy a custom-made 12 dollar cupcake at the local baker may not keep them in business, it does have an impact when all the possible situations that can occur from the decision are examined. It may be prudent to think of our economic system the surface of a lake into which everyone is throwing stones. A single throw in will create small ripples that probably won’t change the surface of the water much, but it will have some minor effect, even if it is just to cancel out the ripples made by another.