Double Spaced Stupidity

Double Spaced Stupidity

More than forty colleges and universities will be denied Upward Bound funds for violating strict technical rules on spacing, fonts or the like.

That I have to write that first sentence is appalling. That I live in a world where we have an administration denying aid to the neediest among our college students on grounds of line spacing implies a world of arbitrarily applied rules and government officials run amok.

The quote below is from the Chronicle of Higher Education article – Dozens of Colleges’ Upward Bound Applications Are Denied for Failing to Dot Every I. Read with astonishment about the “rules.” I did.

For the want of double spacing in a small section of a 65-page grant application, 109 low-income high-school students will be cut off from a program at Wittenberg University that has been providing them with tutoring and counseling to prepare them for college. And they’re not alone. Over the past few weeks at least 40 colleges and organizations with similar Upward Bound programs have also had their grant applications summarily rejected by the U.S. Department of Education for running afoul of rules on mandatory double-spacing rules, use of the wrong font, or other minor technical glitches.

The affected colleges, whose programs serve at least 2,400 low-income students, and the members of Congress who represent them are furious, especially because their appeals to the department for reconsideration have so far been met with little sympathy or indication of any sort of resolution.

The program director for Upward Bound at Wittenberg, Eddie L. Chambers, said he did have a conversation with Linda Byrd-Johnson, acting deputy assistant secretary for higher-education programs. It was “gracious,” said Mr. Chambers, who has overseen the Wittenberg program for 40 of its 50 years. “But in the end, she told me, ‘A rule is a rule.’ She told me, ‘Eddie, I too have to abide by the rules.’”

What’s going on here? Yes, there have to be rules but rules have to be applied with intelligence and judgment, things that have apparently simply ceased to exist at the Department of Education. Some of these colleges have received these benefits and run these programs for twenty years and didn’t have any problems with their applications until now.

Why now? You have to wonder? What is it about these applications that suddenly caused the Grammar Gestapo to leap into action? Is this just some innocent application of the rules or is it more sinister?

Is there something about helping poor people find their way into college that the our government finds upsetting? You have to ask what’s driving this? I don’t know but this is just nonsense and people are going to miss out because of incorrect spacing in an attached infogram on a grant request and that is just not right.

James Pilant

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