‘First World’ Academic Problems

Perhaps you have seen some of the Web sites dedicated to highlighting the whining that is common to those of us who live in the so-called first world. I saw one the other day that cracked me up: Someone was complaining that there was so much leg room in business class that she was having trouble reaching the touch screen on the video display in front of her.

Some time ago I had the opportunity to participate in some faculty-development sessions overseas. My hosts were gracious at every turn. I had a marvelous time and was humbled by their sincere interest in my thoughts on a wide range of subjects. I must admit that when I returned to my campus, I ceased my whining about almost everything.

At one of the universities I visited, professors had to sign out their chalk and eraser at a front desk in the mornings. Just one room in the entire building had a computer and whiteboards, and it was reserved for guests only. At another university, there was no heat, and it was freezing in the classrooms. Deferred maintenance was evident everywhere. Faculty pay was beyond terrible. The evident passion for learning, however, was amazing. Everyone was stunningly enthusiastic.

Sometimes I hear complaints that are uttered throughout academe, and I wonder if many aren’t just first-world whines. It’s been said that campus discontent is greatest when the stakes are lowest. That’s not a comment on pay and benefits, or the current challenges facing higher education as a system, as much as it is about the more petty concerns of academic life. I know that I have been guilty of being the chief of petulance among my peers from time to time.

What are some first-world problems you have heard uttered in the hallways of your institutions? Who tends to complain the most—students, faculty members, or administrators?

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