OCS Error Is Not Huge Surprise
Every year, thousands of Harvard students rely on the Office of Career Services (OCS) to help them find summer jobs, internships and especially gainful employment. OCS is also responsible for administering many of the fellowships offered by Harvard and outside institutions.
We're concerned that this valuable resource is not being run efficiently. Recently, a serious mistake on OCS's part came to light. Because of a "human mistake" concerning the due date of the Carnegie fellowship applications, the two students nominated by Harvard were not considered in the competition, which is run by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The due date for the applications was January 15; OCS thought it was a full two months later. Because the applications were submitted in late February, Carnegie decided to reject them due to lateness (without informing Harvard).
OCS, upon learning of the mistake, chose not to inform the two applicants, because "we still had a glimmer of hope our students would be considered," according to Director of OCS William Wright-Swadel. We find this odd, considering that Carnegie had already chosen its finalist and semi-finalist. OCS should have been forthright with the two applicants as soon as it learned of its mistake. In fact, the students did not become aware of the problem until one of them actually called the Carnegie Endowment and was told of the error. The initial oversight was bad enough, but we find it unacceptable that OCS tried to cover its incompetence at the expense of the two applicants.
Regrettably, this error does not come as a complete surprise. While some students undoubtedly are served well by OCS, in our experience we have found that too many repeatedly come away empty-handed--particularly in fields unrelated to business--complaining of ill-informed staff and unhelpful resources. We even know of students who have been given blatantly wrong information by OCS counselors who are supposedly expert in their field. Other than a small selection of yellowing volumes with out-of-date data, OCS has little to offer those who seek work outside the business sector.
According to Wright-Swadel, an internal review of OCS is being conducted to head off such problems in the future. We hope that this mistake leads to a better-managed resource for Harvard students who depend on it to help them make their way in the real world.