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Wild Justice By Ruth M. Sprague Characters: 7436

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:06

John T. Pope had been president of Belmont University for nearly twelve years. Because of his belief in his own infallibility, he soon became referred to as The Pope. He greatly increased the senior administrative staff which now occupied one whole wing of the administration building. This wing was known as the Vatican and when a person spoke of kissing the Pope's ring, it was well understood what part of the Pope's anatomy they were referring to. The slew of vice presidents, associate vp's and assistant vp's around the president were soon called the Vee's. Most people believed Vee was short for vice president but insiders knew it really stood for vestigial virgins.

He located the personnel office close by the Vatican. It was the administration's muscle and the buffer between it and the so-called support staff. Patterned after the military, it was directed by, and key positions held by former military men. The military analogy persists throughout the university structure. Upper administration and faculty are designated as officers.

In order to insure staff cooperation, President Pope had created a company union called the Staff Association. To keep tabs on the members, he appointed the director of personnel an ex-officio member. The current director, Greg Harrison, attended every meeting, answered questions, directed staff activities and channeled them into acceptable areas.

"Yes, I do," Henry continued glowering. "A year after Trenchant got on the Staff Association, she was elected its chair and that body turned from being a very convenient rubber stamp into a cohesive, confrontational group of people. She was reelected unanimously for a second term and during those two years she managed to upset nearly everybody in the Vatican-especially, The Pope. It seems, from what I was told when I was appointed academic vp, that during this time a great deal of energy was directed toward damage control.

"Nothing worked with her. All the tried and true methods of threat or blandishment had no affect. She didn't seem to notice or understand that if she played ball she would become more important than the staff she represented.

"She and the Staff Association encouraged the rest of the staff to bring problems to their office. We had almost daily calls from the Attorney General's Office because she advised women to make complaints if they were discriminated against or harassed. She even boxed in Mark, the university attorney, and just four years ago, she made a shambles of personnel by kicking Greg, the director, out of the Staff Association.

"And that's not all. Under her direction, the Staff Association started to by-pass personnel altogether. They investigated several grievances and represented the grievers they felt were abused by the system.

"They started a staff newsletter to inform everyone about their rights-especially concerning sex discrimination and sexual harassment. The staff was told to stay away from the affirmative action office, which was described as a tool of the personnel department, and take their complaints directly to the Attorney General-they even printed her phone number, for Christ's sake.... Trenchant and a committee met with a federal EEOC investigator. He was presented with a list of staff and faculty positions with a notation of the total number and how many were held by women. The investigator was here to make sure the university was in compliance for a million dollar federal research grant."

Surprise suffused Jonathan's face. "How did she get that information, Henry? I thought that was one of our better kept secrets."

The Vee exploded. "We were exceedingly careful never to publish anything like that. Member

s of the Staff Association went through the campus directory to compile the list. Took a lot of time, but they kept at it."


"Yeah," agreed Henry. "Lyle gave her a faculty appointment to get her out of staff politics. He had her teaching every semester with the hope that she'd be too busy to cause anymore trouble. Next thing we know, she's threatening to sue the NERD for plagiarism. You know the rest and we have just time enough to get ready. Use the facilities if you need to." He pointed in the direction of an adjoining washroom, then opened a closet door and removed his cap and gown which he laid across the table. Jonathan opened the case he had brought with him.

As both men donned their robes, Jonathan asked, "why is the Trenchant hearing being held so soon after graduation?"

"We wanted to wait until the students left, of course. They've been pestering us with petitions in support of her and we sure don't want them around during her hearing. Also everyone wants to leave as soon as possible for summer vacations, Jonathan. We want this mess cleaned up before we leave."

"Well, my station for the grand march is west campus. Yours?" Fully garbed in medieval academic splendor, Jonathan paused by the open door.

"My department forms up in front of the library. See you next week."


The two men left the office together then separated at the founder's statue to reach their appointed destinations.

What a farce, ruminated Jonathan as he made his way between the colorful plantings bordering the walk. Shakespeare would have loved it. Much ado about nothing and a tempest in a teapot. What a hoot, making all this fuss about seven student feedback forms. Nobody ever pays any attention to them yet suddenly they are so important.

Hard to figure a valid reason for such violent reactions from the Vee. Just a couple of years ago, Professor Beand was convicted of child molestation. He was suspended for a few months but they took him right back with no loss of pay or position.

And then there was that dean in the History Department who altered faculty promotion papers. Nothing happened to him. I remember one of the Vee's saying at that time that he shouldn't be disciplined for it because other faculty had done far worse things and were not punished. That's sure true. I remember several incidents involving students, alcohol, drugs....all swept quietly under the rug.

It's obvious what is going on here. Lyle needs to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for those two new faculty he took on so they can be reappointed and tenured. If he can pin some of their negative critiques on Diana Trenchant, he can argue that all the years of bad critiques are suspect and nullify them.

And, of course, Henry and the rest are going along with it out of revenge-they are just plain pissed off because they couldn't win her over with snob appeal. She scorned them, their exalted positions and their offerings. That's it, I bet anything that's it. Silently apologizing to William Congrave, Jonathan paraphrased, "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned nor Hell more fury than a good 'ol boy scorned." The medical student that wrote the open letter to The Pope was right-this hearing is an administrative gang bang.

Jonathan was soon joined by others in brightly colored or richly black gowns. Peacocked with the educational badge each had attained and crowned with a mortar board which got its name from a board used by masons to hold cement. How appropriate that it is worn on the head.

Commencement-a colorful, glorious grouping traditioned by time. All nicely covering the decay and tarnish of some of its stewards.


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