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   Chapter 5 5

Wild Justice By Ruth M. Sprague Characters: 10346

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:06


...."and sitting next to Ed is Esther Rondell, agriculture."

Frank beamed at Esther who simpered in return. A large woman, Esther wore her white hair in an old fashioned pug at the back. She had been at Belmont longer than anyone could remember. She dressed conservatively and was always on university committees.

Esther was at the forefront of every woman's movement on campus. She was quick to rush to any woman's defense and agree that yes, they were badly treated. This allowed her a podium to broadcast how badly she was used by the university. With all her experience, with all her hard work, she was shafted at every turn, was her cry.

Any serious group of women who might band together to effect change were usually derailed by her and the administration loved it. An unsuspecting woman who confided in her thinking she was a fellow sufferer found to her sorrow that Esther was only out for Esther. Any confidence given her was nearly always violated. This queen bee just shrugged and stung them to death.

A cinch, thought Henry.

"Then Professor Jane Astori, physical therapy."

Beside Esther, tiny Jane appeared almost doll-like, even though she was only a little shorter than average. Her blond hair was worn long and fastened with a barrette at the back. It swished like a horse's tail whenever she moved her head.

At 42, she had attained her goal of becoming a professor and now had her sights on the department chair. She was adept at playing the system. A political pro.

"Last, but not least, here beside me, is Annette Pringle, zoology," finished Henry.

Annette nodded in recognition of the introduction and then turned her eyes again to the stack of papers in front of her. She was scared. It was her first committee assignment since her appointment as assistant professor at Belmont and she didn't want to be here. Everything was wrong about this hearing. It was plain as could be that Trenchant was being railroaded. Nobody at Belmont ever considered student feedback forms anything more than an exercise in futility.

What a nothing, inconsequential charge-yet here she was with the rest of the panel who all appeared to think this was the most serious crime since the Holocaust.

Annette hadn't dared to refuse Henry's request after the way the Vee had questioned her. He had come unannounced to her office to ask her to serve on this hearing panel. He explained to her how important serving on university committees could be and how they beefed up a curriculum vita.

Then, right out of the blue, apropos of nothing he had said, "I understand you and your friend, Joan, live together." It could have been just an innocent remark, but Annette, with years of suspicion and threats to remember, didn't think so. He knows, she thought and the thought stuck in her throat and choked her with fear. Her weak protests that she really didn't think she had experience enough yet to qualify for the panel had been swept aside and here she was.

Henry's thoughts were similar. He smiled in triumph. It really paid to check people out carefully. You could find out the damndest things. Things people were afraid of getting out. Things Henry could used to control them.

Still smiling, he turned to the papers before him and in rapid order, introduced into evidence, Medical School Dean Broadhurst's letter of charges, a memo from the Chairman of NERD, Dr. Lyle Stone, and the two files containing the material sent out from Belmont to the document examiners.

"These are the items," the Academic Vice President and Chair of the hearing panel committee asserted, holding up the files, "that the hearing is about."

"We will commence by having the university's witnesses sworn in by the court stenographer. The committee will then examine each of the witness, then the accused may cross examine them.

"After all our witnesses have testified, Trenchant may examine her witnesses and the committee will cross. Are there any questions?"

"Yes." Diana said firmly. "You have said that the witness are to be sworn by the court stenographer and I have no objection to that. However, I want it in the record that I was told both by the ombudsman and by you, Mr. Chairperson, that this would be a typical administrative hearing and that witnesses are generally not sworn. When they are, it is done by one of the hearing committee.

"I was further told that recording of the hearing would be by tape recorder. I find that neither of these two things are true.

"In addition, I want it recorded that I have requested several times that this hearing be open, and the chair has refused. The Attorney General's Office has asked to be allowed to send an observer to this hearing. Their request was denied, but they were promised a complete transcript of it."

"OK," Henry brushed aside Diana's observations as if they were of no import, and continued, "we'll call our first witness." Henry rose and went to get the Lyle Stone, chair of the Nutrition, Embryology and Radiology Department-NERD.

Lyle was seated directly opposite Trenchant and was sworn by the stenographer. Under questioning from the committee, he gave his name

and position.

Dr. Lyle Stone was a man totally driven by ambition. He treated people on two levels. If he needed something from you, he was most decent, even kindly; if not, he ignored you.

Quick to anger, he rarely checked facts. He took good care of himself, and at the age of 58, he regularly worked out at the gym and was seldom sick.

He was, however, short. Shorter than the average man, he tried to make up the height with bluster. This gave him not only a Banty rooster approach to life but also may have been why he resembled one.

"How did you become aware of the issue that this panel is investigating?" Henry continued.

Lyle testified that two years previously, Dr. Randy Fecesi had come to him with two medical student feedback forms which he had found. "Students are required to fill out and bring to the NERD office a questionnaire type form that critiqued each of the faculty in each course and the course itself," he explained....

Student Feedback Forms were initiated at Belmont in the middle sixties. They were designed to allow the students to evaluate faculty and courses in response to student demand that they have a voice in their education. Although the professors of each course at Belmont routinely handed the forms out and collected them, they were never taken seriously by any department or dean unless they were uniformly derogatory to a course or professor and sometimes, even then, they were ignored.

Mostly, they were treated as a joke by the departments and a lost cause by the students who never saw any changes made as a result of their suggestions. The joke was propagated further when some wag arbitrarily added MUR between the S and FF, creating the adjusted acronym, SmurFF, from Student Feedback Form. From that time on, the forms were printed on blue paper.

"....Randy said that he had found a SmurFF for the radiology course this year and one from last year that didn't look right to him. He and Dr. Heathson, who teach the course, wanted me to send them for handwriting analysis because he thought they had been written by Trenchant."

Lyle went on to explain at some length that Dr. Randy Fecesi and Dr. Ian Heathson were young faculty who were trying very hard to make the radiology course more modern and sophisticated. These efforts, he asserted, were thwarted by Trenchant and there was controversy and conflict because of her....

When Lyle Stone succeeded Jimbo Jones as head of NERD, he brought his post doc, Ian Heathson with him. No one on the NERD faculty was consulted and all of them were very upset that they were given no voice in a faculty selection. They soon learned that Ian was a special friend of their chairperson and quickly discovered that it was not wise to criticize him in any way.

Ian was a real nice, friendly fellow, fairly adept at his research specialty, nutrition (which was also Lyle's) but lacking knowledge and understanding of radiology.

Lyle put him in charge of the radiology course given to the freshmen medical students. This act was similar to throwing a child into the water and expecting it to learn to swim.

Diana had taught the lab portion of this course for several years. Ian didn't learn very quickly. He tried, you have to give him that, but he was way out of his depth. The students, as kindly as possible, turned thumbs down on him. Not only that, but on their SMurFF's, they were highly critical of the lecture portion of the course, which Ian conducted, while praising Trenchant and the laboratory, especially the laboratory manual which she had written.

The manual had been written out of desperation by Trenchant on her home computer. Over the years, the radiology lab manual had degenerated into such a mess that it was difficult to use and impossible to understand-especially when most of the pages were unreadable. This was before the department obtained a copying machine and still used the old fashioned stencils.

So Diana wrote and illustrated an entirely new manual and she registered the copyright on it. She offered this finished manual to Ian at no charge for use in the course and he grabbed it like the drowning man he was. The students had made their disgust well known to him and he realized that he did not have the knowledge or experience to produce an adequate laboratory manual in Radiology.

Things got better in the course. Ian was improving in his knowledge and lecturing. There was excellent cooperation between him and Trenchant. That is, until Randy Fecesi was brought in.

Randy came with perhaps even less ability in radiology than Ian, but where the students were sympathetic toward Ian, they were pissed off by Randy. The SmurFFs they wrote concerning him were not kind. Many reprimanded him for things he had said in lectures which were contrary to what the students read in textbooks. Hurt, angry and unable to get at the students, he turned on Trenchant. At first, Ian tried to stay neutral but eventually, Randy convinced him that the course must be reorganized and they had to start by redoing the laboratory manual.

His solution was to change the only part of the course that really worked!

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