Dean Mary Shingle waited outside President Grosvenor’s office. His previous meeting was running twenty minutes long. She hated to be kept waiting.
The door opened and four old white guys in dark suits spilled into the outer office. Their mood was dour with a hint of bourbon and entitlement. After they filed past, President Grosvenor said, “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, Mary, please come inside.”
He didn’t offer her a cigar or drink, but merely motion to the chair. “How are things going with our little project?”
“Well, it isn’t working out like I had planned.”
“No, it certainly has not. We are eight weeks into the semester and it is a disaster. Have you seen today’s student paper?”
“Not yet, why?”
“There is a rather lengthy article about SMS 301. It seems Dr. Byrne has not wilted under the pressure and has, by their account, flourished.”
“I’m as surprised as anyone.”
“I quote, ‘The class has been generating a lot of buzz and not just on Twitter and Facebook, but among the student body. Last Wednesday 145 people showed up to hear the lecture, which is impressive considering there are only 104 people enrolled in the class.’ It goes on from there talking about some of the blogs the students have created and it seems one student’s post on global fuel prices got picked up by CNN.”
“Damn it! Dr. Byrne has become more than just a drunken blight on this University’s sterling reputation, he has left his stain on me.”
Mary didn’t know where he was going with this. “I understand, I’m upset too. I was so looking forward to being rid of him, but what can I do? We can’t fire him for doing a good job.”
“He isn’t just doing a good job, he is becoming a God Damn hero. Yesterday, registration began. Do you know how long it took for SMS 301 to fill up?”
It was obviously a rhetorical question, so she shrugged.
“Twenty-three minutes. At 8:23 all the slots were taken. Never in the history of this school has a class been so popular,” he screamed and slammed the paper down on his desk.
“I guess we underestimated him.”
“I guess I underestimated you!”
“That’s not fair, I’ve kept a close eye on him, but…”
“Do you know who those men leaving my office were?”
“No, I don’t.”
“They are on the search committee for a major Ivy league school and my name has just moved from the long list to the short one.”
“Congrats, so does that mean his success is helping?”
“No, that is not what it means! They are going over every detail of life here on our little college campus, with only one goal, to find a reason to knock me out of the running. They are aware of Dr. Byrne and asked why I hadn’t handle the situation sooner. I’ve explained that he is on the way out, but now I need to make that happen. Do you understand?”
“I’m not sure I do. What do you propose I do? He obviously isn’t going to get the bad reviews we need to make a claim he has failed. It looks like the plan is dead.”
“Mary, you are a fine administrator, but your creative thinking prowess leaves a bit to be desired. There is more than one way to skin a drunken tenured professor.”
Mary said nothing.
“If we can’t get him for poor performance, what else might we have at our disposal?”
“I’m sure I don’t know. I thought we had him at the beginning of the semester. What are you suggesting?”
“Think Mary. You know our charter and bylaws better than anyone.”
Mary did think, but she was in a poor mood after all of his abuse and nothing came to mind.
“Have you considered the morality clause?”
“I have not,” she said and then her voice changed, “but you may be onto something.”
He let her think. The wheel s were turning and it would be better if it was her idea.
“The morality clause is perfect. This weekend, with everyone in town for homecoming, the game, and the chances that we will win on Saturday, will make it a festive time.”
“Yes, go on.”
She started to pace, “While it was surprising how quickly he has adapted, he is still the same philistine he was at the beginning of the semester. If Arthur is out drinking, and why wouldn’t he be, and with his rising popularity, then it is more than likely that he will find himself in a situation that is utterly inappropriate.”
“My thinking exactly and how do we use that bit of information?”
“If someone posts pictures from the debauchery that I’m sure will ensue, Saturday, then there is a very good chance we may see him involved.”
“Yes, but is it really wise to leave it up to chance? I mean, we know he will be out among the students and alumni, what if nobody happens to take a picture at the right time, what if it isn’t posted?”
“I see your point.”
“Louis Pasteur said, ‘Fortune favors the prepared mind.’”
“I should make sure there is someone keeping an eye on him, with a camera phone.”
“That sounds like some excellent preparation.”
“I have just the person.”
“I don’t need to know any of the details. Perhaps you’d like a cigar, for later,” he said, holding out the box of Cubans.
Mary took one, gave an understanding grin, and left. She thought, as she walked out the door, Finally, the chickens are homecoming to roost, Dr. Byrne.”