Friday, September 10, 2010

Chapter 14

As was his custom, Rob Barnes arrived at his office a little before 8:30 a.m.--long before any student was likely to come by. It was the Thursday before the week-long spring break--Rob's last teaching day before it--so he didn't expect a very large attendance anyway.

Rob was feeling good that mid-March morning. He had found it very difficult to concentrate on his research after that horrible `unwanted' poster had appeared last semester. He thought it had all blown over when the Post article describing the problems with the `unwanted' posters came out last December, but there had been that ridiculous Sexual Assault Complaint Review Committee he had been called before at the beginning of the spring semester.

But things were going a lot better now. It had been a pleasant surprise to find that he had a strong and forceful ally in Charles Gibson who had been his liaison to the P&T committee. Needing such a friend, Rob thought ruefully, was not something he had anticipated at the beginning of last semester. Though not unanimous, he had received a strong vote from the P&T committee. And just last week he received a copy of the memo from Dean DiSola recommending him for promotion and tenure. His case was now before the provost. Rob anticipated no problems there, especially now that his second book was actually out and was receiving some favorable publicity.

He had written an op-ed piece summarizing the book's conclusions which was published by the Los Angeles Times. He had also appeared on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer." Even more than the book, these had led to a number of reporters calling to interview him.

The attention he was getting, of course, was nothing like what his old grad school rival, Scott Halpern, was getting. Rob had become a regular guest on the CBS Evening News, where he seemed to appear at least once a week commenting on events in Russia. And as far as Rob could tell, at least half these interviews with him were conducted in Moscow. How did he manage to get funding for all these trips?

Still, he tried not to dwell on Scott. Life, after all, was not a zero sum game. Scott's success was not hindering him in any way. In fact, the best news Rob had gotten in a while had arrived on Tuesday, when the managing editor of Foreign Affairs had called him asking for an article extending the argument in his new book. Rob had to have it in by the end of March to be considered for the next issue, and so had canceled his planned trip to Boston for spring break in order to write it. But canceling the trip would be worth it, he knew, since an article in Foreign Affairs would get far more attention than his book, and would--more than anything else--enable him to move on from NDU. But thanks to getting tenure here, as now seemed certain, he would be in a strong position to be hired with tenure by a "real" university. He would begin working on this in earnest this coming summer and fall.

It would be great, he thought, if he could start somewhere else next fall, but he knew it was too late for that; hiring at the senior level for next fall was already over and done with. With any luck, next year would be his last here at NDU. In the meantime, though, he would continue the very interesting--and very lucrative--consulting arrangement he had made with Johnny Chang and his firm, Mack & Monk, at the beginning of last semester.

Rob turned on his office computer (which was two generations out of date--one more reason why he hated being at NDU). As usual, he checked his e-mail first. There were only three messages: the first was a "university announcement," the second from Ruth Silverstein--probably to the department as a whole, and the third also from Ruth. All were dated yesterday.

Rob opened the "university announcement" first. It was yet another of these one-day-in-advance notices of a candidate for the directorship of the new Public Policy Institute coming through. Rob had not recognized the names of any of the previous four or bothered to attend their presentations. He thought he'd just look at this message long enough to see if he recognized the candidate...

Holy shit! It was Scott Halpern! And he was coming through today!

How could this be? Scott didn't even have tenure! Was it the same Scott? The brief bio on him indicated that he received his Ph.D. in political science from M.I.T., that he was teaching at Princeton, and that he was a regular consultant on Russian issues for CBS. Yes, it was the same Scott.

After the bio came his schedule for the day. He was having breakfast with the search committee. He was then scheduled to meet President Michaelson, and afterward with Provost Bobier. Rob then saw that he was listed as meeting with the Political Science Department faculty at noon. This would be followed by lunch at 1:00 with the university professors. At 2:0, he would make his academic presentation--which, the message practically gushed, would be covered by C-SPAN. At 3:00, he would meet with the deans of the various colleges and schools. At 4:00, he would make an "administrative presentation." There were then meetings with members of the Board of Trustees, and afterward a by-invitation-only dinner. Good God!

The next message, from Ruth Silverstein, urged the entire department faculty to attend the noon meeting with Scott Halpern, the candidate for the Public Policy Institute directorship, who had specifically asked to meet with them. Various "higher-ups" from the administration, "whom we definitely do not want to give a bad impression of our department to," would also be attending, she noted.

The third message, also from Ruth, asked Rob whether he knew Scott and, since his morning class ended at 11:45, requested that he please go straight over to the provost's office afterward to pick Scott up and walk him over to the departmental conference room. "I've already notified the provost's office that you will be collecting him, so let me know if this is a problem for you." Rob sent her a reply saying he'd be delighted to bring Scott over--even though he wasn't.

* * *

Rob looked at his watch. It was five minutes to noon. He had already been sitting in the reception area of the provost's suite of offices for over five minutes now. Even if Scott came out from his meeting with the provost right now, they would be late for his meeting with the Political Science faculty. But that didn't seem to be bothering either Scott or the provost.

Rob had never been here before. The furniture was certainly much nicer than in his department. Everyone seemed to dress up here in Dominion Hall, where the president, the provost, and the various university vice presidents had their offices. But while the staff here might be well dressed, it did not appear to be particularly well mannered, he noted.

When he had first come in to the provost's suite and announced he was here to pick up Scott, the receptionist--a young woman who was obviously either a student or a very recent graduate--said, "Oh yes, Rob, we've been expecting you." Rob was not used to being addressed by his first name by people her age here on campus. But then she continued, "Provost Bobier is still talking with Dr. Halpern." This implied that, unlike Rob, the provost and Scott were important, and therefore were referred to by their titles and last names. Finally, she had said imperiously, "Just have a seat, Rob," as if to emphasize the distinction between him on the one hand and the provost and Scott on the other. Good Lord!

The door to the provost's office finally opened, but the meeting did not appear to be quite over as Scott and the provost were still talking in the doorway. Rob realized that he had never met the provost before. He was surprised that, although obviously in her forties, she was a very attractive woman. Her clothes and jewelry certainly looked expensive. She was looking up into Scott's face, smiling. "It was such a pleasure to meet you after seeing you on the news so often," she said with just a slight trace of a French accent.

"The pleasure was mine!" Scott responded enthusiastically.

"I think it's very generous of you to volunteer to meet with our Political Science faculty. But I hope you won't judge NDU just on them; remember what I told you!"

And just what was that, Rob wondered.

"Has that friend of yours shown up here?" she asked.

Scott looked around and saw Rob. "Yes, there he is!" said Scott jovially. "Hi Rob!"

Rob stood up and went over to them, shaking hands first with Scott and then the provost.

"So you're Rob Barnes," she said in a rather less jovial tone of voice than she had used to address Scott.

Before Rob could respond, Scott said, "Come on, Rob, we've got to hurry!" As if their being late was somehow Rob's fault.

Turning back to Scott, the provost said, "I'll be seeing you again at your presentations. In fact, I'll be introducing you for the one that C-SPAN is filming."

"Great!" said Scott. After the provost and Scott said their good-byes, Rob set off with him to the Political Science Department.

Once they were out of her office suite and on their way, Rob said, "It's been a long time, Scott. I had no idea you were applying for the Public Policy Institute directorship here. Of course, they've kept it all very quiet, only announcing the candidates the day before they each arrive."

"This is kind of a funny place," observed Scott. "I just assumed that this institute they want to start would have a big budget for the director to get it going. But that doesn't seem to be what they have in mind. The president and provost wouldn't come right out and say it, but they seem to expect whoever is the new director to raise most of the institute's funds. That's not exactly how I want to spend my time. I mean, why the hell would I ever leave Princeton for NDU unless NDU guaranteed me a big annual budget?"

"I see your point," commented Rob. "Did they say anything about whether you'd come here with tenure?"

"Oh yeah, of course," replied Scott. "They said they'd have your department give it to me."

"Oh really?" asked Rob.

"Yeah, and speaking of your department," Scott continued, "it appears to be on the shit list. Both George and Jeannette had a few negative things to say about it. It seems that as a group, you guys aren't fulfilling your quota."

"George and Jeannette?" asked Rob.

Scott laughed. "Surely you jest, Rob! George Michaelson and Jeannette Bobier--your president and provost! I know you like to burrow in and focus on your own work to the exclusion of everything else, but surely you've heard of them!" Scott laughed some more.

"Of course," said Rob sheepishly. "It's just that nobody here refers to them just by their first names."

"They insisted that I do," said Scott.

"Is there anything else annoying them about the Poli Sci Department?" asked Rob.

"They seem to think that your chair (Ruth is it?) and the public administration types have complained about how they weren't consulted about the formation of the Public Policy Institute. They also seem to think that they're going to be taken out of Poli Sci, which George and Jeannette say they pretty much control, and put inside the Institute which they won't."

This was news to Rob. Scott was right: he just concentrated on his own career. He interacted with other faculty in his department who taught international relations, but had not bothered to get to know any of the public administrators--unless, of course, like Trond before and Ruth now they happened to be the chair of the department.

"That's why I asked to speak to your department," Scott continued. "I'm going to reassure them that if I become director of the new institute, I'm not going to do anything to take them or their MPA program away from the department. The truth of the matter, though, is that if they really are the losers that George and Jeannette say they are, I wouldn't want them in my Institute anyway!"

Rob thought there was a lot of dead wood in the Poli Sci department, especially among the public administrators, but he really didn't like hearing Scott ridicule them. It implied that he held Rob in low regard just for being in the same department with them.

"Jeannette also told me," Scott said knowingly, "that you have quite a reputation as a lady's man around here."

"What?" asked Rob, dumbfounded.

"Yeah, she told me that some pretty little thing came in to see her just a few weeks ago to defend you against something or other. What was that all about, Rob?" Scott asked knowingly.

Was this never going to end, Rob wondered. There was some young woman out there who had filed some sort of complaint against him, but who then wanted to withdraw it--and the university wouldn't let her! He wished she would just come and talk to him; maybe together they could get the whole thing resolved. He wondered who she could be, but Rob really had no idea.

Well, even if he didn't know who she was, at least the provost now did--and presumably would believe her. Rob, though, was unhappy that Provost Bobier had been indiscreet enough to say anything about this matter to Scott.

"It's all about nothing," said Rob in answer to Scott's question.

"Oh, don't play dumb with me!" teased Scott. "I remember how when we were T.A.'s back at M.I.T., you always had a flock of Wellesley girls in your sections." Wellesley was M.I.T.'s sister school. The Wellesley women taking classes at M.I.T. were always readily distinguishable from their M.I.T. sisters. Whereas the Wellesley women usually wore dresses, jewelry, even make-up, the M.I.T. women dressed much the same as the M.I.T. men.

"By the way, how are your T.A.'s here?" Scott asked.

Rob had hoped Scott would not ask this. "I don't have any," he replied weakly.

"What?" cried Scott incredulously. "Who does your grading for you?"

"We don't have a Ph.D. program in political science. So I have to do it myself."

"Good Lord! And what's your teaching load here?"

Rob had been dreading this question even more. "Three and three," he responded.

"I can't believe it!" shouted Scott. "The heaviest load I've ever taught at Princeton is two and two--sometimes it's just been two and one. Rob, old boy, you have fallen far!"

Now Rob's back was up. "I don't know about that," he responded. "It's only my third year here and I'm just about to get tenure. Once I do, I'll be on the job market next fall for a tenured position somewhere else. Everyone knows that schools like Princeton chew up assistant professors for six years and then spit them out, forcing them to take assistant professorships somewhere else and start the tenure process all over again."

Scott looked at Rob quizzically. "Yes, that can happen," he admitted. "But it's also possible to get tenure at Princeton. And even if you don't, the school you move to you will often give you tenure right away. I mean, look at me here--being considered for a tenured position at NDU. A tenure track assistant professor like me would never be considered for it if I wasn't at Princeton or a school like it.

"Let's say we were both up for tenure this year at our respective schools and we were both turned down," Scott continued. "I think it would be a hell of a lot easier for me to get a tenured position somewhere else after being turned down by Princeton than it would be for you after being turned down by NDU."

This was not what Rob wanted to hear. "Well, since I'm in the final stages of getting tenure here, that doesn't apply to me," he snapped.

They both walked in silence for a few moments. Rob realized that he had sounded too defensive. "That's our building just up ahead," he commented. "Tell me, Scott: will you take the job if they offer it to you here?"

"Just between you and me," Scott replied, "George and Jeannette already have."

Rob wondered: did Scott ever fail at anything?

"But also just between you and me," Scott continued, "I'm not going to take it. It would take years to get the Public Policy Institute up and running, and that's just not how I want to spend my time. So I'll just be going through the motions for the rest of the day. Still, it won't be a total loss--thanks to Jeannette arranging for C-SPAN to cover my talk this afternoon. And it sure won't hurt me back at Princeton when it gets around that I was offered an institute directorship here."

"I see," said Rob.

"By the way," asked Scott as they entered the building. "I see your new book came out. What are you working on now?"

Trying to keep his pride from showing, Rob told him how Foreign Affairs had asked him to write an article for the upcoming issue.

"That's great!" said Scott. "They had asked me for one too, but I had to tell them I have too much on my plate for the next issue."

He always has to be one up, thought Rob. They had now arrived at the Political Science Department's conference room where Rob handed Scott off to Ruth Silverstein. Rob was surprised to see that the room was practically full; there were several people from outside the department whom he did not recognize. There being no places at the long board room style table in the center of the room, Rob took a seat along the wall.

He tried to follow Scott's talk, but couldn't concentrate on it. All he could think about was that since his next class was at 1:30, he hoped Scott would finish early enough so that he could grab something to eat beforehand.

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