Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chapter 15

Jeannette Bobier was annoyed. Things had not gone the way she had planned. And she had put quite a lot of effort into planning them--which only made her more annoyed.

Jeannette was tired of playing second fiddle to George Michaelson here at NDU. She was tired of him announcing some grand new initiative at the beginning of each academic year, and then leaving her to find a dean or director for it as well as get it started. When she did all this well, he took the credit. And when she wasn't able to do it well, he assigned her the blame--as was occurring now with this damned Public Policy Institute.

She had thought that hiring the headhunting firm of Little & Ball to organize the search for the institute director would solve her problems. She had thought it would do a much better job than would a search committee dominated by faculty members on its own. But it had failed--even though it had been paid $75,000. Now it was April, and George was breathing down her neck to find an acting director for the institute from within NDU. And, she knew well, he would hold the $75,000 expenditure against her.

She herself knew she couldn't blame the search firm entirely. It was true that two of the five candidates who came through had been turkeys. But the other three had been acceptable. So acceptable, in fact, that each had been offered the position. And each had turned it down.

The first two had merely used the offer to wangle themselves some sort of administrative promotion at their home universities. This had stung. But what had really stung was being rejected by the last candidate--Scott Halpern. She, as well as Little & Ball, had thought of him as their "safe" candidate--the one most likely to accept if offered the job. He would, after all, be moving from a tenure track to a tenured position, and see his salary triple to boot. How could he turn that down? Somehow or other, he had. Nor did his doing so add luster to NDU's image. And now Jeannette was left holding the ball.

But this wasn't the only reason why Jeannette was annoyed. There was a more personal concern as well. The main reason why she had hired Little & Ball was because of its reputation for successfully recruiting top people in higher education. Her goal in hiring the firm was not just for it to conduct the search for the institute director here, but for it to have her in mind when it conducted searches for university presidents elsewhere.

This had, in fact, happened--to an extent. She had let them know she was interested in moving on from NDU and becoming a university president in her own right. And the firm had obliged: she had made the short list and was--just in the past few weeks--interviewed for the presidency at Southern Arizona University, Hills College in Northern California, and St. Catherine's College on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Unfortunately, though, she heard last week that Hills had made an offer to someone else, and that the offer had been accepted. And she had received similar news just today about Southern Arizona. She had yet to hear from St. Catherine's, but at this point she had resigned herself to spending at least one more year in George Michaelson's shadow.

Furthermore, between interviewing candidates here for the Public Policy Institute directorship and being interviewed herself elsewhere, Jeannette realized that she had let a few things slip. The recent ZARD Industries annual meeting, along with the attendant board meeting and receptions, had also distracted her. But now, she really had to buckle down. Her memos to George on this year's crop of promotion and tenure cases had been due at the end of March. It was now early April and she still had not done them. She decided that she was going to get them done today.

For the most part, her task was easy since all except three cases from the College of Arts and Sciences had unanimous support from lower levels of review. This being the case, she was not in a position to turn down any of these candidates. In fact, she would not even bother to read their thick dossiers, but would merely paraphrase the memo from the dean of the law school, engineering school, arts and sciences, or wherever else the dossier came from in her own memo about each candidate to the president.

There were only three cases that had received split votes at both the department faculty and the P&T committee levels: Elita White, Ann Sweezy, and Robert Barnes--all from the College of Arts and Sciences. She was not at all surprised to see that the CAS dean, Dominic DiSola, had approved all three. He was, she knew from the dossiers he had forwarded in previous years, a spineless wonder. He recommended promotion and tenure, she suspected, for people even he knew were losers in the expectation that Jeannette would do his dirty work for him by recommending rejection.

She had called Dominic to inquire whether he really supported all three of these candidates, or whether she had "misread" any of his memos. Even then the sonofabitch wouldn't tell her anything negative about any of them, stating only that he had said everything he had to say about all three cases in his memos. This lack of candor and excess of caution was most undesirable in a dean, she thought. She would have to do something about Dominic DiSola--whenever the occasion arose.

Her call to the chair of the History Department was far more productive. He was practically frantic about the prospect of Elita White becoming a tenured member of his department. He said that after receiving a damning 6-6-1 vote in the department and an even more damning 3-4-0-1 vote from the P&T committee, he had thought DiSola would surely recommend against her getting tenure. The chair had been shocked when he received the copy of DiSola's memo recommending for. Jeannette reminded him that his own memo had recommended White for tenure, and asked him why he had written that if it was not what he meant. He admitted having done so just to avoid a confrontation with her and because he assumed she would be axed at a higher level anyway. Jeannette thanked him for his input, but warned him to say what he truly meant in future. "Otherwise, you risk getting what you ask for but don't really want." He then pleaded with Jeannette to recommend against tenure for Elita, but Jeannette would only state that she was "still considering" what to do.

Jeannette had every intention of recommending against Elita. Her research record was absolutely pathetic. It was also clear that she was not at all a good colleague. The trouble with Elita, though, was that she was black. What this meant was that if she was rejected for tenure, she would inevitably claim that the decision was made on the basis of racial prejudice. Jeannette knew that she would have to prepare Elita's rejection very carefully if it was to survive the inevitable appeal Elita would file next year and, assuming that was unsuccessful, the lawsuit she would initiate afterward.

The first thing Jeannette did, then, was telephone Charles Gibson--NDU's most prominent African-American scholar--to sound out what his reaction would be if Elita White were to be denied tenure. And here she had hit pay dirt: he indicated that he would not object at all, and then told her of the discussion about Elita in the P&T committee (which Jeannette hadn't been aware he was serving on). And just as she had with the chair of the History Department, Jeannette took careful notes on her conversation with Charles--very careful notes.

The most important step in making sure that the rejection of a black or any other minority candidate for tenure was upheld, Jeannette knew from long experience, was being able to point to a white with a similar or even better record who was also rejected. In this regard, Ann Sweezy's dossier was clearly a godsend. Unlike the chair of the History Department vis-a-vis Elita, the chair of the Political Science Department really did support Ann. Otherwise, however, the dossiers were quite similar: only one book apiece, and just with an unprestigious scholarly commercial press at that. Both had few publications beyond the one book, though both had long service records. Yes, rejecting Ann for tenure would definitely allow the university to point out that it was not singling Elita out just because she was black.

Ann, of course, could be expected to appeal her rejection for tenure on the basis that she was being discriminated against for being a woman. Academic losers were all so predictable, Jeannette thought. Their rejection for tenure was never their own fault, according to them, but always the result of some form of discrimination. They were pathetic!

The ideal antidote to this, she knew, was to show that she had recommended against a white male with equal, or preferably, superior credentials than any woman or minority being turned down. The white male, after all, could not argue that he was being discriminated against--unless, of course, he was gay. (Jeannette had her doubts about gay white males in academia; she thought that at least half of them only pretended to be gay so that they too could claim that any action taken against them was not due to any fault of their own but to discrimination on the part of others). Robert Barnes, though, could make no such claim. As the "finding" against him forwarded by the Sexual Assault Complaint Review Committee indicated, it was girls that he liked to touch.

Jeannette had not been impressed with the committee's "finding" against him or with the "evidence" it was based on--the paper by the roommate describing what happened in Barnes's office. In fact, she had been rather disgusted that Ann Sweezy had actually given academic credit to some girl for writing it--one more reason, she thought, for rejecting Ann's bid for tenure. Besides, the girl who at first complained against Barnes had tried to withdraw the complaint, and had even come to Jeannette's office to bitch about Ellen Stenkovsky not letting her do so.

Jeannette remembered that girl--Cindy her name was. Yes, she was quite attractive. Jeannette was certain that she and Barnes were lovers. There was one thing Jeannette was not certain about: had the girl really come to talk to her on her own initiative without Barnes knowing, as she said, or had he actually sent her there with that story? Either way, the two of them had clearly made up after the incident described in the paper. Jeannette had no doubt that Barnes had been touching a lot more than the girl's shoulder since then.

Nor did Jeannette really care. Unlike Ellen, she wasn't bothered much by consensual sex between faculty and students--as long as they were discreet. But there was no reason to let Barnes know that. He'd raise the roof if he knew his application for early tenure was being rejected mainly to bolster her effort to force Elita and Ann out altogether. But she doubted that he would say anything at all if she let him think that delaying tenure was the price he had to pay for his pleasure with Cindy. Just to make sure he got the message, she'd write him a letter (another one of those things she had not gotten around to) indicating how disappointed she was that his behavior had led to the Sexual Assault Complaint Review Committee's finding against him and how, although she could take disciplinary action against him, she would not do so--this time. Yes, he would get the message.

Still, Jeannette had to admit--if only to herself--that bolstering the rejections of Elita and Ann in their up-or-out year was not her only motive for denying early tenure to Barnes. She had another motive: revenge. She still couldn't believe how that smug Scott Halpern had turned down her offer of the Public Policy Institute directorship and instant tenure, preferring to stay in a tenure track position at Princeton. That bastard had gotten his Ph.D. at M.I.T. So had Barnes. Well, if someone from M.I.T. turned down NDU, it seemed only poetic justice that NDU should reciprocate by turning down someone from M.I.T. She realized, of course, that nobody from M.I.T. would ever know that she had deliberately retaliated against it in this way. But that didn't matter. She knew, and that's what counted!

Yes, Jeannette thought, it was good to have all that settled in her mind. So much for the P&T cases. Next on the list was finding someone to serve as the acting director of the Public Policy Institute next year. This, she knew, would be a thankless task--especially if George insisted on running another national search for a permanent director which everyone would know was unlikely to select the internal acting director. An appointment of a prominent figure from outside would generate far more positive media coverage for NDU than the appointment of somebody already here. And positive media coverage of NDU was what George wanted.

Jeannette knew that the acting director of the Public Policy Institute had to possess three qualifications: 1) some knowledge of public policy issues; 2) some administrative ability to get the damn thing running; and 3) a sufficiently biddable nature which would not protest at being pushed out of the job once a permanent director from outside was found, but which would stick at it until then. Oh, and there was one more thing: the acting director could not have been a member of the search committee this year. That would look bad.

Who could she find at NDU who met all these qualification? Jeannette smiled to herself. The choice was obvious: Ruth Silverstein, chair of the Political Science Department. And Jeannette knew she had a strong incentive to offer to Ruth. If Ruth accepted the acting directorship of the institute, Jeannette would agree to convert her one-year acting chairmanship of the department, which was just about to expire, into a regular four-year appointment. Since she would be doing both jobs at the same time, her salary would be raised accordingly. More importantly, her being department chair would also provide Ruth with something to go back to when her services as acting director of the institute were no longer required.

In fact, the more Jeannette thought about it, the more she had to acknowledge her brilliance in picking Ruth for the acting directorship. The main opposition to the new Public Policy Institute came from two sources: 1) the public administrators (including Ruth) inside the Political Science Department who feared the Institute would encroach on their turf, and 2) Dean Dominic DiSola who feared that CAS would lose future faculty appointments to it. Whatever the merits of the department's fears, the dean's (she knew) were accurate--and hence more of a danger. By appointing her as acting director, Jeannette anticipated that Ruth would succeed in persuading the public administrators into actually supporting the Institute out of the belief that they would come to control it (something, of course, Jeannette had no intention of actually allowing to happen). Further, as an institute director (even if only an acting one), Ruth's administrative rank would be equal to that of a dean--including her own Dean DiSola, to whom she reported as a department chair. This was a situation that was practically guaranteed to cause tensions between Dominic and Ruth--tensions which Jeannette could take advantage of.

Well now, was that everything? Had she correctly calculated how all the parties involved would react to her various moves? Elita White and Ann Sweezy would howl with protest at being denied tenure, but denying it to Robert Barnes too would checkmate them. Ruth Silverstein would be delighted at receiving the acting directorship of the Institute--thus providing her with an incentive, Jeannette realized, for not opposing Jeannette's decisions regarding either Ann or Rob. And, thanks to his little peccadilloes with that Cindy having been revealed, Rob would just have to lay back and take it (albeit less pleasurably than Cindy had done from him, she was sure). Besides, unlike Elita and Ann, Rob could go up for tenure again. She even anticipated recommending him for tenure the next time he applied. If, that is, she was still at NDU.

All that remained now was for George Michaelson to sign off on her recommendations. But she didn't anticipate any opposition from him. Since he was the one demanding that she find an acting director for the Public Policy Institute, she doubted that he would disagree with her choice of Ruth Silverstein. Nor would be gainsay her on turning down both Elita White and Ann Sweezy for tenure. They were just the type he wanted to rid NDU of. He might react negatively to turning down Rob Barnes for early tenure. But she'd convince him that it was a necessary move if he really wanted to get rid of the likes of Ann and Elita. Besides, George would never want it to appear that her standards were higher than his own.

Yes, Jeannette thought, she had it all figured out.