Revolution in Hoover - I
Sanjay Paul

The article appeared in The Etownian, Feb. 2011.

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have not left Elizabethtown College’s ruling elites unscathed. How could they? After witnessing how effectively the autocratic regimes in these countries were brought down by sheer popular will, the faculty at the College have risen to demand changes in what they see as arrogance, nepotism and downright lack of bonhomie among the administrators.

So who was targeted?

Well, not anyone in Alpha. The President, the Provost, the Dean — all went about their daily work with nary a peep to disturb them.

How about the department chairs in Wenger, Musser, Esbenshade, Nicarry or Zug? Perhaps they were targets during the “Day of Rage?”

Nope, no problem there. Equanimity reigned supreme in those buildings. The work of the humanities, the arts, the natural sciences and  the social sciences all continued unabated. It was as if the revolutionary fervor swirling around Tahrir Square was thousands of miles away (which, in fact, it was).

So who did that leave?

The chair of the Department of Business.

Homer knew this was going to be a long day. He had learnt earlier that the Board of Trustees had approved an MBA program to be offered by Continuing Education. This was not good, he thought. The business faculty had strongly recommended that a decision be put off until they had time to explore the feasibility of offering a traditional MBA themselves. They had said a proper exploration would take time. They had warned that offering two MBA degrees, one from Continuing Education and another from the traditional department, would harm the reputation of the College.

This was no idle chatter from the rarified precincts of the ivory tower. The faculty making the recommendations on a suitable MBA program boasted impeccable corporate-sector credentials. They were accomplished scholars, to be sure; but many had worked in the business field for years, even decades. They had experience working at the highest management levels in corporations with global reach. They had hired employees and started their own firms. They had managed large budgets. They had taught in Master’s programs.

And now the Board had seen fit to ignore the department’s recommendations. Boards are of course free to do such things. They boast experts of their own. They count among their members university presidents and high-powered business executives. They worry about the long-term fiscal health of the College.

But still...

Homer pulled into the Hoover parking lot, only to discover that a crowd had gathered there with signs demanding his ouster. Good grief!—this was worse than he had feared. He saw signs that said “Get Out, Homer!” and “Adios, Amigo!” and even one saying “Down With Two-Handed Economists!” (The last one, he noted, was held aloft by Randy Trostle, an economist himself who often disparaged his peers’ tendency to say “On the one hand...” followed by “On the other...”).

Sensing trouble, Homer quickly reversed his car and drove to the Young Center parking lot. What a beacon of tranquillity this place was, Homer said to himself, nestling on the shores of Lake Placida! Perhaps Don Kraybill was inside the Center, working on a tome on Amish business practices.

He disgorged himself from his vehicle, pulled on a scarf to hide his face as best as he could, and walked toward Hoover.

What bedlam there was in the building! Several business faculty milled around on the first floor, circling the Grecian columns, shouting anti-Homer slogans. The lawyers, he noted, were particularly stentorian in their utterances, as they furiously presented motions, entertained amendments, and called for votes.

It was all very parliamentary, Homer thought approvingly.

But the marketeers were not to be outdone! They raised points of order and asked for clarification. “Count all votes!” cried one, reminding his colleagues about the need to adhere to democratic principles. Others, showing varying degrees of entrepreneurialism and creativity, raised issues of their own, mostly dealing with the department chair’s vision (or lack thereof).

Homer managed to slip unseen into the elevator.

There was relative calm on the second floor. He went to his office, shut the door and sat down in his chair. Ah, peace at last, he thought.

But he was mistaken! He had forgotten about the throngs below. The Tahrir Square, the Pearl Square — and now joining those emblems of democracy was the Hoover Parking Lot, he thought bitterly. There they were, the business faculty, waving their signs and clamoring for his departure. The sounds of anger, the voices of the disenfranchised, the cries of the oppressed, all hitherto bottled up during his two-year reign of — why mince words? — terror, wafted up to his office.

Homer briefly contemplated waving to his colleagues from his window. But then, he recalled, a similar response by Linda Thompson during a protest seeking her ouster as Mayor of Harrisburg had not exactly done wonders for her. He sat down again.

The hours went by. Day turned to dusk. He thought about switching on the light, his environmentally-friendly CFL, but he could not risk giving away his position. Dim though the wretched thing was, it would be seen from outside.

He was hungry. Oh, what he would have given for a scone from the Blue Bean! Even, dammit, one with icing on it! Or, how about a Jay’s Nest Special! He wondered what the special was today — Pittsburgh steak salad, perhaps, or sweet and sour chicken? Gawd, it was torture just thinking about the special.

Revolutions can be so unpredictable, he thought. A street vendor sets himself on fire in Tunisia — and governments in the Middle East fall like dominoes. Some hold on grimly, hoping they can withstand the gales of discontent blowing through their kingdoms and monarchies and military dictatorships, all anachronisms in a century that is supposed to herald the end of history.

He looked out of the window. The parking lot lights had come on. The protesters were still milling around. They were laying out sleeping bags in the parking lot. It was going to be a long night.

Paul's Articles