Professor Alex Henderson stormed through the hall, his expression hard enough to deter colleagues that tried to talk to him, but flinched back on sight of his face. Deidre Jenkins made the sign of the cross to ward away evil.
The gesture made Alex clench his fist more tightly, crushing the paper even more. He went into the main office where the secretary, Alice Petersen, usually had a warm smile for him, but now she gulped, grabbing her coffee mug and darting for the break room while pointing to the open door to Paul Crateris’s office.
Alex didn’t break stride as he shoved open the half open door of his department chair, staring daggers at the balding and white-bearded man.
“What. The. Hell. Is. This?” he held up his fist with the clenched paper.
Paul Crateris looked nonplused as he gestured for Alex to take a seat. When Alex refused, he shrugged.
“I need to make sure more professors are qualified to teach the course. You’ve had a monopoly on it for many years, and others would like to teach it, too.”
“Bullshit. No one has expressed interest in that class in years. Everyone hated teaching it because it was never successful. More often than not it never had sufficient enrollment to even be offered.”
“Well over the last five years its enrollment has always been full. It’s becoming one of our most popular classes.”
“Because of me! And now you’re taking it away from me?”
“The department does need a robust and diversely proficient teaching staff.”
“Those students signed up because of me. They wanted my class. They already have their books, have already gotten the advanced copy of the syllabus. The class starts next week!”
“Jeremy already has amended book orders and syllabi. The students will adjust. Frankly, Alex, your attitude baffles me. This is all for the good of the department. What if you were to decide to go on sabbatical or declined to teach the class in favor of research? Or, God forbid, you were in an accident. Best to have someone ready to take the class if need be, especially with you in a position to lend assistance. Now, I have to phone the dean. Please close the door on your way out.”
Alex would have goggled if not for his rage, which redoubled at being summarily dismissed like this. But class assignments were still the province of the department chair. He could file a protest with the dean, but the odds of anything coming of that were nil.
Alex turned, stomping out.
“Oh, Alex,” Paul’s smug voice caught him as he was about to close the door behind him. “Perhaps you can take over an independent study, instead. I have some students who have expressed interest in Early Colonial Puritanism.”
Alex said nothing, closing the door. Alice had returned with fresh coffee, and pointedly did not look at Alex, not eager to get between warring professors. Alex took a deep breath, letting it out as a sigh, finally understanding.
Independent. That’s what he emphasized. This is about the class where I got the students criticizing Paul’s new department policy. He had to retract it based on student outcry. This is his punishment for that. I could always deal with his incompetence and ego, but now he’s making it personal. Jeremy must have done something, too, because he actually loves that Puritan stuff. So he had an independent study taken away, while I had my class taken. This is going too far. But Paul has shielded himself from any conventional approach I can take.
Paul walked away from the door, moving back to his office. The previously open doors were all closed or mostly closed as he went back to his office. He fumed for a little while over steepled fingers until he realized.
Conventional approaches are unavailable to me, but there are unconventional approaches.
He took out a piece of paper and a pen, then frowned at the regular ball-point. This needs something special. He pulled out a thick fountain pen from a drawer, and began to write.