The Torch and the Spear
In early January, the community college at which I teach finally posted a position for a full-time faculty member who could teach economics, finance, business law, and accounting, a daunting combination for which I have more than two decades of classroom experience. It seemed to me that the position had been crafted for me, and I almost got the impression that this is, indeed, what had been done. I’ve been at this school (while teaching at others off and on) now for five-and-a-half years. I had once been passed over when a position opened and an administrator was slotted into it via a back-door contract provision available to those who serve their time in administration. I imagined in January that, given the requirements for this new faculty position, the Powers That Be were constructing a means by which old matters would be tied up as the school moved into an era of rapid growth, prominence, and independence from the nearby state university that had been, as if by some divine right, forever imposing its will upon higher education in the region.
The grueling process of faculty hiring moves through ponderously slow stages. First, public notice is given in professional publications; then a slate of eight preliminary candidates is selected; then those individuals are each given a phone interview by the hiring committee, which, in this case, included the chairwoman, herself, and two solid friends of mine. After the phone interviews, the list of candidates is culled to four, each of whom is brought to campus for a series of on-site interviews and to deliver a teaching demonstration.
From early January, this process finally came to its conclusion a week ago last Thursday. That day, after I had taught my own classes, I was “brought to campus” for the big interview. I had already arranged for several other faculty members to make the recommendations they are allowed to do as part of the evidence that is used in the hiring decision, so I had those recommendations, along with three of the six members of the hiring committee fairly certainly in favor of my appointment; in addition, I had a whole slate of credentials, including my Faculty Member of the Year award from last year. It did not hurt, of course, that I have published over four hundred articles on the Web, many of them nothing other than teaching exercises in economics, business, and related fields; and it did not hurt, of course, that the New Age information technology fad had not eluded me one bit, what with how I manage not only to podcast my lectures, but also to ensure that those podcasts are available from heavy-hitter sites like Apple iTunes, Yahoo! and other places virtually no faculty member could dream of designing RSS feeds to accommodate.
Geez, what more could a college want? Unless one of those other finalists was a Nobel Prize winner, I had it in the bag. Thursday was going to be a great day.
Because of morning classes I teach, I was already on campus before the interview. Such convenience! They did not even have to drive to the airport to pick me up; I just wandered over to the office of the Division Chair, the first person with whom I would meet so she could explain in detail the position, the salary, the duties, and all of that. I met her, and we spoke at length on matters of which we both knew, agreeing in many ways on issues having to do with the school and the important things coming to the fore in this period of substantial growth through which the college is now going. This particular woman has been quite a star since she took over from the gentleman who preceded her. Everyone has been impressed both by her ability to get things done and by her interest in creating more cohesiveness among faculty she oversees in business, economics, social sciences, and computer software skills and office technology. I have considered her something of an ally of mine and have introduced her to some of my articles published here at The Dark Wraith Forums.
After I had my meeting with her, I was taken to meet with the Director of Education, an old, retired astrophysicist from a monster-big university. He had held a grudge against me for some years because of a math program I fielded that was very popular with the community but was condemned (in the newspaper, no less!) by the chairman of the math department at that nearby university. That was an ugly affair, one for which I was blamed, that caused a rift between the community college and the university. The old astrophysicist had wanted a scholarly, interactive relationship with the hard science people over at the university, and my blustering, high-profile program (sort of like a math boot camp) had disrupted that. Interestingly, though, in that meeting Thursday, the Director of Education and I spoke in an entirely amicable, mutually edifying way about all the things upon which we agree about the state of education and the political landscape of modern America. It was almost disconcerting how well and how comfortably we spoke. It was like two old curmudgeons sitting on a park bench railing against the bleak prospects offered by the pervasive ignorance of modernity.
After that relatively short meeting came the full-blown, one-hour interview with the six-member committee, which included, as I noted, the Division Chair, two faculty members whom I consider good friends and solid colleagues, one faculty member who does not dislike me on a professional level (but probably does, to some extent, on a personal level), a representative from Academic Advising (a lady with whom I have worked productively in the past), and a representative from Information Technology Services (a young man who seems unaware of the long-running war between older teachers and the technology-is-everything crowd in ITS).
In that interview, I answered a battery of questions with what I considered excellent, well-worded, highly informed responses. I was right on my game: I had all the right answers for the sake of political correctness, with just the right measure of independence of thought to make for a productive professor who would never rock the boat so much as to tip it over. Nods, smiles, and positive facial expressions abounded.
The last part of the day's agenda was the teaching demonstration. I used the occasion to present one of my locally famous lectures, one that involves everything from graphs of money supply, inflation, and economic growth to rubber chickens, Kool-Aid, apple pies, and the theme from the '60s television show Gilligan's Island. Students young and old just love this one. (I simply must figure out a way to make a video of this to publish here.)
At the conclusion of the teaching demonstration, the head of the division told me that a decision would be made within two weeks, and she would be personally calling each of the four candidates to convey the news about the hiring decision. Actually, the decision was going to be made the next afternoon; I knew that because I had heard that this was when the committee was going to meet. The two weeks was for the Board of Trustees, itself, to internally signal an “official” decision.
I left campus that Thursday feeling quite good. Although I had not been my best in that teaching demonstration, I had gotten pretty darned close. As I was walking through the parking lot to my car, something entirely strange, fleeting, and most subtle happened to me. It was such a brief incident, too quick to rattle me even though it should have, given how genuinely odd it was. As I thought about it later, I concluded that it had been something positive; but at the time, I misunderstood why.
I was not on campus very long the next day, Friday, but I was there long enough. No one said a word about the meeting, but it was pretty obvious to me. Indeed, the sense I had was palpable.
I had not been selected.
All my fantastic thoughts, convictions, and certainties were gone. I had finally opened my eyes.
For just a momentan awful, long momentsuch a wave of sadness overcame me: that impenetrable, inconsolable grief no longer held at bay in forethought, no longer to be set aside for another time.
Then came relief: utter, complete, life-giving relief, as if from a great and terrible illness, years in its duration, I could not help but arise.
I departed the building in which my department is located, and as I was walking through the parking lot, I understood why what had happened there in that fleeting moment at that same place just the day before was not merely a good sign, but something better than I had been given in many, many years. I wish only that I knew whom to thank for it.
Today, official confirmation came. I was given face-to-face notification. I had the vague sense of being consoled like a favorite pet whore; but that's alright. I am not. At peril are the apparachiks of the establishment, the jackboots of government, the politicians, the Right-wingers, the Leftists, the Democrats, the Republicans, the religious zealots, the science lovers, the technologists, and all the other authoritarians, imbeciles, and fools who would think otherwise.
I am set to the task of regaining my concentration now that I am once again, as always, free.
Destiny lights the way; fate then rends from darkness the future.
The Dark Wraith has so much work to do.
Wrote Moody Blue:
Wrote Lisa Ranger:
Wrote Peter of Lone Tree:
Wrote Father Tyme:
Wrote Dark Wraith:
Wrote Peter of Lone Tree:
Wrote Dark Wraith:
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