Monday 21 December 2015

Christmas in Vulgaria

Zoltan Hubriski can do no wrong. His hugely successful recruitment drive bringing "his people" (nobody quite knows who 'his people' are) into the University has united more bottoms with more seats than any other recruitment initiative in the University's history. How does he do it? Was it the white-suited sales pitch or the winkle-pickers that did it? Hubriski explains it thus: "My people are like sheep. Once you get one, everyone else follows!". So there we have it! This success is skin-deep; it's actually a catastrophic failure of principle, honesty and integrity dressed-up as success. So much for success at the University of Vulgaria.

Hubriski's cynicism is only matched by the cynicism of his overlords who gaze on approvingly. "it's for the good of the learners," they tell everyone earnestly, whilst quietly saying to themselves, "it's for the good of me." Nobody believes they really care for the 'sheep': deep down everyone knows the score - even the sheep!

A full-moon at Christmas and there's a certain eeriness in the air this year. In Chateau Turtonovski, the baron's Bentley pulled-up as the wind and rain rattled the windows. The baron rarely stops to listen to anything, but this time something in the whistle of the wind caught his ear. It wasn't thoughts of Hubriski ("The man's an idiot, but for some reason he's successful!" he puzzled). He thought of the Markeyovich houshold. "What were they doing now?" asked the baron to himself, remembering how he had ruthlessly banished them from Vulgaria earlier in the year. The baron didn't want to think about this, but he couldn't stop himself. His mind tried to shake-off the thought - "I don't care for Markeyovich or his ghastly family!". But no sooner did he think he had shaken this one off, other names came to mind... the screwdriver man, banished for 'stealing a screwdriver' - ("that was a close-shave - we had to back-down because of the idiot Hubriski!" muttered the baron to himself disconsolately). Then there was his former educational research department whose intellectual critique of the damage that was being done the University by the Baron and his cronies inevitably sealed their fate ("they had to go - we engineered their departure rather well by starving them of funding!" he said with some satisfaction, as the words "knowledge" and "university" irritated his brain in a way he couldn't fathom). Then there was the dismembering of so many others: The Pro-VC ("he stuck to his principles and departed from the script!"), the academic registrar ("she asked too many questions"), the HR trouble-shooter who didn't last long ("I threw him out of the car!"), half the psychology department ("we can get better and cheaper academics!"), most of the old business school ("I wish we could get the cheaper replacements to stay..."). Among them all some wonderful souls with wonderful ideas and caring hearts. "I don't care! We need to make money! Hubriski's the man! Why couldn't they be like Hubriski?" shouted the baron defiantly at the wind and rain.

Then there was the decommissioning of various heads of department - perhaps Prof. Veritaski as head of health was the most brutal, or the dismembering of the staff-development unit ("we don't need staff development; we don't want people to stay - get 'em in, work 'em to the bone, get 'em out!"). Or there was the sudden disappearance of the newly-arrived PA to the newly-arrived prof. McSortemout who caught wind of a salacious rumour concerning an attractive member of staff and accidentally trod on a land-mine. Then there was the disproportionate number of middle-aged women who disappeared from the university: more than any other group, they bore the brunt of banishment ("hmmm - blame the baroness" the baron explained to himself, "she's a jealous woman - I'm scared of her!"). "That wonderful lady from Personnel... the one from engineering (that was the first sign things were going badly wrong)... a few from" All gone. "I don't care," he repeated to himself.

He struggled with his key in the rain. It wouldn't work. "Damn it!" he said as anger took hold. The angry wind whistled vengefully around the ornamental garden. "Angry! - that's how they all feel!" he thought to himself. "You wanted to control everything," he couldn't stop the voice of the collective ghosts of the University telling him. "You wanted a University in your image. The University of You. You didn't care for justice, knowledge or decency - you just went after what you wanted. You are a greedy and insecure man who destroys knowledge and surrounds himself with thugs. For some of us, who care for knowledge and the university, what you did has left a deep scar. Injustice really hurts, you see. We lay in a kind of purgatory for some time - some of us are still there. You thought you had done the job and we had gone away. But we're only just beginning to have the strength to get really angry". The baron pulled his coat tighter and looked over his shoulder nervously. He noticed how shallow success looks different in the dark. He managed to open the door. Behind him the ghosts began to rise from their individual, isolated torment and stand together.

1 comment:

Chris said...

astute as ever....