Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27

This has been one truly hellish week so far. I say “so far” because I am writing this on Tuesday evening, just four days after my last entry. I just have to write down what has happened.

In short: my world has turned upside down. All I can say is that, unlike others, I have behaved in a highly principled manner. I will be vindicated by my future biographers—if, that is, there are any. I guess it shows just how badly things are going that I’m actually expressing any doubt about this.

I shall describe everything in the order it occurred. It was fun seeing Angie again this past weekend. As before, we worked together in Briggs’s office. We divided the galleys between us to read through. We were able to do this quickly since we were just reading for glitches, of which there were very few. We then started working on the index, which was indeed a slow process. By Sunday afternoon when I had to quit and go do some of my own work, we had just gotten through the first chapter. This alone, though, was useful for getting her started in setting up the index entries—including, of course, the all-important listings of other scholars.

After I left Angie, one of the things I was able to accomplish Sunday afternoon was to find the original source for another of the three book reviews that I suspected were plagiarized (even though I handed the two reviews that I thought were plagiarized back to the students with “A’s,” I kept copies so I could continue my investigation of them). I was very glad to make this discovery, since the student who wrote it happened to be a white male. Filing a cheating charge against him would prove that I wasn’t treating the African-American male I had already accused of cheating any differently from how I treated a white student.

But things started to go badly on Monday. When I went to the student judicial affairs office to file the cheating charge against this second student (whose name, in fairness, I won’t mention either), the secretary glanced over the paper work and told me I was too late. Suspected violations of the honor code, she said, had to be made within ten days of their occurrence—which in this case was the date the student turned in the paper. I couldn’t believe it! I asked her to please check on this. With great annoyance, she called her supervisor out to talk to me. He confirmed that this was indeed honor code committee policy. He wasn’t quite sure why (the policy was set before he started working there), but he thought it had something to do with student honor code committees in the past regarding any delay in reporting honor code violations as being somehow suspicious.

I was shocked! It never occurred to me that the honor code committee would even think of questioning the motives of a professor or TA who could prove that a student had cheated. So all that time I had spent finding the original source used by this particular white male student had been a waste!

But things really went bad on Tuesday. I saw Shivvy the next morning in Briggs’s lecture class. Just afterward, I asked her if she could please give me back my two papers. She said she’d come by and see me during my office hours later today; there was something she wanted to talk to me about anyway, but was too busy just right now. It was a warm spring day, and she was wearing one of those short skirts I remembered first seeing her in last September before the weather turned cool.

I waited and waited for Shivvy in my office that afternoon. My office hours came to an end and I was about to leave when she finally arrived.

“Hello, Mr. Vining,” she said with mock seriousness. “There’s something I want to talk to you about.”

“Did you bring my two papers?” I asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t have them any more,” she responded. “I gave them to Barry.”

I froze. “Why?” I asked, still not believing what I’d heard. Maybe she was joking. “And since when did you start calling him by his first name?”

“Since we became lovers,” she responded, without any hint of embarrassment. “It is customary for lovers to be on a first name basis, you know.”

I was astounded. “You’re joking!” I exclaimed.

“Not at all,” she said.

“So that’s why your scrunchy was in his office!” I blurted out. “Angie was right about you!”

“Oh, so you two are still seeing each other?” she asked sarcastically. “How romantic! It also makes this much easier for me. For if you can have an affair with Barry’s girlfriend, then you can hardly object if I have one with Barry, can you?”

I insisted hotly that I was not having an affair with Angie, that I had gone to Briggs’s office at her request, and that I had spent much of the weekend there with her working on Briggs’s galleys and index.

“Working on his index with her, my ass!” Shivvy said derisively. “I’m sure it would be more accurate to say that you were working on her with your index finger!”

“Don’t talk about Angie like that!” I told her.

“Oh, just shut up, you asshole!” she shouted angrily. “I’m tired of you and all your sanctimonious subterfuges. What I came here to tell you, in case you haven’t guessed already, is that there’s no way in hell that I’m getting back together with you at the end of the semester. Even if you aren’t having an affair with Angie or anybody else (which I doubt), you can’t just dump me at the beginning of the semester and expect I’ll come running back to you when your precious qualms are satisfied!”

Suddenly, she seemed to pull herself together. “You treated me like some sort of inconvenient stock position you had to put in a blind trust while you served as a temporary presidential appointee,” she said, much more quietly but no less angrily. “You really hurt me! And I hope that what I’ve done hurts you just as much!”

I was stunned. There was no use trying to talk to her any further. She was beyond my reach. I thought I had explained my principles to her. She obviously hadn’t understood. Nor was she willing to. And now she had betrayed me.

Shivvy got up to leave. “Oh, by the way,” she said, with the familiar note of sarcasm back in her voice, “I’m afraid that Barry is none to pleased with either your senior thesis or with the paper you wrote for Saltz. I think he’d like to have a word or two with you about them.”

All of a sudden, my stomach felt very queasy.

“He’s in his office now. I just came from there,” she said with a lewd smile. “When I told him I was going to see you, he asked me to send you over to him afterward. I’d tell you to give him my love, but I’ve already done that myself!” And then, finally, she left.

It took me a few minutes to compose myself after all this. I finally got up and went over to Briggs’s office. The door was open and he was sitting at his desk, concentrating on his computer screen. I knocked lightly and he looked up.

“I have a few things I want to say to you,” he said grimly. “Come in here and sit down.”

I did as I was told. “I am really very disappointed in you, Jonathan,” he continued, handing me my two papers. “I’ve done an awful lot for you. I pushed to have you admitted here with funding. I voted to continue your funding this semester. I made you my TA. I even let you help out with my new book. And how do you repay me? By stabbing me in the back!”

I started to protest, but he cut me off. “I don’t really care about the senior thesis,” he said. “You wrote that before you came here. But to say what you said about me in this paper for Saltz last semester. . . that’s unforgivable. And Saltz knew you were my student, didn’t he? I’m sure it really amused him to know what I’ve only just learned: that one of my students is a traitor!”

I insisted on rebutting this. I told him that I had absolutely the greatest respect for him. I was not a traitor, but a disciple. I only critiqued his work in order to extend it, not denounce it. He himself, I pointed out, had made many of the same criticisms of his earlier work in his new book that would soon be coming out.

“Yes, now I understand why you were so willing to ‘help out’ with it,” he said malevolently. “I’m sure you’ve made a full report to Saltz on its contents so he won’t have to go to the bother of actually reading it in order to write a scathing review when the book comes out in September. Has he arranged for you to transfer over to his program at Harvard in exchange for this little service? Is that why you did it?”

I hotly denied all this. I told him that I hadn’t had any contact with Prof. Saltz since his class ended, that it had never even crossed my mind to transfer over to his program, and that I wanted nothing else but to work here at Charles with him since I too was a neo-radical. I further reminded him of the critique of Saltz that I had written for his class in the fall.

“Oh, yes, I remember that.” Then he laughed grimly. “You appear to be something of an equal opportunity traitor. Or maybe you wrote that paper so that I would think you were a committed neo-radical and trust you enough to let you see my new manuscript.”

I couldn’t believe I was hearing this sort of conspiracy theory from him. This was a side of him that I hadn’t seen before. I realized that there was nothing I could say now to convince him that I wasn’t acting in bad faith.

“Yes, that’s what happened!” he said, pleased with what he seemed to think was a real discovery. “I’m very, very disappointed in you, Jonathan.”

Suddenly, I got angry myself. “How dare you make all these false accusations against me when you’ve betrayed me by screwing my girlfriend? Did you tell me that I had to break off my relationship with her because I was her TA just so you would have the chance to fuck her yourself, even though she’s your student too?”

“How dare you talk to me like this!” he thundered.

“Oh, come off it, Barry!” I responded. “Shivvy just told me all about it in my office a few minutes ago!”

“She told you?” A look of genuine confusion came over his face, but then he recovered. “What happened between her and me is our business, not yours or anybody else’s. And you’d better keep your mouth shut about it, if you know what’s good for you!”

I couldn’t believe this! He was threatening me! “I won’t let you intimidate me!” I said. “The rules against sexual misconduct apply to you along with everyone else! And I believe I have no choice but to report your violation of them to the proper authorities here!”

His face radiated both fear and hatred. In a voice thick with rage, he said, “Is it a fight you want, boy? Then I’ll give you a fight! Now get out of here!”

Which I did. I just don’t know what to do or who to talk to. I’m in real turmoil.

Shivvy said she had wanted to hurt me. Well, she succeeded—-more than she could have possibly hoped for.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.