Friday, April 9, 2010

April 9

Another week, another scandal! And this one I witnessed myself!

It all happened on Monday afternoon. Craig, Lisa, and I had come back to the office together from Asquith’s graduate methodology class, as usual. Lisa had just given her presentation about how to design a research project for testing various feminist theories of international relations. It had been a tough session since Asquith clearly didn’t like the project. Lisa was really bummed out, and we were trying to cheer her up with some light-hearted suggestions. Craig proposed that Asquith would have been more receptive to a research project that sought to test the validity of various gay theories of international relations—provided that his was the one she concluded was right. I suggested that if nothing else, she could write a paper for Prof. DeKlerk’s feminist theory class on how making the presentation in Prof. Asquith’s class made her feel alienated. Although we didn’t succeed in cheering up Lisa (who really doesn’t have a sense of humor), we did amuse ourselves.

Lisa was in the midst of ranting to us about how feminists like her were discriminated against just as much by homosexual males as by heterosexual ones, when in through our door walked a truly good looking lady with shoulder-length auburn hair whom I had never seen before. It is not at all unusual, of course, to encounter beautiful women on college campuses. But unlike most such creatures who usually wear pretty casual (if not downright ratty) clothes, this one was wearing what was obviously a very well tailored suit and lots of jewelry, including a substantial diamond ring along with a wedding ring.

“You did it, babe!” she said, addressing Craig. “You’re in!” She then pulled a manila envelope out of her pocketbook, walked over to Craig’s desk, and handed it to him. Craig appeared as surprised as Lisa and I were. He pulled the contents of the envelope half way out and then pushed them back in. Craig stood up, and the two of them threw themselves into each other’s arms with a mutual cry of joy. They then began a long, intense kiss which gave every indication that Craig and this married woman were already very, very familiar with each other.

It was just at this point that Professor Asquith walked into the room. I don’t know why he chose this particular moment. Maybe he wanted to say something to Lisa about her presentation. Or maybe he wanted to hit on Craig again. Or maybe he had heard the noise in the hall and was just curious about what was going on. Whatever it was, he never told us. He probably forgot himself.

“What the hell is going on here?” Asquith roared.

This quickly put a stop to Craig and the red-head. “We were kissing!” the woman said pertly. “What’s it to you?”

Asquith spluttered in anger at this. “I wasn’t talking to you, young lady. You obviously don’t know who I am. What is the meaning of this, Craig?”

“We were indeed kissing,” Craig answered blithely. He wasn’t cowed by Asquith at all.

“But I thought you were gay!” exclaimed Asquith, his voice revealing a deep sense of betrayal.

“Did you?” Craig asked flippantly. “Well…you were wrong!”

“Very wrong!” the red-head added suggestively, and then laughed.

Asquith paused for a moment. There was real anger in his voice when he next spoke. “You’ve been passing yourself off as gay, haven’t you?” he demanded. “You did it when you interviewed here last year so that I would push to get you admitted and funded, didn’t you?”

“Now, Professor Asquith,” said Craig in a more serious tone. “I never once said I was gay. If that’s what you thought, then that was an erroneous assumption on your part.”

“Besides,” said the woman, “I’m sure a potential student’s sexual orientation would never influence you as to whether or not he or she should be admitted.”

“You’ve made a fool of me!” Asquith cried.

“It seems to me that you’ve made one of yourself,” said the red-head demurely.

“I don’t know who you are, young woman,” said Asquith, regaining control of himself, “but let me tell you, Craig, that what is obviously a sexual relationship between a male TA and a female student is a very serious matter.”

“Oh, I think it’s okay,” said the red-head. “I’m his wife.”

Asquith was dumbfounded by this. “I think it’s time I introduced you, dear” said Craig. “Professor Asquith, Lisa, Jonathan: this is my wife, Lee.”

So this was the person who wrote that poem I found in Craig’s desk! Since I also thought that Craig was gay, it never occurred to me that Lee could be a woman’s name.

“Well, imitating a gay person is a serious offense, as far as I’m concerned. And, I think it’s only fair to say,” Asquith said in an evil tone, “that your doing so is highly likely to affect the faculty’s decision about whether to continue your funding next year.”

“Oh, the funding won’t be necessary,” responded Craig. “I won’t be coming back. Lee had just come here to tell me that I’ve just been admitted to the Kennedy School at Harvard.”

“I don’t believe this!” Asquith spluttered. He finally left, defeated.

Once he was out of the room, Craig and Lee burst out laughing. “From now on, my dear,” Lee said to Craig, “you are going to wear that wedding ring!”

“Yes, ma’am!” Craig and Lee then invited Lisa and me to join them for a drink to celebrate Craig’s good fortune. Lisa declined (she probably wanted to go tell Prof. DeKlerk all about what had just happened here—as well as suggest my idea for a paper to her), but I went along.

When we were seated quite comfortably with drinks, Craig and Lee both told me the whole story. They had been in the same class together at the University of Pennsylvania, where they both graduated from last spring, and then gotten married last summer. Lee had gotten accepted into the Charles University Law School last spring, and was just finishing up the first year there now. Craig had not been certain whether he wanted to get a Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.) or a Ph.D. in political science. He had applied to both types of program. But since Lee had gotten into law school here at Charles, and since they were about to get married and, obviously, wanted to live together, this narrowed down the grad schools that Craig could attend to those in the greater Boston area. He had gotten into several public policy programs in other parts of the country, but was turned down by the one at Harvard—the only one he really wanted to go to in this region.

By this time, Craig had decided he really was more interested in an M.P.P. than a Ph.D. He could have, of course, just moved to Cambridge with Lee, applied to the Kennedy School this past fall, and simply worked before starting (assuming he’d been admitted) this coming fall. He had a strong financial incentive, though, for getting into a grad program this past fall: he owed a large amount in student loans which he would have had to start repaying if he did not go to grad school, but could postpone if he did.

He still had not heard from the program here at Charles after he was turned down by Harvard last year. So he asked if he could come up for an interview last spring. It was just a fluke that the department office sent him to Prof. Asquith to be interviewed. Almost as soon as he sat down in his office, Craig said, Asquith started bemoaning the fact that the program lacked diversity since it didn’t have many gay students any more. It dawned on Craig that Asquith might well help him get admitted and funded if Asquith thought he was gay. So Craig played along. And it worked!

Once he’d started here last fall, Craig wanted to keep Asquith at arms length, but had to continue this little charade since he needed to keep on his good side to keep his funding. Besides, he didn’t know if he’d get into the Kennedy School until today.

Staying away from Asquith wasn’t so difficult last fall when all the incoming grad students were on fellowship. Craig, as I recalled, just didn’t come to campus all that much. It turns out he was working 30 hours a week in addition to collecting his fellowship stipend. This semester, though, being a TA kept him on campus—and close to Asquith—much more than he cared for.

He was glad to be leaving Charles, but being here was not a total loss. Indeed, he thought applying to the Kennedy School program as a grad student from Charles may have made the difference in getting him in. He was certain that he would get a high paying job coming out of this particular master’s program at Harvard—much higher paying, he assured me, than any job he’d get with a Ph.D. in political science from anywhere.

This surprised me. How could someone with a master’s degree earn more than someone with a doctorate? Could he possibly be right? I just assumed it would be the other way around.

Lee told me that the two of them would now both be finished in two years. Until then, they would take out more student loans during the school year. She had lined up a high paying job for this coming summer, and (with Craig in the Kennedy School) they would both probably have good jobs the following summer, so they wouldn’t be too strapped.

All I could say was that I was shocked that Craig could have started one grad program with the intention of applying to another one immediately.

He, in turn, expressed surprise at learning that I had not done likewise. He thought that everyone did, and that everyone should—just for their own protection in case things didn’t work out in the program they were in, as it hadn’t for him here at Charles.

The whole episode just amazed me, and everybody else who heard about it—which, of course, was everybody. Almost everyone, including me, agreed with Asquith: it’s highly unethical to pass yourself off as gay just for your own personal material benefit. I have to admit, though, that I was glad the scandal broke when it did since it distracted everyone from the Brendan Cohen fiasco as well as my connection to him. Michael was so eager to hear my first hand account of the conversation among Asquith, Craig, and Lee that even he stopped being nasty toward me.

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