Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 13

When I got back to my apartment last Friday, carrying the few things from what had been my office in a cardboard box, I found that Angie had already arrived. As I came in the door, she got up from the couch where she had been sitting. She was dressed in a pair of jeans and, it seemed ironic to me, a Charles University T-shirt. It looked like she might have been crying.

Suddenly she was in my arms, and very definitely crying. I led her back over to the couch, where we both sat and cried together. All the pain we had been feeling just welled up out of us both, refusing to be denied or suppressed any longer. I would never have wept like this if she hadn’t been there and started first. But once begun, I surrendered myself completely to all my sorrows and regrets.

I cried for so needlessly losing Shivvy’s love. I cried for my wrecked friendship with Brendan Cohen. I cried for having been falsely accused of racism. I cried for having let down Danielle when this happened to her last fall. I cried for my shattered illusions about Professor Briggs. I cried for my shattered illusions about myself, which Briggs’s reading of that letter from Brendan in front of the honor code committee did more than anything else to destroy. And I cried because I am now fully aware that there will be no future biographers or intellectual historians who are going to read this diary and write anything about me--and that even expecting this was ridiculous.

Angie cried for her broken marriage to Doug, her shattered illusions about her future with Barry, and his exploitation of her as an unpaid research assistant while he was simultaneously screwing Shivvy “and God knows who else.” And she cried for the fact that, despite everything, she still had some feelings for him because he had valued her intellect in a way that neither Doug nor any other man ever had. Finally, we both cried over the knowledge that we had each wasted a year of our young lives with absolutely nothing to show for it and with no plans at all for even the immediate future.

I asked her what she had meant when she had told me before that she would “get” Briggs. “It probably won’t work at all,” she said sniffling. “It was silly of me to think it would. I should have just moved out the day I found that damn girl’s scrunchy in his office instead of dreaming up some hare-brained scheme for revenge.”

This “scheme” was clearly something she had already put into effect. I asked her to tell me what it was she had done.

“It’s so dumb that it can’t possibly work,” she responded. “We won’t even begin to know until September anyway.” She said she wasn’t going to say anything more about this subject, “So don’t ask!”

Soon thereafter, we moved from commiserating to caressing, and from the couch to the bed. I felt nothing but gratitude toward this kind, beautiful woman for insisting that there was much worth in me when I myself saw none. She took away my despair, and she filled me with hope. I had never, ever experienced love-making like this before.

I realized that I was in love with Angie, that I had been ever since we had worked together on Briggs’s manuscript during spring break, and I told her so. She surprised me by admitting that she had felt the same way since then, too. She said she was impressed then that I remained loyal to Shivvy even though I had let Briggs convince me to break off relations with her temporarily (“to avoid any conflict of interest,” said Angie scornfully). Further, she was touched by my innocence in thinking that Shivvy would wait for me (“You really brought out my protective instincts!” she said). She was further touched by my innocence and loyalty that day in Briggs’s office when I refused to believe that he and Shivvy were having an affair (“despite the evidence”).

“Since my so-called boyfriend was fucking your so-called girlfriend,” she continued, “I thought it would have been poetic justice if you and I had made love right there in his office, just like they had.” She really would have, she insisted, if I had suggested it, but she realized that my mind didn’t work like hers. “Besides, I knew you were more to me than a quick way to get revenge on Barry.”

She had initially contemplated just up and leaving Barry, and the entire Boston area (“which really sucks if you’re not a student”) that very weekend. She decided to stay, though, not only because the plan for revenge she settled on (which she still wouldn’t describe) called for it, but also to check out the possibility of hooking up with me! “Maybe we can even plan some sort of future together,” she said, staring at me intently. “Just as long as it’s away from here.”

That sounded fine to me. She later told me that although she had now left Barry, she had not actually told him so. That might hurt her plan, at least if she did so now. Instead, she had told him that she had to go visit her mother in Southwest Virginia, and that she would let him know later when she’d be coming back. In addition to her old suitcase, which I recognized from when she moved out of here last December, she had brought another nice new one which she had “borrowed” from Briggs for her trip. Between them, they held all the possessions she wanted to take with her. “He even lent me $500,” she said, “which he’ll never see again!”

I guess my face must have expressed surprise without my realizing it. “He exploited me, Jonathan!” she declared. “Why shouldn’t I exploit him?” When we later counted up how much money we had between us, we were both grateful for Briggs’s contribution.

“I told Barry that I was catching a flight this morning,” she told me. “I was worried that he would insist on driving me all the way to the airport, like I had done for him. But he was only willing to take me as far as the Central Square T station, here near the university.” Once he’d dropped her off, she took a cab to my apartment building, tipping the driver extra to help her with her luggage.

Angie was afraid to go outside the apartment building in case Briggs happened to see her before we left here at the end of finals week. She had already quit her job as a waitress, and arranged for me to pick up her last pay check as well as to take it to her bank with one of her deposit slips. She also had me go out to do all the shopping with lists supplied by her.

On Saturday morning, I got a phone call from Professor Trizenko informing me that I had been inducted as a member of an organization known as CUR—Charles University Rejects. The only other full members besides himself, so far, were Danielle and Craig. Craig’s wife Lee only counted as an honorary member since she would remain a law student here. He wanted to know if I could attend a special initiation dinner at his home that very night.

This was so very kind! I said I’d be delighted to attend and, even though Angie was shaking her head “no” at me, I asked whether I could bring a guest whom I thought might also qualify for membership of some sort. Trizenko readily agreed. He arranged to come by and pick us up that evening. Angie was very annoyed with me until I explained what we had been invited to and who all would be there.

After we got to Trizenko’s house that evening, I had a very emotional reunion with Danielle. I apologized to her profusely for letting her down last December. We compared notes on what it felt like to be the object of a demonstration. She looked radiantly happy, and bubbled on about their upcoming move to Washington and wedding, which would take place there. Craig and Lee would also be in Washington this summer: he had gotten an unpaid internship on Capitol Hill while she had gotten (“a very highly paid,” as Craig put it) summer associateship at one of the big Washington law firms.

Angie and I told them how we had been thinking of moving down to Washington too, and they all encouraged us to do so. Ilya (as he insisted we call him) and Danielle said they hoped we’d come to their wedding, and all four offered to do what they could to help us find interesting jobs. Angie and I agreed then and there that we would also move to Washington.

(I had originally thought of reviving my application to Gates University where I had also been admitted with a fellowship, like Doug had done. But Angie said she didn’t want to go there; she would feel uncomfortable around Doug. It surprised me that I dropped this plan as soon as Angie expressed any objection to it. I really am in love!)

The four of them listened sympathetically as Angie and I related what all had happened to us. Craig livened the atmosphere back up by telling us how he had seen Michael yesterday, who is truly angry with me since Briggs did indeed ask him to grade those final exams in my place—an offer from his lord and master which Michael apparently dared not refuse. “`Couldn’t Jonathan have waited until after finals to fuck everything up?’” Craig imitated Michael thundering.

We all laughed at this. Danielle then moved that Angie also be inducted as a full member of CUR. The rest of us agreed unanimously. Angie said that this was an honor she hadn’t sought, but felt that she had no choice but to accept.

The conversation went on in this vein. I felt profoundly fortunate to be surrounded by so much love and friendship that I so little deserved. At the end of the evening, Craig and Lee drove us back to my apartment.

Finals week this semester was less frenetic than I had ever experienced either here or at Barstow. I had already finished my work for Asquith earlier in the semester. I didn’t have to see Briggs at all since he had given us a take-home final. All I had to do was put what I’d written in his departmental mail box. (“Don’t worry about the grade,” said Angie. “Since he thinks he’s defeated you, he’ll want to appear generous in victory.”)

I only had two in-class finals. One was in Prof. Stavros’s class on Wednesday. I did not feel at all embarrassed at seeing him, even though he, as department chair, had signed the letter to me announcing that my funding would not be renewed. He, on the other hand, did seem rather embarrassed to see me.

The other was in Prof. Wang’s class today (Thursday). Being only a tenure track assistant professor himself, I don’t think he had any say about my funding. I’m not even sure he knew that it had been cut.

While I leisurely studied for finals, Angie has been making arrangements for us. After a few phone calls, she found a girlfriend of hers from New Dominion University who wants to sublet her apartment for the summer. It’s located near the Vienna Metro—which is somewhere in the Northern Virginia suburbs. Angie thinks we’ll definitely need a car there, but that we should be able to get a used one fairly cheaply through Craigslist. I guess that’s what that $500 from Barry will be going for.

Angie’s taken care of all the other loose ends here. She’s incredibly well organized. She also got us a couple of cheap tickets on a flight from Boston to Washington Dulles airport tomorrow afternoon. We’ll take a cab from there to her friend’s house, and then start looking around for work. I’m sure I’ll be able to hit my parents up for a little money. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to tell them yet about why I’m leaving here.

I no longer care whether Angie’s secret plan against Briggs works or not. I’m just glad to be leaving here to begin a new life with her.

Friday, May 7, 2010

May 7

Briggs struck again the very next day. I didn’t want to attend his Tuesday morning lecture to the undergrads, but I really had no choice since I am the TA for the course. I needed to hear what Briggs would tell the students about their final exam.

Although I usually sat in the front of the classroom, today I sat in the back so that I could leave as soon as class was over, thus avoiding any conversation with Briggs. But he sought me out just before class began. “Oh, Jonathan,” he said, as if nothing had happened yesterday, “I forgot to bring the course evaluation forms that the students always fill out during the last class session. Could you run back and get them for me? I think they’re in my departmental mail box. And get one of the secretaries to lend you a bunch of pencils for students to fill in the answer grids. They always prepare batches of them for these occasions. I’ll get started with the lecture, but won’t talk about the final until after you get back.”

I had to do it, of course. It took longer than expected because the envelope with the evaluation forms was not in his mail box. After handing me a batch of small pencils bound together by a rubber band, one of the secretaries grudgingly agreed to accompany me to Briggs’s office with the department master key to see if the evaluation forms were there. A fat elderly woman, she walked very slowly. When we finally got to his office, we found that Angie was there working in it. “You could have saved me a trip if you had just checked here first!” the secretary said accusingly.

We quickly found the envelope with the course evaluations on the corner of his desk. “That’s strange,” said Angie. “I thought I reminded him to take these to class this morning.” As the secretary began her slow trek back to the department office, Angie told me that she and Briggs were almost finished with the index. It had taken them longer than it should have, she said, because Barry kept thinking of more things to add, which meant, of course, that they had to find them.

“I heard about what happened yesterday, Jonathan,” said Angie when the secretary was out of earshot. “I’m really sorry.”

I was so upset still that I felt tears well up in my eyes and a lump form in my throat. I was afraid I’d burst out crying if I tried to say anything.

Apparently sensing my distress, Angie stood up from her chair and came over to me. “Just hang on, Jonathan,” she said quietly. “We’re going to hit back at him. And by the way, I’ll probably move into your place either Thursday or Friday.”

“That’s great,” I managed to say. “But I’ve got to get back to class.” I practically ran from her. I don’t know why, but I felt more emotional about everything that was happening to me around her.

“There he is!” Briggs said sarcastically as I came back into the classroom. “I was beginning to think that you had gotten lost, Jonathan!” The undergrads all laughed at this. There were a lot more of them here than usual. I guess all those who didn’t like the grades they had received on either the midterm or the book review decided it might be worth their while to learn about the final.

After handing the envelope with the evaluations along with the pencils to Briggs, I took a seat down front after all. Briggs carried on with his lecture. This he ended earlier than usual to first discuss the final exam and then allow time for the students to fill out the course evaluations. After doing the former, he called upon a student volunteer to administer the evaluations (since neither the professor nor the TA were supposed to be in the room when students were filling them out). From the half dozen or so students who raised their hands, Briggs chose the African-American student who had been the defendant at yesterday’s honor code committee hearing.

“You will be evaluating both my performance as a professor and Jonathan’s performance as a TA,” Briggs explained to the class. “As per university regulations, both of us will leave the room before the evaluations are passed out. Someone seems to think our being here might intimidate you!” Although not a particularly amusing observation, half the students laughed anyway.

Briggs then reminded the African-American student (whose name I am still protecting, even after what happened yesterday) to seal all the evaluations back up in the envelope, take it to the designated repository in the Student Union, and return the pencils to the department office. When the young man’s expression indicated that this was more work than he had bargained for, Shivvy volunteered to share one of these errands.

“I’ll see you all—and those that weren’t here today, hopefully—at the final,” said Briggs to the class. “But Jonathan, of course, will be holding both his discussion section and his office hours as usual this afternoon.” The two of us then left the room, and I parted company with him almost immediately thereafter.

That afternoon, I went to the classroom where I held my discussion section. Although attendance had been extremely low these past few weeks, I was surprised to find that absolutely nobody had showed up today. I waited twenty minutes, but no one came. There was no point in staying, so I decided I may as well go back to my office. I had to go there anyway for my office hours.

As I approached Case Hall, I noticed that there was an unusually large number of people milling around near the entrance. “There he is!” I heard someone shout as I drew closer.

The milling crowd quickly formed into a line. “Down with racist TA’s! Down with racist TA’s!” they chanted.

I couldn’t believe this was happening. I wanted to proclaim that I was no racist, that I was innocent. But I knew that there was no point. I could see from the expressions on their faces that most of the demonstrators really believed that I was a racist and that what they were doing was absolutely right.

Briggs was there in the middle of the crowd. Right beside him was the African-American student whom I had caught cheating as well as Professor Asquith. Shivvy and Michael were also there; they seemed to have worked themselves up into an especially rabid frenzy. I also recognized many of the undergrads who had complained about the grades I had given them on the midterm or the book review. The chair of the honor code committee and several of its members were also there.

I understood now what had happened. Briggs made use of the time I was away from his lecture section to organize this little demonstration. He deliberately misled me as to where the evaluations were so that he would have more time to do so. Knowing him, though, he didn’t actually do it himself. Instead, he had probably arranged in advance to yield the floor as soon as I had left the room to a student (probably the African-American male I had caught cheating) who announced the purpose of the demonstration to the class and invited it to participate. Briggs himself may have indicated that he himself would attend.

Not everyone who had been in class that day came to the demonstration. Nobody, though, had had the decency to warn me about what was going to happen. Nobody.

After listening to the crowd spew its venom at me for a short while, I realized that I had probably better move away. I started to go into Case Hall, the entrance to which was being kept clear by some campus police officers. Before I could get to the door, however, Professor Trizenko came out through it. “I see that you and Danielle have the same friends!” he said brightly. “Isn’t that nice?”

“Come on,” he said, taking me by the arm. “This isn’t going to end if you go into this building. You’ve got to move away from it.” As we moved quickly past the demonstrators, they stopped chanting and began cheering. As far as they were concerned, they had won a great victory against racism.

If only I had been his TA, I told him, none of this would have ever happened. I told him the whole story about Shivvy, Briggs, and me.

I suddenly remembered how I had participated in the demonstration against Danielle last fall. I asked Professor Trizenko to tell her how sorry I was and that I now knew how awful she must have felt. I also asked him whether it was true that the two of them would soon be married, and conveyed my congratulations when he confirmed this.

He walked me back to my apartment building. He insisted that I take his cell phone number in case I needed any help from him, and that I give him mine so that he could check up on me. I thanked him for everything and went inside.

But Briggs’s campaign against me had not ended. The rest of it, though, was anti-climactic.

On Wednesday, there was an e-mail from Briggs to all the undergraduates in his class saying that, due to the depth of unhappiness that they had expressed during Tuesday’s demonstration about my fairness in grading as well as sensitivity toward students from “diverse backgrounds,” Briggs himself would grade their final exams. “Let me assure you that Mr. Jonathan Vining will not even see them.”

I got this message because Briggs had put my address on the “cc” line—along with that of the department chair, Professor Stavros.

I was actually quite relieved not to have to grade any finals. I laughed upon seeing his statement that he would grade the finals himself. I was certain that he’d get somebody else to do it for him, like Michael or even Angie.

On Thursday afternoon, I found an official looking envelope in my departmental mail box. It was a letter from Prof. Stavros stating that the faculty had decided not to renew my funding next semester.

This morning (Friday), I handed a letter I wrote for Prof. Stavros to his secretary announcing my withdrawal from Charles University after finishing up my work for the semester next week. I certainly wasn’t going to go into debt to stay here.
I’m writing this in my office where I have come to clear out my few possessions and take them home. Since Briggs has relieved me of my duties as a TA, there is no reason for me to return here during finals next week.

Briggs has vanquished me completely. There is nothing at all I can do about it. And despite what she told me, Angie can’t either.

If she’s really going to move in to my apartment, she had better do so soon. Now that I’m withdrawing from the university, I’ll have to move out myself shortly after the end of finals.

I hope she comes soon. I feel truly alone. It would be nice just to have her company.

Monday, May 3, 2010

May 3

I am writing this on Monday afternoon at the start of the last week of classes. Angie’s prediction has come true. Today Briggs struck back at me—-hard.

I knew that I would have to see him today since I was in his graduate international political economy class which met Monday mornings, and I had to go to class to pick up the take-home final exam he would be passing out. I dreaded seeing him, but nothing untoward happened in class. He was very witty and even highly solicitous of me—going out of his way to ask me my viewpoint and complementing me on my thoughtfulness. I assumed that he was trying to flatter me so that I wouldn’t file a sexual misconduct charge against him. I felt reassured that I had him at a disadvantage, and that he was too afraid to try causing trouble for me. I would soon be disabused of these comforting notions.

Shortly before 11:30 a.m., I arrived at the student judicial affairs office for the honor code committee hearing on the African-American male student whom I had caught cheating. The student was already there. He was dressed in a dark blue suit, and looked remarkably calm. I looked sort of shabby in comparison, dressed just in jeans and a T-shirt, but I knew that wouldn’t make any difference as to the facts. The hearing was late getting started since we had to wait for all the committee members to arrive. I was surprised when Prof. Briggs suddenly appeared. “The professor of the class always has to attend these things,” he said in response to my obvious puzzlement. That, of course, did make sense.

The hearing soon got started. The chair of the committee (a short, overweight white male who was taking this hearing—as well as himself—extremely seriously) outlined the procedure, indicating that we would begin with the complainant (me) outlining my charge against the defendant. I basically read the statement which I had submitted to the student judicial affairs office, and referred to the photocopies of both the student’s paper as well as the published book review it was identical to. I finished by saying that it particularly pained me to have to make such charges against an African-American student, but that the rules against plagiarism applied to everyone.

The chair of the committee then asked the defendant how he responded to these charges. Instead of doing so directly, the African-American student declared that what he had done was not really cheating (he didn’t elaborate what it really was), and that it didn’t justify this formal hearing (which was only taking place because he had not pleaded guilty). He also said that the charges I had made against him were racially motivated, that “this entire thing” would have been handled very differently if he had been white, and that he could prove it.

Everyone sat up a little straighter when he said this. “Please proceed,” said the chair of the committee.

“Professor Briggs,” the defendant began, “are you aware if Mr. Vining here suspected any other students of plagiarism on this assignment?”

Briggs looked thoughtful for a moment. “I recall him saying that there were a couple of other students whose papers he was suspicious of, yes.”

“Is this correct, Mr. Vining?” the defendant asked.

I acknowledged that it was.

“And did the students who wrote these two papers happen to be white?” he asked accusingly.

I acknowledged that they were, but that I had not singled him out. I had tried to find the original sources for these two papers also. I had failed altogether to find it for one, and had only found it for the other after the honor code committee’s deadline (which I had not been aware of) for filing a cheating charge against a student from the date he or she had submitted an assignment.

The defendant then declared that I had just proved myself to be a racist. “Why else would you move so fast to concoct a case against an African-American student before the passage of the deadline for doing so on the one hand, and so slowly in the case of one white student that you missed the deadline for on the other, and didn’t move at all in the case of another white student on a third hand?”

I indignantly denied that I had singled him out because he was black and repeated what I had said before.

“Why didn’t you have any difficulty finding the original source for my paper? Why did you focus so much attention on me, the African-American, before the deadline for filing a complaint had passed and not on the white students?”

I reiterated that I didn’t focus on him because he was African-American. It just so happened that I had quickly been able to find the review he had copied from on Google. And besides, I was intimately familiar with Prof. Briggs’s book, which the defendant had done his book review for the class on, due to my own previous research. The books that the white students wrote on were ones that I had read, of course, but was not as familiar with the scholarly response to as I was with Briggs’s book.

It was at this point that Briggs made his move. “May I interject something here?” he asked the committee chair.

“Please do,” was the response.

“You mention, Jonathan, that you are familiar with my book through your previous research. Are you referring here to the senior thesis you wrote last year at Cal State Barstow and the paper you wrote for Prof. Saltz at Harvard last semester?”

“Yes,” I answered hesitantly.

“Then I’m sorry to say, Mr. Chairman, that irrespective of whether or not the defendant committed plagiarism, for Jonathan Vining to accuse him of doing so is truly an example of the pot calling the kettle black.”

I was stunned by this statement, as were the members of the honor code committee. “Oh, I beg your pardon,” Briggs said to the defendant. “I meant no offense by that expression.”

“None taken, sir, none taken.”

Briggs continued: “It just so happens that Brendan Cohen (Jonathan’s former professor at Cal State Barstow whom he wrote his senior thesis for) gave a talk here at Charles earlier this spring. I had occasion to read Jonathan’s senior thesis some time later, and also the paper he did for Professor Saltz. I was dismayed to find that the ideas expressed in Jonathan’s two papers were virtually identical to those expressed by Professor Cohen.”

My God! This Brendan Cohen business was still haunting me! “I did not lift anything from him!” I declared indignantly. “He was the one who plagiarized from me!”

Briggs shook his head and smiled. “A tenured professor plagiarizing the work of an undergraduate?” he asked rhetorically. “Although some students may entertain pretensions about the quality of their writing, I have never read anything by an undergraduate that a professor would consider worth plagiarizing!”

Several members of the honor code committee as well as the defendant snickered at this. “But Jonathan, I understand, was a particularly gifted undergraduate, at least by the standards of Cal State Barstow,” Briggs continued. There was more laughter at this.

“I considered that it was possible that his former professor may have plagiarized from him,” he went on, “since both of Jonathan’s papers were written before the presentation made by Professor Cohen here this spring. Indeed, I was forced to consider this possibility since Professor Cohen has applied to be a guest scholar in my department next year. We are seriously considering extending him an invitation. But we obviously wouldn’t want him if he was the sort of professor who plagiarized from his students.

“I felt I had no choice but to ask Professor Cohen to explain the similarity between the presentation he made here on the one hand, and the papers written by Jonathan on the other. I am truly sorry to say this, Jonathan, but Professor Cohen was able to satisfy my colleagues and me that he did not lift anything from you. He sent me an enormous quantity of his lecture notes, draft articles which had never been published, and even old diskettes with files from years ago showing that the ideas he expressed at his presentation here at Charles were ones he had been talking about long before you wrote your senior thesis.”

I was dumbstruck. But there was more. “Professor Cohen also sent me a letter concerning all this. May I read from it?”

I started to object, but the committee chairman nodded for Briggs to go ahead.

“`I was truly dismayed,’ Professor Cohen wrote, ‘when Jonathan viciously accused me of plagiarizing his work shortly after I made my presentation at Charles. But I believe that the enclosed material demonstrates that these were ideas I have been expressing for many years. Although he himself might not realize it, Jonathan actually got these ideas from me.

“`In retrospect, I can see that I was at fault for mistaking Jonathan’s repeating my own ideas back to me as a sign of brilliance. I doubt, though, that I am the only professor who has ever done this.

“`Surrounded mainly by low quality students who cannot understand the simplest argument presented in a lecture or textbook, and who cannot write a coherent sentence, I endowed Jonathan with superlative qualities he does not actually possess.

“`Let me make one thing clear: Jonathan is not responsible for misleading me about his abilities. I succeeded in deluding myself on this score. Worse still: I succeeded in deluding Jonathan about himself too.’”

Briggs paused. The room was dead silent. I was devastated. “There’s more,” Briggs said, “but I think I’ve read enough. I did, though, make a copy for you, Jonathan. I think it’s only fair that you should have one.” I took the sheets of paper he handed to me and folded them in half so I couldn’t read them.

“Any response, Mr. Vining?” the honor code committee asked.

I wanted to shout out how Briggs had stolen my girlfriend from me, how he had obtained my two papers surreptitiously, and how he had deliberately set out to malign me for threatening to file a sexual misconduct charge against him. But I knew that none of these things would be believed or seen as relevant. I could barely even talk anyway. “None of what Professor Briggs has said about me has any bearing on the case at hand,” was all I could manage to say.

There was a stir among the committee members. It was clear that they didn’t agree with me. “The committee will decide that!” snapped the chairman. “Does the defendant have anything further to say?”

“Except for noting that Professor Briggs has shown that Mr. Vining seems to think that plagiarism is okay for whites—including himself—but not for blacks, no.”

The chairman then asked the three of us to wait outside while the committee deliberated. “It shouldn’t take long,” he promised.

Ten minutes later, we were called back into the room. The chairman said that although there was strong evidence against the defendant, it had voted unanimously to find him not guilty due to “extreme mitigating circumstances.” It recommended that the student be given the chance to write the book review over again, and that only Prof. Briggs—not me—grade it and any other course assignments which the defendant had yet to complete.

“Further, the committee unanimously recommends,” said the chairman, “that an investigation of Mr. Jonathan Vining’s unprofessional behavior be initiated.”

The defendant nodded in approval. “I didn’t come here to cause problems for Jonathan,” Briggs said piously, “but only to prevent him from causing problems for others.”

At that point, I practically ran out of the room. Despite his final statement, I knew that word would soon spread about how Briggs and the letter from Cohen had convinced the honor code committee that I was nothing but a loser who should never have been admitted here. He had convinced me of it too.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 2

I lay awake all that night after my horrible conversation with Briggs trying to think about how I should proceed. I wanted to file a sexual misconduct complaint against him. But I knew that if I did, I certainly wouldn’t be able to work with Briggs any more. I probably won’t be able to do so after our confrontation anyway. And if I did file such a complaint, how was I going to word it without making a fool of myself? How could I prove the charge if they both denied it?

I slept much later into the next morning than usual, and only woke up then because the phone rang. It was Angie. “Jonathan,” she said, “I’ve got to talk to you right away! Can I come over there to your apartment now?”

“Of course,” I replied. “What’s wrong?”—as if I didn’t know!

“I’ll be there in ten minutes!” she said, and hung up.

I quickly got dressed and ate some breakfast. Soon thereafter, she arrived.

She came in looking grim and determined. Without any preliminaries, she said, “Barry came home last night yelling about how you had turned out to be a traitor and ordering me not to let you see any part of his new book before we send the galleys and the index to the publisher next week. What happened between you two yesterday?”

I didn’t really want to tell her what I had found out about Shivvy and Briggs being lovers, but she forestalled me. “I already know all about Barry and that so-called girlfriend of yours,” she said matter-of-factly. Considering how upset she had been that day she discovered Shivvy’s scrunchy and just suspected Briggs was cheating on her, I was surprised at how business-like she was being about it all now that she seemed to know for sure. “Just tell me what happened yesterday.”

I related to her my conversation first with Shivvy and then with Briggs—a task made much easier by being able to refer to my accounts of them in this diary.

Angie listened to me calmly. When I had finished, she said, “You are not going to file any sexual misconduct complaint against Barry. You’ll look like an idiot if you do.”

“Why do you say that?”

She then related to me what she found out last night. After denouncing me to her all through dinner, he went to his study and left her to clean up the kitchen (“as usual,” she noted). She had just picked up the kitchen phone to call me right at the point when someone else—a woman—was answering a phone call that Briggs was making from the study. Angie realized that the voice belonged to Shivvy, and so she decided to listen in.

Briggs, Angie recounted, started berating Shivvy for telling me about their affair. “`He’s going to file a sexual misconduct charge against me!’” he told her. “`This guy could really cause me a lot of problems, especially if the press gets hold of the story!’” He was practically hysterical, Angie said.

Shivvy, though, kept cool. She pretended to pout, asking Barry why either of them shouldn’t tell me, or the whole world, about their relationship. “`Are you ashamed of me, Barry dear?’” she asked sarcastically. Then she told him that she saw no reason why she shouldn’t admit that they had had sex “`right there in your office even’” if asked by anyone, including whatever office I filed my sexual misconduct complaint with.

This unnerved Briggs. He begged her not to do this, telling her that his career would be ruined if she did. Shivvy played with him a little more, saying how she had thought he loved her and would make any sacrifice for her. Briggs seemed just on the verge of breaking down altogether when Shivvy informed him that she hadn’t told anybody but me about them, and that she would completely deny that they had ever had sex, but only if: he gave her an “A” in the class she had with him now, he wrote extraordinarily positive letters of recommendation for her (“`which I’ll help you compose’”) when she applied to business schools in the fall, he permitted her to enroll in his graduate seminar this coming semester, and he gave her an “A” in that as well even though she would neither attend class nor do any assignments.

Briggs agreed to all her conditions. He seemed completely relieved. He even suggested that they spend another weekend together as they had this past one. “`Thanks, but no thanks!’” Shivvy had replied. She then warned him that if he didn’t comply with all of her conditions, she would file a sexual misconduct complaint against him herself and call me as a witness. He assured her that he’d keep his end of the bargain. He was still worried, though, about the possibility of me causing trouble for him. “`Jonathan can’t prove anything,’” Shivvy had responded, “`unless I cooperate. Just keep that in mind, Barry dear.’” Their conversation ended there.

I was stunned by this, as well as how calmly Angie related it to me. “What did you say to him afterward?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she responded.

“Why not?”

“It wasn’t news to me,” she said. “I knew that day I found the scrunchy in his office that he’d been cheating on me, but not with who. You were the one who let me know that. But with the way you insisted that nothing was going on between them, it was clear you couldn’t get yourself to put two and two together.

“Besides,” she added, “I already knew how attached you were to this silly notion that she would come running back to you after you had broken things off with her at the beginning of the semester because Barry said you had to. I didn’t want to be the one to shatter your illusions.”

There had, in fact, been doubt in mind about why Shivvy’s scrunchy was in Briggs’s office, considering the usual circumstances I remembered her taking it off last fall in my apartment. At the time, though, I had told Angie that I doubted anything was going on between Briggs and Shivvy in order to soothe Angie’s feelings. Now it was clear that she had only pretended to believe me in order to protect mine. What an amazing woman!

But all this was irrelevant now. “What you heard them say is outrageous!” I declared. “It goes way beyond sexual misconduct! Both of us have got to inform the university authorities!”

“No!” said Angie firmly. “I won’t do that.”

“But why?” I asked.

“Two reasons,” she responded. “First: it wouldn’t work. The two of them would deny it all. And second: I’m not hanging around long enough to do anything like that. I just want to get away from Barry and from this place. You should too, Jonathan. You have no future here. Barry’s going to see to that, no matter what you do.”

“But we can’t let them get away with this!” I insisted.

“Oh, I intend to fix him,” Angie said, “but in my own way.”

She then asked me if she could come and stay with me for a few days while she figured out what she was going to do next. She didn’t know anybody else she could stay with, and she really couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel even for a short while.
I told her that she was most welcome, and that I was flattered she would turn to me for help. “You can have the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch,” I told her.

She smiled and said we’d work all that out once she’d moved in.

“And when will that be?” I asked.

“Some time next week. I’m not exactly sure when. There’s something I have to take care of first.” She then asked me for the spare key to my apartment, saying that she’d move in when she could, maybe without even warning me. “Just as soon as I take care of something.”

I asked her what she was going to do, but she wouldn’t elaborate. “Thanks for taking me in, Jonathan,” she said as she got up to leave. She gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek.

“Oh, by the way,” she said, just before opening the door to the hallway. “Your name won’t be appearing in Barry’s acknowledgements after all. He had me delete it last night after he finished talking to Shivvy.”

I wasn’t surprised to hear this. Still, I felt sad. I had put a lot of work in on this book with Angie. Oh well.

Angie then admonished me not to say anything about her impending move or about Briggs and Shivvy. “Let me take care of him!” she insisted.

I promised her I would.

She shook her head sadly. “Don’t be surprised if Barry strikes back at you, Jonathan. You really scared him. You made him feel weak and vulnerable. He’ll never forgive you for that.”

“But I’m the one who’s been injured here…” I started to say.

“We both have!” she insisted. “But we’re not going to get anywhere by tattling on him and his little sweetheart.

“No matter what happens over the next few days,” she continued, “you keep your cool. Don’t say anything that he and that little girl will only deny and make you look like a cheap liar for having said! You might spoil all my plans!”

“Yes, Captain!” I assured her.

“Good boy!” she said. She gave me one more kiss on the cheek and left.

That was Wednesday morning. It’s Sunday evening now. I haven’t heard from Angie since then. Nor have I encountered Briggs since our blowup last Tuesday.

In fact nothing at all has happened. Still, I have the feeling that something is about to. I’ve noticed that people in the department stop talking when they see me. They don’t seem comfortable in my presence. I have the feeling that I have become the object of department gossip.

There’s only one more week of classes left, and then finals. The first year grad students should be hearing some time next week about whether we’ll be funded next fall. Before this past week, I hadn’t even thought to worry about this. Now, I’m feeling very anxious about it.

Despite these distractions, I’m trying to concentrate on finishing up my own work. In addition to everything else, I have to attend the honor code committee hearing for that African-American student tomorrow at 11:30. I feel sorry for him, but it’s a clear case. I wish he had just admitted his guilt, though, so I wouldn’t have to waste my time proving it. I’ve got more important things to deal with.