A Storyby Charles Wheelan
Professor Irwin stood plaintively in front of the dean’s administrative assistant, an extremely large woman perched on a chair with wheels. The edge of her broad desk was lined with purportedly helpful items: hand sanitizer, a bowl of cough drops, myriad trays for myriad forms—items that also offered another wall of protection against visitors with unreasonable requests. Irwin helped himself to a dollop of hand sanitizer as the woman finished a phone call. He was fit by middle-aged standards, with a shaved head and a neat gray goatee. He was wearing khakis and a pressed blue oxford, the de facto uniform for male faculty members in the history department.
“No, no, no,” the administrative assistant told the caller. “Dropping a class is entirely different. You would still have to pay—” She paused as the student or parent squeezed in some words. “All of that information is available online,” she continued. She gave Professor Irwin a look suggesting her profound annoyance that so many members of the university community had not read the Student and Faculty Handbook. The administrative assistant told the anxious caller for a second time that the tab for Disruptions to the Academic Schedule was on the Student Concerns page. She hung up and peered at Professor Irwin over the hand sanitizer and the bowl of cough drops. “Yes?”