Essay: Hey, Dean!!
With higher education funding still hanging in the balance in Wisconsin, Lake Effect humor essayist Joel Habush thought it might be important to peek inside the ivory tower and find out how things really work.
Not too long ago, I received a letter from my alma mater, stating that it (she?) was conducting a nationwide search for a new Dean. First of all, I was grateful that for once it wasn’t begging for money. Anyway, I figured that since I was a writer and thus didn’t have anything better to do, I’d be a perfect fit. I did wonder what a Dean actually did. I didn’t recall ever interacting with any of the University’s many Deans, but I’d seen them seated on the dais at Graduation and being trotted out for faculty luncheons, awards ceremonies and suchlike— mainly window dressing for fundraising affairs such as the all-important teas.
I called the place up figuring somebody could fill me in on the particulars.
I recorded the conversation (for quality purposes).
SOPHIA: Hello, this is Dr. Sophia Barnard Wellesley. How may I help you?
ME: I need to talk to someone about the Dean.
SOPHIA: At present we don’t have a Dean. I’m the Acting Dean.”
ME: I didn’t want the Drama School.
SOPHIA: “Acting Dean” means…
ME: I know, I was just funning with you. I intend to reintroduce humor to this institution. There was precious little when I went there.
SOPHIA: Oh you’re one of our alums?
ME: Yes, that should get me some style points. I still follow the football team in all of its Division 6 games. Go Wombats!
SOPHIA: CHITTER, CHITTER MAR-SUP-IALS! Yes, indeed. Why don’t you send me your resume, and I’ll turn it over to the Search Committee.
ME: Rodger Dodger. But why did the former Dean leave? Was there a scandal?
SOPHIA: Certainly not. She left for a position at another university.
ME: So, for a better job.
ME: Well that’s good. That means you now realize you weren’t paying enough.
SOPHIA: What are your salary requirements?
ME: I’d expect to be paid a butt load of money.
SOPHIA: “Butt load” translates to…?
ME: Two hogsheads.
SOPHIA: Specifically, that would be…?
ME: A hundred large.
SOPHIA: That’s a leeedle more than we were looking to pay. Do you have a terminal degree?
ME: Oh, I hope not.
SOPHIA: Like a Ph.D? Other terminal degrees include MD, JD, and MFA.
ME: I have a Webelos Badge! Plus, I’ve got a Bachelor’s Degree from, like I said before, this very University. Plus, due to my latest divorce I’m a Bachelor—that’s another reason I want to be a Dean.
SOPHIA: I’m afraid to ask, but why?
ME: Well, in all the movies I’ve seen, the Dean is an older man…with a hot young wife. I’d want me some of that.
SOPHIA: Bit sexist there. Tread carefully. We do not take sexual harassment lightly.
ME: Thank goodness. I’m sick of being hit on. I object to being objectified.
SOPHIA: That’s very clever. We could use some more wit around here.
ME: Now the former Deaness…
SOPHIA: She was a Dean.
ME: Huh! Doesn’t sound right. Anyways, assuming that I accept the position…
SOPHIA: We haven’t offered it to…
ME: A mere bagatelle. Can you tell me what my duties would be?
SOPHIA: Well, as promulgated in the Call for Applicants, the Dean would: “Provide leadership in education, promote best practices in strategic planning, and pursue…”
ME: That’s AcademiaSpeak. Give me a key responsibility.
SOPHIA: “The Dean will develop extracurricular activities that will encourage the students’ personal development.”
SOPHIA: Pretty much.
ME: Ah, that’s what’s meant by “Higher” Education.
SOPHIA: Clever again. I like that in a man—I mean applicant.
ME: Well, should I send you my resume?
SOPHIA: I look forward to seeing you—it.
Thus spurred on, I pursued the position—successfully. And as a bonus, I met and subsequently married Sophia. She’s Number One on this Dean’s list.
But you know, I still can’t figure out what exactly I’m supposed to be doing here. More tea?
Lake Effect essayist Joel Habush, with guest vocals from Jennifer Rupp. Habush is a freelance copywriter who lives in West Allis. He's past president of Working Writers of Wisconsin, and worked for years at ad agencies in Milwaukee and Chicago. His essay recently took second place in the national, Semi-Annual Humor Press competition.