Saturday, April 26, 2014

Is There Always a Fat Sam?

In the ocean, there lives a tiny barnacle that, once born, spends the first part of its life just floating happily around in the water, allowing the currents and tides to sweep it along.  This is the administrative portion of its life.   No!—that cant be right.  Actually, the barnacle (unlike most administrators) has a purpose:  it is searching for a home.  As the little barnacle drifts, it is searching to find the perfect spot to attach itself.  A stationary life form needs an ideal location so that the passing currents will constantly provide it with a rich diet.

Once such a spot has been located, the barnacle secretes a powerful glue to permanently affix itself.  It will spend the rest of its life in this spot.  Once securely fastened, the barnacle begins to eat its own brain, since that organ is no longer needed.  This process is known as getting tenure.

This has been one of those weeks here at Enema U: the end of the semester is always a little hectic, and all the activity frequently stirs up a little slime from the bottom of the swamp.  This week, one of our more obstructionist lumps in the road pried himself up and out of his pothole of self-imposed isolation long enough to annoy his colleagues (and I say colleague in only the most generous sense of the word) who are too good-natured and preoccupied with students to respond to his habitual harassments.

The concept of tenure originated to ensure that faculty members were always free to speak freely in their classrooms, to engage in research that small-minded politicians and powerful donors might find embarrassing, and to publish their opinions regardless of who might wish to censure them.  Tenure is a noble idea, but like all such lofty freedoms, can easily be abused by the lazy and the inept.  What should have been a shining shield, has become a soiled hammock--for this individual at least.

This professor in question uses tenure with so much gusto for the latter purpose, that, perhaps, it is time for the gentle good people of his department to stop ignoring the childish tantrums, the calculated insults and taunts and respond as a group.  I suggest we give this fool the Fat Sam Treatment.

Just a few decades ago, Fat Sam was the resident bully in a small town boarding house.  The landlady was showing a prospective tenant around the house, pointing out the common rooms and the available amenities.  The landlady could tell the newcomer was interested in renting a room, but she struggled as she explained the antics of Fat Sam, her difficult tenant.

“He usually stays in his room,” the landlady finally said.  “It is just at dinnertime the he is really rude.  He has such horrible table manners and he has one particularly disgusting habit.”

 “Whats that?” asked the new tenant.

“When I serve the main course, he looks over the platter until he finds the largest serving, and…and he spits on it!  Then he yells, ‘Thats MINE!”  He does this every night and--no matter how many times I talk to him--I cant get him to stop.”  The landlady was almost in tears.

“Dont worry about it,” said the new tenant.  “Ive dealt with his sort before.  Ill take the room.”

Sure enough, that very night, all the tenants were pleasantly seated at the dinner table when the landlady brought out a large platter of port chops.  Almost immediately, Fat Sam leaned over the tray and peered closely at the steaming meat.

HARRACK-Ptuii! Fat Sam had spit on the largest pork chop. 

“Thats MINE!” Fat Sam yelled to the assembled guests.

The new tenant leaned over the platter.

HARRACK-Ptuii!   HARRACK-Ptuii!  The new tenant had clearly spit, twice, on the same pork chop!

“You can have it.” The new tenant said calmly.

Maybe that is not the way most universities would handle the problem, but do most universities have a Fat Sam?  Here at Enema U, perhaps it is time for us to try something different!


  1. Yes. Any time you protect someone's position, income or place in the world by artificial means, you inevitably create Fat Sam's. In England they used to call them "gentlemen". Once one has "gentled" his position by creating a job from which he cannot be fired, a home paid for by someone else who cannot remove him or grant him an income in perpetuity, you create the almost overpowering impulse to become a wastrel and general pain in the tuckas. The only way to dislodge these parasites is by removing their food source so that they waste away and die. Then, like barnacles, you have to remove their ossified corpses in the only effective way possible - by alternativerly scraping, applying hydrochloric acid and sandblasting. Hard work, but somehow oddly satisfying.

  2. All of those techniques are suitable for this gentleman.

  3. Great analogies in your text about Fat Sam. Keep your sharp writing.