FENNO: Voice of the students

BY

Concerned that the Dean selection process was not starting off on the right foot, Fenno decided to march on University Hall. She turned to Clifford Ginn, past master of campus civil disobedience, for help.

“Cliff, I want to march on University Hall,” Fenno chanted.

“Against a war in Iraq?” Cliff asked.

Fenno paused to consider the double preposition thing.

“No,” she hesitantly replied.

“Against money?” Cliff asked again, his eyes lighting up. “I’ll go get my ‘No Mo’ Money’ protest banner!”

“No, not against money, Cliff,” Fenno said, stopping him in mid-twirl-away. “I want to let President Summers know that we students want to have our voices heard on the issue of Dean selection.”

“Well,” Cliff considered, “what is it you want him to hear?”

“I don’t know,” Fenno responded. “That’s what I wanted to ask you about.”

“I’m afraid I can’t help you, Fenno,” Cliff sighed. “It sounds like what you’ve got is a run-of-the-mill policy issue. Your message isn’t weird enough. If you’re going to protest something, you have to make people think you’re crazy. For starters, your clothes are too nice. I can lend you a T-shirt.” He felt in the pocket of his corduroys and pulled out a red piece of cloth. “You also look like you’ve eaten in the last week. And showered. Those are big no-nos. But if you promise to starve yourself a little, I’ll let you borrow the banner!”

“That’s okay, Cliff.”

“Well, then,” Cliff said, drawing a figure eight with the toes of one sandaled foot, “can I borrow five bucks?”

Five bills the lighter, a worried Fenno walked heavy-hearted through the Hark, where she scanned the careworn faces of her schoolmates, all of whom, she knew, were preoccupied with choosing the next Dean. From their pale, tired visages, Fenno could see that the stress of it all was affecting their sleep. Some of them had begun to lose their hair and put on weight. “They had always been so good-looking and happy,” Fenno thought to herself. “This has to stop!” she resolved.

But Fenno wasn’t sure where to begin. The students want a voice in the process, true, but they don’t know what to say. Or do they? Fenno asked herself. Fenno decided then and there that she was duty-bound to find out. She’d need to do her homework before leading a Thousand-Nerd March on University Hall, which she’d heard was somewhere to the south, which sounded good, since it had been so cold. She hoped it wasn’t far, though, since she didn’t own a decent pair of marching shoes.

Fenno began her research by seeking out LSC Vice President Wade Ackerman. Fenno knew that it would be difficult to obtain a spot on the calendar of someone so close to the seat of student power, so she called ahead to make an appointment. “Oh, hello, Mizzz — what was it again?” Ackerman’s secretary intoned into the phone in that irritatingly patronizing way secretaries sometimes do.

“Fenno,” Fenno said.

“Ms. Fenno,” the secretary said in a jotting-it-down-now voice.

“No, just Fenno,” Fenno corrected.

“Okay, may I have your first name as well, please? Mr. Ackerman enjoys making visitors feel more at ease by speaking to them familiarly.”

“It’s just Fenno,” said Fenno. “Like Cher.”

“I see. Well, you’re in luck. Mr. Ackerman just had a cancellation, so I can fit you in between lunch and his 2 to 5 p.m. ‘hangin’ out’ appointment.”

Grateful for her good fortune, Fenno showed up at precisely 1:15 by the foosball table. “Hi, Fenno,” Wade said in greeting, standing up. “I’m afraid we have to keep this pretty short, since I have some pretty serious hangin’ out to do.” He indicated an empty chair across from him as he sat down.

“That’s fine,” Fenno said nervously, lowering herself into her chair. “I’m just happy you had the time to meet with me. I know you’re very busy helping Bill Dance make very important decisions for the student body.”

“Well, Fenno, it is an awful lot of responsibility,” Wade agreed. “Some pretty heady stuff comes across our desks.” His expression changed, as if he were staring into a great void. “Sometimes when I get a free moment, I step back, look at what we’re doing here, and — don’t quote me on this — stand in awe at our ability to impact so many lives so deeply.” He paused for a second longer, then, collecting himself, asked, “So, what can I do for you?”

“I wanted to ask you about what our interests are in the matter of selecting a new Dean for the Law School,” Fenno answered.

“Okay, shoot,” Wade invited.

“Well, for starters, you say the Council wants the Administration to listen to the students. What is it the students want to say?”

“Tough question, Fenno.” Wade took a deep breath and leaned forward, elbows on his knees, fingers interlaced. “What it boils down to is this,” he continued. He spoke slowly, choosing his words very carefully: “We want a Dean who will replace Dean Clark.”

Fenno raised her eyebrows and looked at him expectantly.

“As Dean,” Wade added.

“That’s it?” Fenno asked, incredulous.

“That’s it in a nutshell,” Wade replied with an air of self-satisfaction, leaning back and smiling.

“But the new Dean has a lot of challenges to face,” Fenno reminded him. “There’s the fundraising, the relocating to Allston, the rebuilding, the internal reconciliation –“

“Really?” Ackerman interrupted, shocked. “Give me a second.” He took a Nextel two-way out of his pocket and clicked it on. “Cynthia, call Summers and tell him I’d like to withdraw my name from the list.” He put the device away. “Now, if you don’t mind, Fenno, I’ve got to go hang out.” He stood and extended his hand. Fenno shook it. Ackerman made his way up the stairs and turned out of sight.

Fenno was exasperated. Desperate for some idea of what the student voice consisted of, she decided to poll the Common Man. The Common Man, she knew, would be at the Inn. She looked at her watch: 2:50 p.m. At this hour, the Common Man at the Inn was sure to be at his commonest.

Turning her key in the lock at 44 Follen Street, Fenno took in a gulp of air, hoping it would be enough to last her the dash across the first floor to the basement stairs. As she opened the fire door and let out her breath, she realized that all she’d accomplished by holding it in was to make the basement smell that much more of a shock. Descending the stairs, Fenno heard a rhythmic thumping sound interspersed with cheering and whimpering. Turning the corner at the bottom of the stairs, she saw Jeremy Berry hanging upside down from the ceiling. Tony Chan held a keg tap to Berry’s mouth while Dan Kozusko and Jeremy Andersen took turns hitting him in the stomach. They stopped when Andersen and Kozusko spied Fenno. Tony put the tap down. “What’s up, Fenno? We haven’t seen you here in a while.”

“Been drinking alone lately,” Fenno responded. “Listen guys, sorry to interrupt your game of Slap the Keg-Standing Vampire, but I wanted to get your impressions on the Dean selection issue.”

“What’s a Dean?” Kozusko asked.

“The guy who runs the Law School,” Fenno explained.

“What’s the Law School?” a red-faced, bug-eyed Berry inquired from mid-air.

“Get me a beer, Andersen, I’m tired,” Fenno said, slumping onto a stool. “Who’s got next?”

Comments