Every college needs a scapegoat, writes Michael Bracken, and he'd be great at it.
Dear University President,
I will soon graduate from your prestigious institution, and I would like to work for you. I know the usual procedure is to approach the Vice President of Human Resources, but the position I seek is one that does not currently exist. This position's duties are shared by administration, faculty, and staff, and I believe university efficiency would increase dramatically if these responsibilities were assigned to a single individual. I am applying for the position of University Scapegoat.
Recent research by a Ph.D. candidate at an online university suggests that faculty and staff at a typical four-year institution like yours spend an average of 4.7 hours per person per week involved with finger-pointing, blame-shifting and responsibility abdication. Among department chairs, deans and senior administration, that number rises to 9.3 hours per person per week.
If it were possible to know whom to blame for every failure, screw-up or misjudgment on your campus, faculty and staff would gain an average of 4.6 hours of productive time per person per week, while department chairs, deans and senior administration would gain an average of 7.8 hours of productive time per person per week. Imagine how many fresh ideas, unique approaches to problem-solving and innovative growth opportunities your campus would experience if your constituents no longer expended valuable time covering their backsides.
Your campus's failures will be my successes. I will serve as the university's go-to guy when projects implode, budgets fail to meet projections, and academic standards are threatened by grade inflation. Fall enrollment down? Blame me. Endowment donations below projections? Blame me. Building projects behind schedule? Blame me. Football team experiences another losing season? Blame me.
I have spent my entire life preparing for this opportunity and believe I am well-trained for the position. I have been a constant disappointment to my parents, the cause of every one of my children's faults, and my spouse's single greatest mistake. Prior to my return to college after years outside of academia, my employee evaluations reflected an inability to engage in creative thought, a lack of internal motivation, and a consistent failure to complete assigned tasks to my supervisors' satisfaction. Since returning to school, my grades have been consistently sub-par, and I have changed majors more often than a sorority girl changes her outfits.
With your help, I will draft an undated resignation letter within my first eight hours of employment. At the first sign of significant campus strife, you can blame me and announce that I have already tendered my resignation. However, because you will quickly realize how valuable I am to your institution, you will refuse to allow my departure. (In fact, you may even offer me a pay raise.)
While the position of University Scapegoat may involve few conventional duties, it will require the ability to endure a substantial amount of public humiliation, and so I anticipate a compensation package commensurate with that level of responsibility. I also require a rider on the standard medical insurance benefits policy that would compensate me for any additional back pain caused my shouldering the burden of blame formerly borne by many others and for the sharp pain from the inevitable knives in the back.
I have enclosed a copy of my résumé, my curriculum vitae, and three letters of recommendation. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and, if I do not, I will set aside a few moments to speak with you during upcoming graduation ceremonies.
Class of 2005
Michael Bracken is a 47-year-old senior at Baylor University. His latest book is Yesterday in Blood and Bone, a collection of short stories published by Wildside Press.
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