Saturday, March 25, 2017

Coup

I was once part of a coup and I lived to tell the tale. If you follow my Twitter feed you would think I'm all bravado and no action. But I've seen my share of battles. I was a soldier in the field, and I was pretty sure I was going to lose my head. It was very intense and highly political, and it all took place inside the seemingly bright and cheery halls of a sleepy little university school of music. 

After having performed my twenties away and gotten a masters degree no one cares about, I found my way into the auspicious duty of higher education employment. About a year into my blissfully routine new position in administration our fearless leader (the Director of the School) had been called to another post...a bigger, badder school of music with a higher bounty. This set the waves of change in motion. 

He was both a conductor and highly respected performer in a well known early music ensemble. If you are not a musician, this means nothing to you. But if you are, you will understand the divisions in this world: performers, conductors, "academics", composers...even more gradations from there. Don't get me started on the Russians...But I digress...needless to say he came from the showman's side of the camp, but in a very academic way. This made the performing faculty quite happy, the music historians somewhat pleased, and the rest of the academics quiet. Certainly with his stature (and ego), the most important people in the school, the donors, were impressed. In short, he was highly respected. It was going to be tough to fill his shoes. 

Respected. By the faculty. However, on the administrative side, that is.. the lowly staff...well, we had a bit of a different perspective. He was nice, but hardly ever there (now we know why), quite snobby, and just a tiny bit misogynist. Just a teensy bit.

Most directorial appointments are for five years, and the first thing you do is go about spending ungodly amounts of money trying to woo other leaders from other institutions to jump ship and lead your army (have I mixed enough metaphors yet?) We in the administration hosted several candidates and quickly realized we would not likely end up any better than we currently had it. Not to mention,  with budgets being what they were, it was looking more and more likely that an internal candidate was going to be appointed for at least a year while we- I mean the university-got their heads out of their asses and ponied up some more dough and some more creative thinking to get us someone who actually thought about educating students. 

Oh yeah...remember education? Our business? 

This is the moment that we had to act fast. Although I had no IDEA that I was part of the we acting fast, thankfully another woman on the staff was five steps ahead of everyone and could drag me along into her little scheme. 

I say little, but lord, it was actually QUITE A BIG SCHEME. A coup.  And I love this woman. I wish she would run for president; you would all vote for her. I'm serious. Even the middle of the country. Her husband hunts. She loves the Lord. But she's also about as sassafras East Coast edgy as you can get. 

She pulled me aside in the middle of all this and asked me what I thought of a certain professor already in the school. I mentioned I enjoyed working with him. She told me he was our guy, we were going to fight for him. She told me that my immediate boss, the associate director, was otherwise likely to be the temporary appointee otherwise, and that was my alternative. 

My boss? You mean, the man who hired me? The man who met with me every morning and gave me the majority of my advice and instruction for my livelihood? I mean, I agreed, he was even more misogynistic than the Director, and actually, come to think of it, was a complete ten rungs down on the "respect from the faculty" ladder, which would hamper his ability to get things done, and actually, he's a horrible public speaker, and, come to think of it, is married to a Russian and has therefore been in the Russian piano faculty encampment ever since he got here so has their best interests only in mind in regards to admissions and scholarships and...WHOAH I'M COMPLETELY CONVINCED THIS IS THE ABSOLUTE WRONG GUY FOR THE JOB AND THIS WOMAN IS RIGHT. 

So she quietly asked me, if I agreed with her, to write a letter to the Dean with my recommendation. And please don't tell my boss. 

Meanwhile, my boss was getting the idea that a temporary appointment was likely to be made, and naturally it would be to him, so he had a plan of his own. 

"Twynmom," he said. 

(Now of course this was before I had children but you think that's my name don't you)

"Twynmom...there's going to be a succession and I'm so excited! I've been working towards this for a long time. We'll be working together more closely and you'll get a promotion! You'll have my corner office and I'll take the directors! It's going to be great for the whole school..."

"Uh huh."  I said...

"A lot of the faculty are on my side!"

[Russians, I think]

 "Wow." I said...

"Now about these stats..."

I tried to change the subject. Everyday. For two weeks. 

He'd ask me if I heard anything. I'd always say no. I felt bad for him. He didn't know there was a coup to overthrow him. Oh, he'd still be around on the faculty, he would just get bumped from his administrative position. But still, it was going to be a blow. 

I tried to keep my mouth shut when I saw my lady. She hardly knew me yet, and I wondered why she thought she could trust me with this information! How could she think I was safe? Or maybe she didn't, but she didn't have much other choice! She was desperate to rid Herself of the biased and corrupt assholes she'd been saddled with for YEARS who had no sense of what really ran the school: US. 

And she thought: maybe there is an ally in me. 
 
When she DID have a chance to chat with me she'd tell me how great this other guy was going to be. He even came into my office with her once and kind of nodded like, "are you cool?" 

I'd be like, "yeah, I'm cool." Like we could smoke a joint together.

I mean, he really was a Beetle on the dung heap. It did not take me three rounds of interviews to discover how much ass kissing was going to be involved in my new job. Not the kissing of asses of students and parents, mind you, but of faculty. The illustrious faculty, who were all Yo-Yo Ma and Leontyne Price in their minds but somehow needed to subjugate the back end of their careers to "give back" and impart their knowledge onto the next generation. 

But the Beetle...he was kind. He was Obama before we knew who Obama was. He was just like everyone else...a musician, an artist, a creator...and could do some paperwork too. I mean, I'm talking about the staff too. Did the rest of the faculty think we weren't ALSO musicians? Why else would we take half the pay of any other administrative job unless we also enjoyed the music aspect of it? He recognized that side of us. He spoke with a gentle tone to everyone, and defended women in the department whenever he had the chance. He and I partnered up to recruit an undergraduate female composition major...a unicorn! An amazing feat in and of itself. He could somehow roll up all the piles of dung around him into a neat pile of rolled up dung balls. 

Still dung... but organized.

So finally, the day had come. The Dean was there. The outgoing Director was there. My boss was there. My lady, and the Beetle were there. It was an internal press event, and the announcement was going to be made. No one told my boss what was about to happen, and he was excited. And for awhile there, I had a fleeting sense that I was on the outside of the information train and I might not know what was about to happen. But it did. And my boss had to make a speech with his throat half closing up due to the shock. I think he blinked twice for every second he was up there. I felt so bad for him. But I knew in my heart, it was the right decision. Even the outgoing Director, who had worked with him for years, didn't warn him. No one really respected him. He was the Director's lackey, all this time. And the Director just left him there, squirming on his own. 

But then, the Beetle spoke. And it was good. Everyone laughed. Everyone smiled at his humble acceptance, and declaration of a "come together" type attitude that could heal our divisions. He wasn't going to cost the price tag of an outsider, nor the time to train someone new. He wanted us to focus on education and academics once again, not just performance training. And he wanted to meet with the staff more than ever, and have an open door policy. It was a moment. 

A very good moment. 

A moment...that lasted ten years. 

And my lady...she got promoted. 

And myself...I got promoted too. 

And I got my boss's corner office anyway. 



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