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  • Bridges Across the Years 3

     riva pomerantz updated 4 months ago 6Members · 6 Posts
  • Jane Whittier

    September 16, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    Chapter 3 Most of what goes on in this chapter did actually happen.


    Department Politics


    Karen remembered the department meeting at the last minute. They didn’t usually have meetings during summer vacation, but the problem of electing a new chairman before the beginning of the school year was pressing.  She slid into a seat next to John Wilson, who had been three years ahead of her in Swarthmore, and had still been in graduate school at Harvard when she arrived there.

    It was probably because of John that she was a mathematician. Her father, who was a Physics professor at Swarthmore, had invited John over for dinner when Karen was still in tenth grade, trying to convince him to major in Physics. John had refused to be convinced.  “Every year,” he said, “the best mathematician in the class is one of the four recipients of Highest Honors.  There is no other field with that kind of record.”  Since Karen had nursed a secret ambition to get Highest Honors at Swarthmore, she began channeling her best energies into mathematics.

    There were not many people in attendance but that should not matter, since the two factions had finally come to an agreement and there was a single candidate, a pure mathematician who was pledged to hiring at least one applied mathematician in the course of the next year. It was five minutes past the hour, and Karen thought that they should get started.  If you coddled people by waiting for those who waltzed in late, they would be even later the next time.

    The Chairman, Daniel Rubinstein, opened the meeting. “I won’t keep you long,” said the Chairman.  “We are here for the election and there is no other business.  The Search Committee, after long and arduous work, has proposed Prof. Bruce Whitting as the sole candidate and Prof. Whitting has agreed to serve a two-year term, subject to a certain agreement which was circulated and which everyone had a chance to read.  I don’t believe that there is any need to go over that ground again at this point.  Bruce, would you like to say a few words before we pass out the slips for the actual voting?”

    The Chairman stepped aside and let Bruce Whitting take his place in front.  Karen leaned back in her seat.  You couldn’t get through an election, even an election with a sole candidate, without some speechifying.  He would probably talk about departmental unity.

    Bruce cleared his throat.  “Last night, as I was thinking about this moment and what I would say, my conscience began to bother me.  We have a good, solid department; no one would deny that.  However, we could be better, and we will only become better by consistently hiring the best candidates.”

    The audience was becoming restive.  Karen saw two of the applied mathematics people glancing sharply at each other. The Chairman was staring at Bruce with an expression of disbelief on his face.

    “Therefore, I do not think that we should hire a candidate, even in a field where we are short-handed, if, to do so, we have to turn down a candidate who is clearly superior.”

    “Clearly superior in whose judgment?” asked Bill Diamond, one of the applied mathematicians.

    “Why, in the judgment of the Chairman and the senior members of the department,” answered Bruce.

    As if a flock of geese, asked to choose between a goose and a duck, would ever think that the duck was better.  Karen found it hard to believe that Bruce was so naïve.

    Five people raised their hands to speak.  Others didn’t wait to be called on.

    “We had an agreement …”

    “Basically he is right but …”

    “Lots of people didn’t come to the meeting …”

    “Point of order!”

    Rubenstein made calming motions with his hands and called on the one who wanted to raise a point of order.

    “It is actually not legal to hold the election during summer vacation.  I move that we recess until the beginning of the term and then hold an election which everyone can attend.”

    “Second?” asked the Chairman.

    “Second the motion,” said Bill Diamond.

    “We will vote by a show of hands.”

    There was an overwhelming majority and everyone rose to leave.  Karen felt sorry for the new Chairman, having to take control of the department with no preparation.  Whoever it was, she was pretty sure that it would not be Bruce Whitting.


    Alice came over to the boys’ room for the bedtime story. She was sitting at the end of Danvir’s bed with her feet tucked under her.  Karen was reading them 101 Dalmatians and was up to the point where Pongo and Missus were about to find their missing puppies. Lennie appeared in the doorway.

    “Phone call for you.  Someone who says that it is urgent.”

    “No, don’t stop now,” pleaded Danvir.

    “I could take over for you if you show me the place,” suggested Lennie.

    The call was from Jeff Chan.  “Listen, Karen.  I know that you don’t want the job, but you saw that fiasco today.  I think you should seriously consider running for Chairman.  We need someone that people could trust and I think they would trust you.  It would help that you are a pure mathematician and your husband is in applied math.”

    “Jeff, you got my honest reaction the first time you asked me if I would take the job.  I really, really don’t want it.”  Karen was always very careful not to give problems at home as an excuse at work, but if she were willing, she thought that Jeff would understand that she couldn’t pour a lot of time into administrative duties just when she was assimilating a new child into the family.  As it was, she would just have to be firm.

    Jeff wasn’t giving up so easily.  “You know, if this blows up into a full-scale feud, the atmosphere in the department could be very unpleasant.  There are a few old-time minor feuds which nobody bothers to mention any more, but the parties involved could dredge up all the details about whose promotion was scuttled and which unworthy candidate was hired over someone else’s protests.”

    “Of course I want you to find a solution, and I am grateful for the time and effort you are putting into it.  I just don’t want the solution to be me.”

    “Then who?  Not everyone is suited to the task.  Some of our colleagues are disorganized, others are constantly getting into fights or offending people.  Most of those who can do it, already have.  I put in four years at the job.  If you think about it honestly, you will at least admit that you could do a good job.” Lennie appeared in the door.

    “I suppose I could,” admitted Karen warily. “Maybe.”  If the older members of the department would be willing to treat her decisions with respect.

    “I’m sure that you would be an excellent Chairman.  I won’t press you any more tonight, but I would like a final decision by the beginning of September.”

    “But Jeff, my decision is final.” However, Jeff had left her a dial tone.

    “Everything seems to be under control up there.  What decision is final?”

    “Oh, that was Jeff Chan, the guy who was Chairman until two years ago.  Last spring I was just walking down the hall minding my own business, when he asked me if I wanted to be Chairman of the department.”

    “And what did you say?”

    “I said ‘No!’  In fact, I said it six times, one after the other.  Then I turned around and walked off in another direction.”

    “And that was the end of it?” asked Lennie.

    “No, in the middle of the summer, the Search Committee called me in and tried to persuade me to take the job.  I said ‘No.’”

    “But you didn’t run out of the room?”

    “Well, no,” said Karen.

    “So they could see that you were softening,” said Lennie with a grin.

    Karen told him about the aborted election that afternoon and about Jeff’s new arguments.

    “I hope he’s not right about your department disintegrating.  We were very lucky to have solved the ‘two-body’ problem by both getting jobs in the same city.  We wouldn’t want our solution to destabilize.”

    Karen certainly didn’t want one of those academic marriages where the two members of the couple lived a thousand miles apart.  “You know, I really thought that there were enough people in the department who would love to be big shots and that I would never have to be Chairman.”

    “That’s not reasonable,” said Lennie.  “At some point you have to take your turn.  Administrative positions should rotate.  It is only the people who have already served who understand how the department works.”

    “Well, you surely don’t want me to have to take my turn right now.”

    “No, not right now.”


    When the first of September came and went without any more word from Jeff, Karen thought that she was home free.  She hoped that meant that they had either found someone else or made Bruce understand the meaning of an agreement well enough that he could get the applied mathematicians to trust him.

    Jeff called on the second of September.  “You know, classes start next week and we still don’t have a chairman.”

    “Maybe you should do it again?” said Karen.

    “Why don’t you want the job?” Jeff asked.

    “First of all, I am not yet a Full Professor.  I have to work on my research so that I can be promoted.  You are a Full Professor.”

    “You have tenure.  You can’t be fired. So the promotion might take a little longer, but maybe not.  I managed to publish quite well while I was Chairman.”

    You had probably not just added a fearful and clingy new child to your family. But that she did not say out loud. “Secondly, I really don’t think some of the senior faculty members would want to abide by any decisions that I had made.  Some of them scarcely know that I am here.  I never say a word in faculty meetings.”

    “Karen, you are the only woman in the department.  Everyone is aware that you are here and they know that you got a Ph.D. from Harvard in three years.  Your reputation is better than you think.  Before you give me more negative reasons, I want you to think about this in another way.  Is there nothing at all about the department that you think should be changed?”

    Yes, I think they should hire another woman. But again that was not something she would say out loud.  Was there something she would like to see done differently?  Something that she could say out loud? “Well, I think we should pay more attention to the question of what our undergraduates can do with the degree we grant them.  They can’t all be professors of mathematics.  I think we should take a survey of our graduates and find out what fields are favored by those who don’t go on to a Ph.D.  Then we should adjust the program of study so that the students would be adequately prepared.”

    “That’s an excellent idea, which I haven’t heard from anyone else.”

    “That’s because the party line, except among the Applied Mathematics people, is that we are supposed to be producing clones of ourselves, and any student who doesn’t go on to a Ph.D. is a dropout.”

    “Karen, listen.  You have to be chairman sometime, you grant that, don’t you?”

    “Well, yes.” Lennie’s nudging had gotten her that far.

    “Let me tell you that this, right now, is the moment to do it.  I can sell you to the applied mathematics people in a moment, but if we try to put up Bruce again, I think that they will go to the administration and ask to split off.  You remember all the hard feelings when Computer Science split off, and we were left a much smaller and weaker department.”

    That would be terrible, to lose Applied Math.  “Listen Jeff, there is a third reason.  Bruce and I are friends. He was very helpful to me when I was trying to get this job.  I would feel terrible stabbing him in the back.  He probably still thinks that he is going to be elected chairman in a day or so.”

    “I can talk to him.  I can tell him that we need a compromise candidate, with ties to both groups, but that you don’t want to do it because of him.”

    “No, that would still be bad.  I will talk to him. I’ll do it right now.  Do you have his home phone number?”

    As Karin dialed Bruce’s number, she asked herself how she had gotten herself into this.  She shouldn’t have given reasons.  As soon as you give reasons, they can be argued down.

    “Hello, Bruce, this is Karen.”

    “Hi.”  He didn’t sound cheerful.

    “Bruce, are you sure that you want the job as chairman?”

    “I don’t know any more.  Clarisse doesn’t want me to take it.  She thinks it will be bad for my ulcer.”

    “Oh, dear. I didn’t know that you had an ulcer.”

    “Well, usually, if I am careful with my diet, it is under control.  But this last month it has flared up and she thinks that’s the reason.”

    “I’m sure that Clarisse, as your wife, is sensitive to what sort of things upset you. Maybe when we say that a situation is aggravating, that is what we mean, that it aggravates all sorts of little problems.”

    “Yes, aggravating.  That is the word.  But really, Karen, we outnumber them ten to one.  Why should we have an applied mathematician as chairman? Maybe he would reduce the requirements in pure mathematics.”

    “If we make their lives too frustrating, maybe they will ask for a divorce?  And get custody of the children?  If we had few students, we would have trouble hiring more people.”

    “I just don’t know what’s the right thing to do.  My stomach is tied in knots.”

    “Which can’t be good for your ulcer.  Listen, Bruce, I’ve been thinking about the whole situation.  Frankly, I think that the applied mathematicians should have a shot at the chairmanship now and then, but this might not be the moment, with feelings running so high.  I am willing to come in as a “dark horse” candidate from pure math, but only if I have your full support.  You would have to call up the Chairman and propose the idea.”

    “Maybe.  Maybe that’s a way out of this whole mess,” Bruce sounded thoughtful.

    “You don’t have to decide on the spot.  Why don’t you talk it over with Clarisse?”


    Jeff called her back that evening.  “How did you do it?  Bruce is almost ready to serve as your campaign manager. And Karen, thank you for agreeing.  You got us out of a tight spot.”

    “What happens next?  Do you call elections?”

    “I hope we can hold them right after Labor Day, on the first day of the semester, but there is a little formality to take care of first.  The Search Committee has to report back to the Dean.”

    “Would the Dean actually object to a decision of a department?”  The Dean was a career administrator, not an academic.

    “It’s never happened that I know of.  That’s why I said that it was a formality.”

    That left Karen with her own problem.  She had to tell Lennie and the children what she had done.  She decided on a formal announcement at dinner.  Over a nice dessert.


    “Alice, can you gather up the plates?” Karen passed her plate to Alice and kept her cup. “I wanted to tell you all about something that happened a work today.  It started last spring, when someone asked me if I would like to be chairman of the department and I said ‘No’.”

    Lennie started looking worried.

    “They asked me again twice this summer and again I said ‘No’. Alice, you take the plates back and bring in the dessert from the counter there.”  Karen got some dessert plates from the sideboard while Alice returned and plopped the lemon meringue pie down in the center of the table.

    “Uh-oh,” said Eddie.  “The last time you made lemon meringue pie was when you told us that you were going to adopt nudnick there.” He pointed at Danvir.

    “Eddie, I didn’t tell you, I asked you.  And you agreed.”  Karen started cutting up the pie and passing out the plates.

    “Well, if you are asking me if you should be chairman of your department, I think it seems like a bad idea.  You seem to think so, too.”

    “Yeah,” said Alice, “I think we are three very good reasons against it.”

    “Unfortunately, those are reasons that I am not allowed to give.  You will find that out, Alice, if you go into something dominated by men.  You are expected to pretend that what goes on at home has no effect on your professional life.  However, you are not my only reason for not wanting to be chairman.  I have other reasons, and when Jeff Chan called up today to ask me once again if I would take the job, I made the mistake of telling him my reasons.  He started arguing them down.  To keep the story short, if the Dean approves of me, and nothing else happens, I will be the only candidate.”

    “Hey, wait a minute!” Danvir piped up. “If you are going to be Chairman, who is going to be my Mommy?”

    “I’ll still be your Mommy, sweetheart.  They won’t chain me to my desk. I’ll get to come home at some point.”

    Lennie was looking positively stormy.  Only the presence of all the children kept him from speaking his mind.  Karen had to admit to herself that she had chosen to do it that way, in order to take the first edge off his anger before they had the inevitable private conversation.

    The phone rang and Alice, who was practicing to be a teen, raced for it.  “It’s for you, Mommy.”

    Karen got up to take the phone in the kitchen. “Hello?”

    “Karen?” It was Jeff Chan.  “There is a snag.  The Dean wants to see an updated copy of your curriculum vitae and he would like you to appear before a few of the senior members of the Faculty. Tomorrow at noon.  I was invited and Jean-Paul Poucet but not the Chairman.”

    Would this have happened if she were not a woman?  Karen didn’t think so.  “I’ll send him the CV this evening.”  She returned to the table.  “All right, we may be in luck.  The Dean may not approve me.”

    “If this is so lucky, why do you look so unhappy?” asked Alice.

    “Because I don’t like the way it is being done.”


    There were six Full Professors and the Dean sitting around a conference table.  Each had a copy of Karen’s CV in front of him. “Prof. Prescott,” said the Dean, “I don’t quite understand why you want this job at this point in your career.”

    “I didn’t want it,” said Karen, “but having agreed to take it on I will do the best job that I can.”  The chemist was doodling on his copy of the CV and that irritated Karen.  She had stayed up till midnight polishing it.

    “What would be your plans for improving the quality of the Mathematics Department?” That was from a physicist.

    “The quality of the Mathematics Department is already high, but I think that there is need for another appointment in Applied Mathematics, perhaps by hiring someone whose Ph.D. is in physics.  That is a formula which has worked for us in the past.”

    “Do you have any suggestion for reversing the decline in undergraduate enrollment in your department?”  That was from the Dean.  Trust him to worry about the financial side.

    A rock concert during Orientation Week? “I only agreed to stand for the position yesterday.  I have not had time to go into all the problems of the department.”

    “The new term starts in three days.  How long do you think it will take you?”

    “Two weeks.  I can’t promise solutions in that time span, but at least I will be able to gather the necessary information.”

    She could tell from the expressions on the faces of the two mathematicians that asking for time was the wrong answer. What did they expect her to say? By vigorous but inexpensive advertising, I would lure in fifty young geniuses who were originally planning to go to Harvard or Caltech.

    “Suppose that the Provost decides to cut money for scholarships in half.  How would you react?”

    The biologist looked up, concerned.  “Is something like that in the offing?”

    “No, no,” said the Dean with a reassuring wave.  “It was only a theoretical question.”

    “It would be a suicidal move on the part of the university and I would fight it with all my energy.  I would hope that the heads of the other departments would join me in the fight.”  She could tell from the expressions of the two mathematicians and the computer scientist that this time she had given the right answer.

    The chemist spoke up.  “Suppose the financial administrator of your department decides on her own initiative to reduce the number of hours of frontal teaching for adjunct faculty over sixty. Would you be able to stand up to that?”

    If she were to be frank, she would probably agree with the administrator. “I really don’t have the information to give you an answer on the spot.”

    Jeff winced.

    The Dean looked at the physicist and said, “I think we have the idea, Prof. Prescott.  Thank you for coming down on such short notice.”


    As soon as she was far enough away from the building housing the Dean’s office, Karen sat down on a bench and dialed Lennie, pouring out the whole story.  “They were expecting me to speak to them like a man.  I was supposed to tell them with great confidence all the fine things I would do and show that I would fight like a grizzly bear for the rights of the department.”

    “Listen, Karen, you and I both know that you are a fighter.  Remember what you did for Raahi when they wanted to reduce his scholarship.  I agree that it is a matter of style.  I gather that you don’t think you could say that to the Dean.”

    “No, he wouldn’t understand what I am talking about.”

    “Then go over right now and tell Daniel Rubinstein everything you just told me.  I think he will understand.  He can’t like the idea that the Dean is interfering in a decision of his department.”

    Karen stalked across campus to the Mathematics Building.  Daniel was looking very upset.  He must have gotten a report from Jeff.  Karen told her version and then said, “Daniel, if a woman starts speaking like a man, the men also don’t like it. That isn’t my style and I can’t put it on.  I can’t puff myself and I can’t promise to accomplish things I don’t know anything about.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t fight for things I believe in.”

    “I believe that you can do the job, Karen.  I wouldn’t have proposed you if I didn’t.  The Dean wants me to put up a second candidate and have a real election.  Specifically, he wants me to put up Bruce Whitting again.”

    Karen, quite frankly, thought that she could beat Bruce, but that wasn’t the kind of contest that she wanted to fight.  “Daniel, I explained to Jeff that I just can’t run against Bruce.  He was so helpful to me on a number of occasions.  If that is the situation I will just have to withdraw my candidacy.”

    Daniel glared down at the table for a moment and then looked up at Karen.  “No!” he said.  “I am not going to let the Dean push me around on this one.  We have only one candidate, and that is you.  You can go home and try to have a peaceful Labor Day weekend.  Jeff and I will fight this out with the Dean.  The election will be on Tuesday, and you will be expected to say a few words first.”

    The kids were taking bets about whether or not Mommy would be elected.  Late Sunday evening, Karen decided that maybe she should write her little speech, just in case.  She tried her first draft out on Lennie and he scotched it.  “No mention that there ever was a controversy,” he insisted.  She was working on her second draft when the phone rang.  “Mommy, some professor.”

    Was that Jeff or Daniel, telling her that they hadn’t succeeded? “Hello?”

    “Hello, Prof. Prescott?  This is Marty Cohen.”

    Karen didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed that it was someone unconnected to the election.  “Is this about your student?”

    “Exactly.  I was hoping to have him apply to your department, because I think he has some results on Hecke algebras which might interest you and I think you would be a good postdoc advisor for him.”

    Of course, if she was going to be running the department, would she have time to be advising postdocs?  On the other hand, maybe it would help her focus on her research. If.  “What is he doing this year?”

    “What do mathematicians and physicists do when then don’t have an academic position?  He is working on Wall Street.  But I think he can do better things with his life.”

    “For various reasons, this is not the moment for me to give you a decision.  I’m not just putting you off.  I simply don’t yet know what my commitments will be for the coming year.”

    “Well, when would he have to apply?”

    “Early in December.  And he should polish up his CV by then.  Has he published anything from his thesis?”

    “We have written two joint articles, one of which was already submitted, and one which we are sending out soon. We are planning a third article as well. I doubt there will be a positive answer by December, but he might get lucky.”

    I might get lucky, too, thought Karen. Did that mean getting elected or not getting elected?


    Jeff and Daniel succeeded in their desk-banging with the Dean and he had agreed to let Karen be the only candidate. They had had to tell him about the about the earlier abortive attempt to hold elections in the summer.  This revealed more of internal department politics than it was wise to have the Dean know but nothing else worked.

    On the day the real election, Karen dressed carefully.  She wore a navy pants suit with a blue paisley blouse.  Alice give her a thumbs-up at breakfast and said, “You’ll wow’em Mom.”  She upended the cereal box over her bowl and got only crumbs.  “Hey!  Who finished the Kix? That’s my favorite!”

    “I bought a new box,” said Karen.  “You can get it from the pantry.”

    “Will you still buy us food when you are Chairman?” asked Danvir.

    “First of all, I haven’t been elected yet, and I already know that nothing is sure until all the votes are counted.  Secondly, if I am elected, of course I will buy you food.  That is much more important to me than all the administrative positions in the world.”

    “Won’t it be a little weird to be called “chair-man” all the time?” asked Eddie.

    “It’s just part of the word,” said Lennie.  “Nobody notices it, just like the ‘man’ word ‘woman’.”

    “It’s not so clear that no one notices it,” said Karen.  “I think our Dean did.”


    Karen stopped in the rest room to put her hair up again, so that she wouldn’t be bothered by wisps.  She pulled out the pins, let it tumble down, and started brushing it vigorously.  Except for a short period in seventh grade when she was trying for a more sophisticated image, she had always left it long, and once she started putting it up during her junior year in Europe, it had gotten long enough that she could sit on it.

    Mabel, one of the secretaries from the math office, came in just as Karen had leaned forward to brush the back hair and the ends were nearly sweeping the floor. Karen gathered her hair into a tight pony tail at the crown of her head, confined it with a ponytail holder, and began twisting it.  She made a double loop on the top of her head, secured the end with a bobby pin, and began fastening the two loops in place with hairpins.

    “I knew it was long,” said Mabel, “but I didn’t know quite how long.”

    Karen, who was still holding three hairpins in her mouth, could not answer.

    “Tell me, Karen, are you nervous about the election?”

    Karen pulled the last pin from between her lips and said, “A little.  A lot of those men are considerably older than I am.”

    “Well, I hope you win.  It’s time we had a woman boss for a change.”


    The room was full. Karen had, once again, slid into a seat next to John Wilson, who had given her a half-wave when he saw her enter the room. Most of the thirty-five faculty members with tenure had come to the faculty meeting. They were all sitting in chairs with a writing arm, since this room was also used for colloquia and seminars. Daniel Rubenstein stood behind the table at the front of the room and said, “For elections it is customary to choose a chairman for the meeting other than the chairman of the department.  I will take nominations.”

    “Jeff Chan,” suggested Vasily Danilov.

    “Second,” said Bruce Whitting.

    “Any other nominations?” asked Daniel. He paused, then said, “Okay, Jeff, the job is yours.”

    “Many of you have classes to teach in twenty minutes, so we will keep this brief,” said Jeff.  “The Search Committee found one candidate willing and able to take on the chairmanship, and this candidate was approved by the Dean.  Only tenured faculty members physically present in the room can vote.  Mabel will pass out ballots…”

    “Wait, shouldn’t she say something?” asked Bill Diamond.

    At the unusual pronoun, a few of the mathematicians who were apparently out of the loop and had not been told who the candidate would be turned around to look at Karen, the only woman in the room except Mabel.

    “As I was about to say, while the ballots are being passed out, I will ask our candidate, Prof. Prescott, to say a few words about her vision for the department over the next two years.” Jeff sat down and Karen walked to the front of the room.  She had given talks in this room several times, but had never been so grateful for the table behind which she could stand.

    “We have an excellent department, but to keep our edge we have to be able to hire good young people and I will make this a top priority. One of our excuses for existing is that we teach service courses to the entire University, and we should teach them well, but I doubt any of us would be happy teaching only service courses. The Dean is concerned about declining undergraduate enrollments and I believe that we should be concerned as well.  Few of our math majors actually continue through the Ph.D. and there are not enough academic jobs for all of those.  I plan to survey our graduates in order to answer the question, ‘What can one do with a degree in mathematics?’” She stepped back to indicate that she had finished.

    Jeff looked around the room and asked, “Does everyone have a ballot?  Since there is only one candidate, the ballot contains only Prof. Prescott’s name and boxes for, against or abstain.  Mabel will collect the completed ballots.”

    Karen watched as Jeff and Mabel counted the ballots.  There was more than one pile, but she hoped those others were abstentions and not opposition.  When Jeff announced that Karen had been elected, there was a light smattering of applause, and Karen stood up again, in her place at the side of the room.

    “I thank you for the confidence that you have expressed by electing me to this position, but I have to say that I am not willing to be Chairman of the Mathematics Department.”

    There were a lot of puzzled looks around the room. Jeff looked as if he were about to have a heart attack. Ten minutes ago she had asked them all for their votes.

    “Nor do I particularly want to be Chairwoman of the department.”  Jeff caught on and gave her a thumbs-up.

    “I am willing to be your Chair, and as such I will try to do the best job that I possibly can.”

  • Drop-a-line

    September 16, 2020 at 9:09 pm

    I’m in awe! That must have taken hours and hours to write! Are you writing a whole book?
    I like the way you use dialogue and manage to snugly fit it into your sentences, if you know what I mean.

    Is there more???

  • A Willing Pen

    September 17, 2020 at 12:56 am

    I love your style and wait for each new chapter! Thank you for sharing!

  • Fayge Y.

    September 17, 2020 at 2:32 pm


    Believe me, this isn’t the sole impression this chapter made, but I love that Eddie uses the word “nudnik.” (Just to check, the derivation is Russian to Yiddish, from a Russian word meaning tedious.)

  • HappiWriter

    September 17, 2020 at 5:18 pm

    👍  This is so… good!

  • riva pomerantz

    September 17, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    Jane, your writing is so well-calibrated and tight–it’s a pleasure to read! When will the book be coming out? Thank you for sharing this chapter! And thank you for giving us a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes world of academia, and mathematics academia at that! So fascinating.

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