If You Want To Go To Graduate School (Part 17)

September 14, 2001
Adam Hyde was quick to complain to the Department Chair, Karen Muir, about Professor Joseph K. Around 9am, I met Joe in his study and he showed me the e-mail the chair forwarded to him. Adam wrote a long, rambling, and at times incoherent letter complaining about the injustices he suffered from Joe, especially being asked to leave. Among the issues he listed, Adam claimed that Joe was insensitive to his disability (weak writing hand) and that he felt alienated by Joe’s left wing political views. He mentioned Professor Beltran, but could not spell his name correctly. After we read the e-mail, Joe was on the phone with the department chair. I would have to meet with her to tell her my side of the story.

After an hour of hanging out at Joe’s house, I walked to the university and went up to the top floor of the Humanities Building to meet with the chair. Dr. Muir was a dry, dowager type who could have been a character in an Edith Wharton story. Her light yellow hair was cut in a pageboy and she wore large, round glasses. She often wore two tone cardigans (à la Chanel) and baggy trousers to match. After she let me into her office, I sat down to tell her my side of the story. I told her about the e-mails and the hostility. She listened, but she also told me Joe’s actions concerning Adam were unprofessional – he could not ask someone to leave his class. I would later learn more about this issue when I taught as a TA. She then asked me if I wanted Adam kicked out of the program.

While I may have not liked Adam, I did not feel I could advocate kicking him out of the program. While I may have suffered some duress, I don’t think it was enough to completely justify me saying to expel him. I thought of the possibility of someone wanting to kick me out of the school, especially if I felt the accusation was unfair. I would want the administration to hear my side of the story and to show charity in dealing with me. I don’t think anyone’s right to study should be based on if others like him or her. If someone wants to study and they’re qualified, then they should by all means pursue it. At the time, I really did not know if Adam had what it took to be in grad school. I only had Joe’s word for it that he wasn’t a good writer and got in through politicking. Dr. Muir, during our conversation, mentioned that Professor Beltran believed people could be cured of mental illness through writing. I wrote about an insane narrator trying to become sane; Adam was the real thing. I could have easily countered that he belonged in a mental hospital, but didn’t. However, I decided to treat Adam the way I wanted and told Dr. Muir my decision. I confirmed it later in an e-mail, and she replied that she thought that was wise.

A year later, things would go bad between Joe and me. He gave me the silent treatment and acted openly disdainful towards me. I’m sure he would have loved to kick me out of the program at that point. All I had to do was something extremely egregious, especially towards him, and I would have been out. I hadn’t envisioned this when I had the talk with Dr. Muir, but I was glad I did not ask for Adam to be expelled.

Later in the evening, I went out. Gillian invited me to a party at a bar near the community college in downtown, so I took Hartwig along with me. Before that, we went to a rooftop party, which was packed, of a 1920’s hotel in Uptown. Soon, a FedEx plane descended to land at the airport. It was one of the first planes seen in the city since Tuesday. Life was returning to some semblance of normality. While people were scarce on Wednesday, they were everywhere on Friday. Everyone was out to party harder than usual, but no one certainly forgot what happened. Hartwig and I watched the planes fly across the sky and then hopped to a few bars before meeting Gillian and her friends. They seemed to like Hartwig, who then entertained them with his stories about his roommate, a supposedly straight man who gave hints of desiring him. Like most life of the party people, Hartwig had a few stories he would use over and over. It just was not apparent to me yet.

Since I quit the job at the supermarket, I had let my hair grow out for 14 months. I would chop it off the next day.

To be continued…

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