Guest Writer: A Back-to-School Letter from Your Boss

(This is a guest post from an anonymous professor at a red state university. He says, "This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual actions by actual college administrators is purely accidental," although, you know, many of us I think can recognize much of this.)

Hello, I am President Pillford, your boss. But in these unprecedented informal times, you can just call me Prez or you might call me Pill, because I'm gonna make you take a big one. What? When the boss wants to be your bro, is it a little too “eww” for you? Too bad. I have already seen you work from your bedroom on Zoom, so informal is what you get. Talk about "eww." Or, if you are a student, I am just the Prez, but most of you will know me like a distant uncle who tries to talk to the kids about that Billie Eilish. Boy, isn't she the dopest?

The purpose of this email is to tell you how excited and enthusiastic I am about opening our college campus to thousands of students and hundreds of faculty in the middle of a global pandemic that has killed over 170,000 Americans. Even though we know the risk, we are so pumped to do this anyways, because how else are we gonna get all those tuition dollars, plus all those hidden fees and more fees. Not to mention those sweet housing and food service bucks. What? You're not enthusiastic about reopening? Where is your school spirit? Don’t you believe in capitalism...I mean, "education"?

Now I have said it before, and I will say it again, and then I'll say it one more time in case you didn't believe me: Your Safety Comes First. Your health and safety are our top priority. Forget all those "epidemiologists" and medical scientists and "doctors" who claim they know that some of our faculty, students, and staff are going to get sick or even die. Won't you sleep well at night knowing that our students are getting a non-refundable education, even if we close campus two weeks after opening? I know I will. 

Because I know you still have lots of questions and my sunny emails and videos always say the same exact thing, just with different words, we have provided a special link to our reopening plan, which includes all the details about sort-of-virtual, sort-of-in-person, sort-of-hybrid class delivery, PPE, hand sanitizer, ventilation in all those closed spaces that we can't afford to remediate right now, and social distancing. That’s right. We are going to practice social distancing in a social environment where everybody with a brain and a cold beer knows that social distancing is inherently impossible. They say it can't be done? I say you don't know until you can see for yourself that it can't be done and then still do it.

Now just in case you think I came up with our "School Is Not Hell" return-to-campus program on my own, lots of caring faculty have helped develop this plan that was subject solely to my approval. But they care. When I ask them to be on committees like this, they care about losing their jobs. When they teach, they care. When students and their colleagues get sick or die, they care. And isn't caring enough? Yes, it is. 

As for the staff, unlike the professors who have some leeway to work virtually because there are actually laws that force me to allow it, we are making the staff come to work no matter what. Unless they are sick with COVID, their underpaid asses are going to be here, on campus, to answer all your legitimate questions about what-the-fuck-were-we-thinking-anyways. Yeah, I know we said we put safety first, but that doesn’t apply to staff, and, no, we don’t really care about your anxiety, depression, and PTSD that comes from us making you come to work during a pandemic that might kill you. You have to be firm with staff or they never learn.

Before I finish this obligatory email that most of you will delete before finishing, let me just say how grateful I am to the students who chose to attend another semester here at F U. For the rest of you, God won’t give me the words for how much I appreciate your silent assent that this in-person semester is what you need and it’s not about my half-a-million salary that the Board of Trustees was fool enough to renew, even as we make budget cuts across campus, resulting in numerous program eliminations and staff terminations. You don’t want to hear about that sad news when I can stuff your inbox with more powerful positivity about the power of learning in person, even if every bit of common sense and experience is screaming at us that we should all be online. But I know we're tougher than those snowflake smartypants PC schools in the blue states.

Let me say this again in case you forgot: Your Safety Comes First. Some deans and faculty and our fifty-three vice presidents are working tirelessly to make sure you believe that. They are working day and night and on weekends. We call these excessive hours "kicking the semester into overdrive." "Overdrive" is just like overtime, but we don’t pay for it. To be clear, as tenured, salaried professionals, you don’t qualify for overtime. You should just be overjoyed that you get to contribute so much of your time to the university.

Now some of our colleagues who have stood by my side through our previous crises that we learned nothing from will not like me "keeping it real." But I decided I owe you, my treasured faculty and administrators, this level of honesty and truth. It's all I think you deserve. 

To close, welcome back and welcome home. We want it to feel like heaven, but we know it is more like hell. If you work here or have already paid the tuition bill, you can log off, but you can never leave. Go team!