When I, in my role of Dean of the School of Economics, learned of the budget freeze, I was left with the task of cancelling several sections of beginning economics for the lack of an instructor. This would not do. So I decided as the other option, I would build one. One night, bolstered by single malt courage, I broke into the School of Agriculture’s greenhouse and hurried back to my office with the building blocks for my faculty member.
I used hearts of romaine for the torso. Radicchio for the arms and endive for the fingers. Iceberg lettuce for the shoulders and upper legs. For the calves and feet, I utilized bok choi. I placed a large red cabbage on top of what I made and said that that was its head. Hearts of palm created the facial features, with pimentos for eyes. All that was left was to dress him in tweed and write up the syllabus for his new classes, and the new adjunct professor was instated.
The new instructor had three sessions of Introduction to Economics and two of the survey course: From Adam Smith to Modern Money Markets. Using the handout modules favored in personalized instruction systems, all the new professor had to do was sit in the front of class, while the students toiled away on the module assignments, and look stern. At this, the new adjunct professor excelled. Of course, the grading and course creation fell to the graduate teaching assistants. The TAs also had the added task of replacing parts of the professor when he wilted around the edges or when some fraternity prankster felt compelled to take a bite of his head.
At the end of the semester, I was pleased to learn that the new professor’s students had higher-than-average test results and their course evaluations for their instructor were glowing. No one had a disparaging word for him. He was above reproach and leafy.
The other schools at the University noticed the success of this tyro educator and began to build adjunct professors for themselves. The comparative literature department had an instructor constructed of ramen noodles and soft pretzels. The Spanish department used varieties of sausages. The classics professor was composed of eggplant and red potatoes. The School of Asian Studies retired their adjunct professor made of kim chee when most of its students dropped the course in the first week.
Despite all these rivalries and jostling for prominence, none were as beloved as my economics adjunct professor of lettuce and greens. This was a great feather in my cap. Or so I thought. How these things happen in this cabbage-eat-cabbage world. I found myself dismissed from my job. My replacement? The very adjunct professor of which we speak. I created him like Pygmalion or at least a side salad.
I am sending out my CV to other universities, but I fear that I am not green enough in this new environment. A pinot noir cloud of despair shadows me, but at least it is dry and crisp.
I hear things about my former protégé. That he will not be satisfied in his current position. That his pimento eyes are not on the seat of the University President, but higher. The Secretary of Education in the cabinet of the President?
Who is to say how far a cabbage head can go in this world?
Dave Macpherson lives in Worcester, MA with his wife Heather and son George.