Bad apples…I entered into a settlement agreement with the University of Retaliation, and am not allowed to discuss the settlement amount, terms, or negotiation. However, I refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement just to share everything else with you...Next to the twisted green-gray river bearing the same name as a local brewery lays the ivy covered campus of the University of Retaliation. Considered one of America’s leading universities in the Northeast, along with its ‘Kodak School of Music’ and ‘Pungent Medical Center’, the University of Retaliation is also the area’s largest employer. Thousands of people are employed, educated, and even healed on their campus and medical center. Unfortunate, many of those experiences aren’t positive. Among those thousands, more than a few people have been sexually harassed, experience discrimination, and are retaliated against by the university if they dare to complain.“Before you report sexual harassment…” was the subject line of the email sent to the entire campus one afternoon. An email from an employee, sent weeks before other related stories began to emerge from the shadows.A reputation untarnished before the negative national media attention, student protests, hunger strikes, and a boycott by more than 400 other universities and colleges professors. Featured in world renowned magazine’s 2018 ‘People of the Year’ issue, the University of Retaliation has become the face of sexual harassment in higher education. Regardless of the damage, the university continues (as of June 2019) to ignore calls for change – even breaking promises to implement reforms outlined by their own internal investigation and special committee.Then complete radio silence…But it isn’t over yet. Where you are an outsider, student, or staff, the University of Retaliation documents three stories based on first-hand experiences, EEOC charges, and related lawsuits. Sex, money, drugs, hackers, social media, and more. Cautionary tales of how morally corrupt big business bullies, ineffective laws favoring employers, and the lack of real EEOC oversight has helped perpetuate the problem. Sadly, the University of Retaliation is being run by a finite number of bad apples souring the rest of the cider – destroying a once sterling reputation with gross mismanagement, lack of a compass, and greed. But nothing last forever, and there is still hope these bad apples can be recognized for their actions and tossed aside. Chapter 1: Cash, Ass or Grass#WreckingCrew#On a cold rainy fall evening, an employee of the university leaves a meeting on the opposite side of the campus. The employee begins making his way back to his office when he realizes without an umbrella he would be unable to avoid the rain outside. The rain that once feed the green ivy that grew in abundance on the classic Greek revival buildings making up the university was now almost cold enough to preserve the vines from wilting with the coming winter. Patiently waiting in the entry of the Liberal Arts building, leaning against a tall stone pillar, the employee protects the mound of papers he is clutching from the downpour. Papers that included his notes and supporting evidence related to discrepancies involving more than 90 million dollars in government grants. Discrepancies that troubled the diligent employee more than the inclement weather, especially considering the previous reviews seemed to purposefully dodge all the problems. Growing up not far from the university, I was aware of it’s reputation – accepting only a select few valedictorians from area schools with stellar grades, super-human participation in extra-curricular activities and the deep pocket money to afford their lofty tuition rates. The university was one of the few placing in this half of the state with a medical program - linked to a large well-known hospital - that even had an elite school of music. Considered the “complete package” in higher ed. It even competed with Yale and Harvard, not only in sports, but also in academia as one of the finest American universities. Me, a state university graduate with dyslexia and a bad haircut, was working for what many considered the best employer in the area. To work in such a well-respected place, with good pay and education opportunities, I was so lucky…The employee was an internal auditor named Lionel Bachman – named after his father’s love of Lionel model trains – who had just been promoted to Senior Auditor. Having escaped the cubicle jungle of his previous audit positions at several highly regulated banks and a Blue Crossed Blue Shell game healthcare insurance franchise company, he was looking for something less stressful. Higher education, while not paying close to any of his former employer’s salaries, seemed like the perfect it. It also happened to be less of a drive, as the campus was significantly closer to home.“It was one of the deadliest professions”, I often told others when explaining my job. “The old cautionary tale of ‘being the bearer of bad news’ or the other phrase ‘killing the messenger’ exemplified the reality often facing an auditor.” You always had to be on your toes, trying to navigate the shifting political landscape while trying to maintain hold on the true reality afforded through objectivity. Wise auditors know that the truth will always surface in one audit or another – increasing the emphasis on being a truthful as possible or a future auditor performing the same work will not find anything that wasn’t true. This popular approach led to the other common auditor phrase – “it is what it is…”It was the shortcoming of auditors that contributed to Enron, Bernie Madoff, financial meltdown of 2007, and countless other economic train wrecks. Often, when a significant problem was encountered, tremendous pressure would be applied to minimize the appearance of risk - especially when the problem could negatively impact the career of someone in power. Unfortunately, audit was a profession where being too objective, or ethical, could dramatically shorten your shelf-life. But the truth always emerged – regardless of management’s attempts to hide, ignore, or obfuscate things. This skewed objectivity is what doomed many organizations, and the lack of adequate whistleblower protection in the US ensured it would continue -and eventually happen again, and again, and again. It was just another example of the unhealthy relationship between the government and big business.Earlier that day, a conversation regarding the government grant discrepancies with his manager had only made things worse. The manager avoided providing any rational explanation for the problems, missing content, or why internal department policies and procedures were not being followed. Even worse, almost as a distraction, the manager made more racist comments after being politely asked repeatedly to stop.At first, Lionel’s manager seemed harmless - even quaint. Like that crazy but lovable aunt you only see on the holidays or the coworker with weird conspiracy theory. After a few months of harmless bibble-babble, she moved onto badmouthing the former employees in my position. One was young, ambitious and stupid. Another was older, combative and stupid. She claimed the younger coworker wanted her job, and the older – who was the previous manager – had dementia and his writing didn’t even make sense. Lionel’s initial impression of a competent but quirky professional quickly evolved into that of a crude gossipmonger. Lionel couldn’t help but wonder when his turn would come for this manager to call him middle-aged, stupid, state school graduate, and some other derogatory attribute. But it wasn’t the former coworker gossip that bothered him, it was the repetitive question she asked almost weekly that was unsettling. “Did you just hear that?” she frantically asked.Enter Beatrice White. Legally named “Betty White”, Beatrice hated any association with the ’golden girl’ actress sharing her actual legal name. To distance herself, she insisted she be called Beatrice, and became hostile with anyone accidently or unintentionally called her Betty. Ironically, she actually looked like the actress in her prime – under five feet tall and sporting white hair. Often wearing dated semi-formal even gowns to work, Beatrice had been with the university almost as long as the 70’s orange ad sage furniture littering the campus. Regardless of her quarks, Beatrice knew the university well – all the gossip and dysfunction – as well as the underground passages connecting university building. It was those comments that same to mind as Lionel tried to wait out the rain.Dressed in a brown twill suit, the cagy auditor quickly descended the concrete steps to the basement of the Liberal Art’s building to access the university’s subterranean labyrinth. Lined with utility pipes and communication cable in varying sizes, the narrow cinderblock passages had a smooth concrete floor marked with colored lines indicating the path to different campus destinations. The color lines made it easy for him to find his way back to Orange Hall. Beside the water lines, heating ducts, and powerlines, I could still spot the network cables – the communication highway for the entire campus. Thousands of yards of copper CAT5 used by thousands of students and staff to access university and hospital resources - as well as to the outside internet and the countless related information security threats. But that wasn’t all that traversed that copper, students often chalk marked frequently used campus sidewalks with server IPs that would temporarily appear on the network. Rogue servers that often contained pirated movies, music, and software – setup so anyone could add files but not delete existing ones. It was strange to see files of movies still in theaters, recently released songs, and licensing keys for extremely expensive graphic art tools. A hub of stolen intellectual property. The university had no idea who owned the hubs, or almost half of the servers active in their network, which was difficult to think about considering they reside alongside university and hospital servers. Servers containing student records, patient’s medical information, and other sensitive data. It was a mess. Walking along the dimly lit underground corridor, the rhythmic sound of Lionel’s leather souled shoes on the concrete path were suddenly drowned out by the scream of a woman. Lionel froze trying to determine what direction the scream had come from. Did it come from behind him or the path ahead? The initial scream was quickly followed by the screams of multiple people, followed by the sound of people running - getting closer. Beneath the screams, Lionel could hear a distinct and consistent muffled popping sound. An automatic rifle with a silencer he initially thought, recounting recent news stories about mass shootings as he frantically found a small space between two vending machines to hide. Seemingly out of place at the time, his manager’s frequent question repeated in his thoughts - “Did you just hear that?”As the sounds approach, he prayed for the best – also nervously contemplating an attempt to grab a weapon if the opportunity arose. Peering around the edge of the vending machine, he could see a group approaching. But it wasn’t a shooting, just zombies. Humans vs. Zombies to be specific, a campus wide game students playing using nerf guns that wasn’t around when Lionel was in college. It had been a long time since he had been on a campus. In his college days, everything was either pool, cards, or foos ball – often as part of a drinking game. The only nerf was a football, but nerf Humans vs. Zombies sounded like healthy fun. While he survived the embarrassment of a few students chuckling at him between the vending machine, the real craziness was about to begin. #HydeTheJekyll#Several years earlier, in an affluent neighborhood within walking distance of the campus, a professor at the University of Retaliation hosts a get together with students at his sprawling Victorian home. The professor, Dr. Frances Keggar, was a relatively young - late thirty year old - tenured faculty member of the Extrinsic Sciences Department, who had brought significant research grants – aka money – to the perpetually hungry university. Considered a rock star within the university’s Intrinsic Sciences Department, or at least as close as a traditionally stuffy professor could come to cool, he projected a dashing profile that influenced university management, peers, and students. Dressed in trendy clothing the young professor instructed both graduate and undergraduate students. Some of those students, selected by Dr. Keggar, formed a small loyal chic of his favorites – effectively dividing his undergraduate and graduate students into an ‘in’ group and outcasts. This small but effectively group help Professor Keggar further his professional and social objectives by dangling favoritism, privilege, and the related advantages. Advantages that often meant success in completing the program and obtaining a degree, or failure, in the highly competitive and demanding educational environment. A conventional educational discussion isn’t on the good profession’s agenda for the evening. Instead, the meeting consists of his trolls bullshitting about Dr. Keggar’s numerous embellished accomplishments, drinking beer, smoking weed, and dips in a hot tube on his back porch.Sitting on the floor of her upstairs bedroom, back against a thin plywood door, one graduate student tries to ignore the loud party raging in the rest of the house around her. For financial reasons, Charlotte had reluctantly agreed to rent a room in the home of her professor while completing her graduate studies. At the time, it was the only option the struggling student had to continue her studies, and Dr. Keggar seemed relatively normal at the time. My parents always warned me that people aren’t always who they pretend to be. Most serial killers, pedophiles, and other predators look like a friendly neighbor until they’re arrested and the truth comes out. BTK, the Subway guy, and Cosby all looked normal from the outside. From the outside, Dr. Keggar looked like a successful aging hipster wearing trend clothing and Chuck Taylors. Just like defensive driving, I was told to always be cognizant of my surroundings. Talking to Dr. Jeggar, there was always a feeling that something wasn’t right – like something bad was about to happen.It wasn’t until she began living with Professor Keggar’s that she started to realize something was wrong. Very wrong. Dr. Keggar was fixated on sex - constantly flirting with his female undergraduate and graduate students - as well as continually making crude sexual comments about their anatomy. It wasn’t long until she found out Keggar was having sex with students, and potential students, that she knew she had to leave asap. Some she witnessed, some she heard about from peers shocked she was living at Keggar’s home, and others she later found out were common knowledge around campus. When Keggar started make inappropriate sexual comments to her, and then threatening to ruin her career if she complained, she realized that she had effectively became a prisoner in his house – constantly hiding to avoid the monster. Little did she know at the time, more than a half dozen complaints from other professors and students, including the department chair, couldn’t stop Keggar.After hours of partying, minutes before midnight, the music and noise from the party abruptly stopped. The entire house became completely quiet. Another OD? Unsure what happened, or was about to happen, Charlotte sat up and looked out her bedroom window. No one had left – the cars were still parking in the driveway, some on the lawn, and no one was exiting the house.“I have an announcement to make!”Everyone likes a good party, but this gather wasn’t about having a good time. The week before an ambulance had to be called for a student who OD’d in the hot tub. What had she gotten herself into? “Is Jill ready for the Extrinsic Sciences graduate program?” Keggar asked to his roomful of followers, who started clapping and congratulating Jill.Opening the door to her room a crack to see what was happening; Charlotte watched Keggar escort Jill by the hand to his bedroom and closed the door. Charlotte couldn’t help but wonder if it was France’s creepy charm, promises of assistant in the program, abundance of alcohol and drugs, or the hype from his zealot stooges that had actually lured Jill into his bedroom. Regardless, she knew it wouldn’t take long for his newest conquest to be tossed aside and forgotten like the others. The monster was always hungry for a new conquest.I was a smart woman - I think I saw the signs. At first noticing slight changes in the intonation of his voice when talking about women, repetitive sexually demeaning comments about their bodies, and completely ignoring countless request to stop doing it. He enjoyed torturing people, and knew he could get away with it. For some strange reason, after all the abuse, it was when he removing my food from the refrigerator and told me that I had to keep my girlish figure to find a suitor that was the last straw. I was beyond the point of think it was me, beyond the point of even entertaining his crazy logic to justify his action, beyond being scared of his threats to ruin my career if I complained. I couldn’t just think of myself anymore, it was about all the women – student, staff, and who knows who else - he abused.Just outside France’s bedroom door, the followers quietly wait, muffling their giggles, and listening for confirmation – the sound of Frances having loud sex with Jill - before restarting the music and party. It was another weekend at France’s, and if history was again repeated, it was probably the last anyone would see or hear of Jill. Another dream crushed by the University of Retaliation.#GingerGuitarSlinger#On the other side of town, sitting in a beat up rusty Honda Civic in a desolate parking lot, an unemployed graduate of the university nervously clutches his iPhone waiting for an important call. Although a recent graduate of the prestigious Kodak School of Music, part of the University of Retaliation, Benjamin “Ben” Abby couldn’t find a single job that utilized his doctorate degree in music or numerous performance awards. Not a single offer after he had sent out hundreds of resumes over the past eight months – but aware that many of his classmates were immediately finding countless opportunities both local and aboard. His education had left him deeply in debt, and his dwindling savings offered no other options except to sell everything he owned, living in a tent, and seek any employment available. The once optimistic graduate was now a shell of his former self spending much of his time sleeping to escape the realities of his situation. “Keep your chin up” his father would often tell him. The words that had once been a rallying cry, repeated, throughout his life to overcome adversity, now were seemly worthless and painful to even recount.It was during their backyard campfires that his father captured young Ben’s interest playing everything from popular TV theme songs to Beatles tunes on a weathered Martin acoustic guitar. Ben marveled at his father’s mesmerizing and effortless fretboard wizardry, and it wasn’t long before he was also strumming chords to his favorite songs. In the back seat of the Honda sat the old Les Paul guitar his father had given him on his sixteenth birthday - months before Ben lost his father to a massive heart attack. It was only a few months after finding out the film manufacturer he had worked of more than 25 years was filing bankruptcy, he was losing his job, and that his retirement consisting of company stock was worthless. The day before his heart attach, his unemployed father had been turned away from an emergency room for not having healthcare coverage. The chest pains that initially brought him to the hospital, subsided just before he got there, and without insurance they wouldn’t run any tests or take him in.My father had always wanted to be a musician, entertain people with his six strings, but to make ends meet for our family he ended up working his entire life at a local film manufacturing plant. Working crazy hours and overtime, he saved all his spare money over the years for college fund to help me escaping the path he had been force to take. Three months before he passed, he lost his job when the film manufacturing plant closed, his company retirement plan and medical benefits disappeared, and the college fund was swallowed up with his hospital expenses. Almost overnight his demeanor changed from an outgoing hopeful and confident optimistic soul to a quiet reclusive and depressed shadow consumed by stress. It wasn’t until after he passed that I found my upcoming 16thbirthday present hidden in the back of his closed, where his old Martin acoustic had once sat. Some men love cars, others guns, some women, but my father loved his family and that old guitar. It was the only physical object he had ever loved, given to him by his father more than fifty years ago, and he had traded for the electric guitar I now played. I always tried to honor his memory and spirit whenever I played, but couldn’t help but wish fate had been more kind.That old guitar was only thing left he couldn’t sell – an extension of his being and the last hope for a musical future. It was on that guitar that his father had taught him to play, the initial source of all of his musical aspirations, and the last tangible link to his father other than a handful of old pictures. Not long after mastering that the guitar, Ben began playing different instruments in the school band, started his traveling garage band the Green Genes, and eventually was accepted into the music program at the University of Retaliation. The trajectory of his life was going great, until he made one mistake – the reason he couldn’t find any music opportunities.It had been almost three days since Ben had had in interview as a custodian at another music university. His hope was to get a job where he could get a foot into anything music related. To impatient to wait another minute, Ben finally breaks down and makes the call. “Hi, this in Ben Abby, just calling to find out if I got the position…I hadn’t heard back from you…”After a long pause, a voice on the other end reluctantly responds “Listen, I’m not supposed to tell someone why they didn’t get the job…it’s an HR thing…but there was an issue with one of your references…”Ben knew exactly who she was talking about, and that the retaliation would never end. His degree was meaningless without the reference.The previous summer, to save money, I lived in a tent in a rural area just outside town. Hidden out of the way by a seldom used dirt road, the camp did not have electricity, running water, or other creature comforts. Working odd jobs to pay for my student loan, gas, and food, I used my employer’s bathroomWhen it got colder, I stayed with some former classmates for a few months. Trying to avoid being a burden, I picked up another job painting houses and met Sachio Hashisda – a former Japanese solder and Kamikaze pilot. Mr. Hashisda Almost three years ago, after completing his undergraduate studies, Ben met with his new academic advisor to plot his graduate studies and prepare for the coming semester. The academic advisor, Dr. David Hammertoe, was also the head of the guitar musical program at the University of Retaliation and an excellent guitar player. Dr. Hammertoe was thin well-dressed late fifty year old male with a goatee and ponytail familiar with the latest guitar riffs and sporting an instrument almost identical to Ben’s. Ben had heard him perform, and impressed with his skills, he was excited to have such a talented mentor to help guide his future.“Call me Dave. It’s what my friends call me.”Noticing Dr. Hammertoe hand now resting on his knee as he played guitar, he initially tried to chalk it up to being very friendly. “Sure, doctor, I mean Tad.”But it quickly became apparent Dr. Hammertoe was being more than friendly. “Do you know how incredible sexy you are Ben?”“What?” Ben asked, stopping the lesson playing electric guitar hoping he hadn’t just heard what he thought he’d heard. Dr. Hammertoe dramatically walked slowly over to Ben, maintaining an unusually focused stare while holding back an uncomfortable grin. “You’re doing just so great. I really dig your tone…stroke my bone.”“What?”“Tone, Ben” Dr. Hammertoe quickly replied, looking away. “It’s the right tone. Good tone.”That first meeting was when it all began to fall apart. Although initially flattered that he was considered attractive by another human, Ben wasn’t gay or homophobic. No matter how politely Ben asked Dr. Hammertoe to stop, his aged mentor who promise to stop only to quickly return to making sexual advances. Exhausted by the sexual harassment, Ben was shocked when he mentioned complaining to the dean and Dr. Hammertoe threatened to ruin his career if he did.“I will make your life a living hell!” David screamed at Ben, foreshadowing the situation he now found himself in.Ironically, Ben was sitting in his car outside an abandon factory that shared the same name, and lineage, as the Kodak School of Music. The same factory where his father had worked - an enormass windowless brick building more than seven stories tall. Almost a block long, the building had once held a huge theater, but had recently been fortified to only have one external entrance. It was his first time entering the building. First time descending the dimly lit corridors. And at the end of each passage, he came upon a left or right turn he came upon was a sign reassuring the entrance was “this way” followed by an arrow. It stated to feel like a trap. With each turn, travelling deeper and deeper, Ben became more and more reluctant to continue. Was it worth it? One more turn, and then I’m returning to the surface he reasoned. To his surprise, the next turn revealed two large heavily fortified metal doors. To the left of the doors, was a button, and to the right a video camera pointed at him. Ben pressed the button and turned toward the camera. “Hello?”“Remove your hat.” A cryptic metallic sounding voice replied from a speaker hidden somewhere in the ceiling.“Ok” Ben sheepishly responded, removing his baseball cap.
CHAPTER ONE of the UNIVERSITY OF RETALIATION
2019 COPYRIGHT PENDING. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Updated: JULY 5, 2019
2019 COPYRIGHT PENDING. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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UPDATE - JULY 1, 2019 - The first chapter of ‘UNIVERSITY OF RETALIATION’ will be released JULY 5TH 2019! - Our goal is to share our cautionary #MeToo story in affordable hardcover, softcover, and downloadable (kindle/ebook) versions to further discussion and change. Stay tuned for updates coming soon!