Please do not share this email. Its contents could get me fired!
As a new hire at the college, I thought I’d take the opportunity to meet President Cotton and his wife Tina Cheryl Fay [sic] Cotton for one of his monthly “Dinner with the President” events. I arrived a few minutes after the other “guest,” an affable faculty member from Economics who is also new to Willard College. The conversation on its surface was light and airy, but just below, Cotton took opportunities to position himself in a dominate or all knowing position. He attacked and then retreated all night.
After the first hour of talking about the text book he is writing, no food or drink having been served or offered, Cotton went into inquisition mode. In rapid fire, he asked question after question of us concerning not our teaching or scholarship, but about the position of faculty and staff members with respect to him and his office. At times, the questions, which were delivered with great violence, were so specific as to suggest that Cotton is spying on the faculty.
He then was called away by Provost Pillow, who had come in through the back door. They started yelling at each other, with the pitch growing higher and higher until it hurt my ears. Cheryl Tina Faye Cotton also got into the mix and it sounded like she was hitting Provost Pillow. More screams.
When Cotton returned, there was spittle on his shirt and tie. He began to yell at me about the recent resignation of the Tim Wolfe from the presidency of the University of Missouri. He started explaining to me that Wolfe had shown that he had neither “back bone nor balls.” He suggested that Wolfe might have “employed better security, blackmailed the striking football players, thrown an assistant dean under the bus, or even started a god-damn fire in a dorm and blamed it on the f—ing student agitators.”
The mood then turned light again and he fed us cookies, served from a platter. It was the appetizer. Suddenly, Cheryl Tina Faye Cotton emerged and announced that dinner, that she had been preparing for the last 12 hours, was ready and that we must quickly sit down at the dining room table. She is vegan but had agreed to make a chicken dish, “pollo en vinagre.” I asked for her to translate the name of the entrée since my Spanish is pretty poor. “Oh,” she replied, ” you take a whole chicken, stuff it with onions and lemons, and then soak it in vinegar for 12 hours.” It is eaten with a spoon.
After dinner, the conversation turned back to campus politics. President Cotton began to ask me what I thought of Provost Pillow, who was sitting at the table with us. “Can I trust Pillow? Do you think any of the former provosts, like Gauleiter, Videla, Brouxet, Martin, or Baptiste communicate with this little bastard?” He then stood up, came over to my side of the table, took my head between his sweaty hands, kissed me on the forehead, and then whispered “I can trust you, can’t I?”
Sorry for going on so long about the evening. There is more to tell. Perhaps we can grab lunch next week. Would you be willing to write me a letter if I go back on the job market?