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A Time To Speak

They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes.

Imelda Marcos


Chapter Twenty-Nine

Alecia

It was around this time period that I had dinner with Eleanor, my friend and colleague who had recently become president of the Alumni Association. I had known Eleanor on and off since we were in grad school together, and occasionally we had collaborated together on projects for the university. She was the one who had put together the petition to the administration to make a public statement about the school's racial past, and I knew it hadn't been easy. She had encountered some opposition along the way from the older, more resistant members of the board. At one point there had even been talk that she might be forced to resign. But she had persisted, and the school had publicly repented of some of its past positions. With that task behind her, I wondered what Eleanor's next project might be.

"Accreditation," she answered immediately when I asked her. "We need to get the school accredited if it is going to have any chance at all for long-term survival."

"I heard about the layoffs, of course," I said cautiously, wondering what she would say.

"There were a lot, and there's going to have to be more." She eyed me carefully over her salad. "Is your resume up to date, Alecia?"

I stopped chewing mid-bite and looked at her. "What are you saying, Eleanor? What have you heard?"

"Nothing specific." That, I knew, was not entirely true. Eleanor's father, now retired, had been a high ranking administrator. He still lived on campus and was often seen with Dr. Seth. "But I think the cuts we just saw are probably only the beginning."

"There will be more? When?"

Eleanor shook her head. "Not today or tomorrow. But attendance has been going down slowly but surely for quite awhile. I know they've been talking about cutting out certain majors. Sooner or later they'll have to start shutting down entire departments."

"Not the piano department!"

"No, probably not, but they might combine it with another one. There will have to be a lot of consolidation going on, a lot of re-assigning of duties and titles. Nothing is going to stay the same, especially if the school allows us to go forward with accreditation."

"I still can't believe they would actually seek accreditation after all this time," I said. "When we were students it wasn't even up for discussion. The school was so certain that it didn't need approval from outside organizations."

"They're not thinking that way any more." Eleanor answered. "They're smart enough to see that things have to change. FCU can't be its own little kingdom now the way it used to be, saying that they are the best in everything and expecting everyone to just believe it. Even FCU has to follow someone else's standards if they want their graduates to be accepted in other places. There's too much scrutiny now to allow the old way of thinking. Accreditation will happen; mark my words. And that's another reason there will have be a major re-assignment of jobs and titles, to line up with accreditation standards."

"Is accreditation the only reason we've been losing students?" I asked, thinking about the Disgruntled and their very public war on the school.

"It's one of the biggest reasons. But also fundamentalism itself is changing in the U.S. Fundamentalists are starting to become a little more mainstream, not quite so extreme all the time."

It was an odd statement, coming from the president of the alumni association for the school that was, arguably, the most prominent Christian fundamentalist school in the United States. "I never thought I'd hear you describe fundamentalists as extreme."

"Well, some of us are." She gave me a wry smile. "We'd do a lot better if we admitted that fact up front, instead of trying to make excuses for them. That includes Dr. Seth."

Now she had really shocked me. "I can't believe you just said that."

"Why not? It's true." She shrugged.

I looked at her carefully for a moment. "Is it true that the board rebuked him last summer for asking for the Lord to rain down hellfire on the White House?" I had heard the rumors, but nobody would confirm it publicly.

"And the President, and the Capitol building," she confirmed. "It was in executive session, but yes, the board reprimanded him."

I half-smiled. It was about time. Dr. Seth had been embarrassing the school publicly for years. We ate in silence for a minute, and then I asked, 'What do you know about Regina Scrive?"

"I was going to ask you about her," she retorted. "I've been following the Victors and Overcomers pages, or at least I did until they took the Overcomers private. That 'senior piano faculty member' was you, wasn't it?"

"Yes, it was. I'm trying to figure out what she has against the school that makes her so vicious in her attacks."

"A lot of things. She and I were roommates, you know."

"No, I had no idea. When?"

"My junior year. That was the year I was put on spiritual probation because I'd gotten into an argument with my room leader the year before. Reg was a hall leader who wanted to become a dorm supervisor, so she asked if she could personally counsel and oversee someone who was on spiritual probation. She got me."

"You were on spiritual probation?" I couldn't help laughing. "Why? What did you do?"

"Long story." She waved a hand dismissively. "The point is, I got to know Reg pretty well. I knew early on that she really didn't care for the school too much."

"Why would you say that? She was even more of a FIC than I was!"

Eleanor grinned at me. "Nobody was more a FIC than you were, Alecia."

I held up a hand to stop the recital I knew was coming. "OK, I admit it! I was the FIC-iest FIC out there. I followed every single rule, all the time. But Reg did too, and now look where we are."

"You were FIC's for different reasons, though. You were a FIC because you really believed in all of it."

"I still do, in some ways." I felt strangely compelled to defend myself. "I'm still a believer; I still mean every word of the Creed when we recite it each morning. It's just that I've learned to separate the school from the Lord. It took me a long time to figure out that they weren't the same thing."

"Regina was different from you, Alecia. She was a FIC because that was the way to move ahead in the system, not because she really believed in it for herself. She wanted to be a hall monitor, so she brown-nosed everyone in the administration in her freshman and sophomore years until they made her an offer. But even after she became hall monitor, that wasn't enough. She wanted to be a dorm supervisor, so she volunteered for all the things other hall monitors didn't want to do."

"But she never became a dorm supervisor."

"No, she couldn't, because she met her husband and got married instead. But they were going to ask her. She was definitely dean of women material. Instead she went into grad school and taught part time."

"That's what I don't understand," I told her. "She was such a FIC, but you say she didn't even like the school."

"The school is all about control, remember? You do things the way the school wants, or you're not going to be here long. And Reg wanted to do things her own way, not the school's way. She wanted everyone to do things her way. By the time she got into grad school, she figured she had earned the right to start calling some shots of her own. She started stepping on toes, talking about re-aligning the curriculum, assigning senior faculty to less-popular courses, changing everybody's schedules to accommodate her own plans. That petition she got together was the last straw."

"I read about the petition in ED."

"Like I say, that was just the end of the story. She'd been making enemies for years. You know what's so ironic about this? Reg was fighting back against the school constantly, complaining about the administration being so controlling, but honestly, she was more into control than they ever were. If that petition hadn't come along she would have been fired anyway. And she has no one to blame but herself. This Facebook vendetta she has going on is nothing but a huge grudge match between her and FCU, and she will never, ever let go of it."

"How do you know she'll never let go? Won't she get bored with it sooner or later?"

"No." Eleanor was almost smirking now. "Do a search on her name sometime. You'll find a page she created criticizing the Girl Scout troop she was in when she was twelve years old. Twelve. All because they didn't accept her idea for a new merit badge. She holds a grudge like no one you've ever seen. Trust me—Regina will never, ever give up her obsession with FCU."