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A Time To Speak

When a tree falls it resounds with a thundering crash; and yet a whole forest grows in silence.

Jocelyn Murray


Chapter Eight

In which John and Win both receive shocking news

Win

The story about the Bible Conference usher was the worst story I had ever heard to come out of FCU.

Like I said before, both my parents graduated from FCU. So did my brother, and a lot of my friends from church. Even most of my fellow teachers at our Christian school graduated from FCU, and every one of us could tell stories about times when the school had been uncaring towards its students or teachers. We all knew stories about times when the school disciplined someone in an abusive way, perhaps over something minor. But this was different, a whole new level of. . .well, I didn't know what, exactly, to call it. Pride? Arrogance? Indifference? Malice?

No. Not malice. I would not believe that. Whatever mistakes the school made, I believed it did because of an exaggerated desire to do whatever it thought was the most "spiritual" thing, or because it believed it had to set an example for other Christian institutions. The people who worked there, people like Alecia, were not being evil on purpose. They just let their programs get in the way of the people they were supposed to help sometimes.

The whole thing made me sick.

John's reaction was quicker and more succinct:

John

That is one fucked up place.


I could almost hear Alecia sigh as she read his one sentence. She really didn't care for strong language. I hoped she wouldn't block him again. I wrote back to her.

Win

Alecia, what is my status with the school? I've never known much about how those status things work. Am I a green?


She wrote back in less than two minutes.

Alecia

No, you're on Watch. It says here that your pastor once preached a sermon about the KJV being the only inspired version of the Bible.


Me? On Watch?

John

Please tell me I'm on red, or at least brown. I couldn't stand it if the school actually LIKED me for some reason.


Alecia

John, you're actually on green status. It says you made a contribution of $25 to the school ten years ago.


I decided John was right. It was a really. . .well, you know. I don't usually use language like that.


John

That damn transcript. Ten years ago, when I was applying for my new job, I had to submit my college transcript, which I didn't have, so I sent a request to the school along with what I thought was enough money to cover any fees. Only Foothills never charges fees for a transcript, so the next January I got a receipt for my "contribution," and now, ten years later, they actually liked me.

I was more pissed about that than what happened to Micah.

John

Alecia, you can actually see what demerits were earned by some guy a couple decades ago, a guy who didn't even graduate from the school? That is wild. How many demerits did I get while I was there?


Alecia

Hold on, John. The system started to crash when I asked it to tabulate your demerits. smiley


It took me a second to realize she was joking. A FIC with a sense of humor.

John

Very funny, Alecia.


It turned out I had 296 over four years. Win had twelve. Twelve! And she was pretty sure that five of those were a mistake.

I was curious about how Alecia was accessing all this information.

John

Alecia, how is it you can see all this? What reason are you giving for accessing our personal files?


Alecia

They don't ask for a reason, John. If you're on faculty or staff, ED is available to you at any time. It's a wonderful resource.


John

Don't you have to go through some kind of procedure to ensure that you actually have permission to look at all this stuff? How do they know who looked at what? What are the privacy settings? How secure is this system?


Alecia

Security's not a big concern here, John. I'm pretty sure the IS department on campus can see who accessed what and when, but you don't have to give a reason for getting information about someone. If you want to look someone up, you just enter their information into the search box and get it. The school trusts us to have a good reason to do it.


My computer-security-systems-analyst head officially blew up right then.

John

Are you shitting me? Anybody who works there can just go into ED and look up whatever they feel like, and they don't even have to give a reason why?


I could tell Alecia didn't like the question, or how I'd asked it. She got all defensive.

Alecia

Well, we DO have safeguards in place. The IS department can see what you access and when, especially if you're on campus and using one of their computers. Most people wouldn't dare log in and use it fraudulently when they know they can be tracked.


Win

Alecia, what does my file say about me? Is there anything bad in it?


Alecia

No, there's not a lot there. They have your parents listed as alumni, of course, and it mentions your father's first wife. There's a small paragraph about what happened with your brother at Baker & Botts as well. Other than that it's pretty clean, except that your pastor used to be KJV only.



Win

And that's how I first found out that my father had been married and divorced before he married my mother. Not from my father, or from my mother. Not even from my brother. From ED.


Alecia

I felt absolutely terrible that I had surprised Win with that news. I had used ED for so long that it never occurred to me how intrusive the data collection was, or how easy it would be to misuse the information gathered. We here at Foothills tend to become very isolated in our own little bubble. We tend to forget that the outside world thinks and operates differently than we do. I guess this was one time that it really showed.


John

I remember that night well. Besides me finding out that the school actually considered me a supporter, which sucked, I remember that Win and Alecia spent a lot of time online, pretty late in fact, talking about what information ED had on Win and her family. I mostly just "listened" as they typed back and forth, and tried to be nice to Win, who, as you might guess, was also having a pretty crappy night. She found out from Alecia the name of her dad's first wife and when they had been married and divorced, and then Win told us all about her brother, the one who got caught embezzling from his employer, filling in the details ED didn't have. Win was really upset and Alecia, to her credit, was trying to help her calm down. I tried too.

I don't remember when we all signed off that night. I do remember that Janna got mad and told me I'd have to sleep on the couch if I didn't come to bed right then, so I waited five more minutes just to tick her off and then slept on the couch anyway.

I also remember that after that night, the three of us were friends. Alecia, the ultimate FIC; Win, conservative but not crazy; and me, the atheist/agnostic depraved reprobate guy. Somehow we had managed to actually make friends, all three of us, because there were some things we could agree on. Alecia taught at the school, but even she had to admit that they had lied about Micah's story for years. Win was still a Christian, but she understood why I hated FCU and everything it stood for. And as for me, Alecia and Win were both proof that even at FCU, there were some people who were still pretty decent human beings, no matter how religious they were. After all, nobody's perfect.

We all also agreed that Alecia's name couldn't be tied into anything bad about the school where it might show up in public, so in the days to come we would end up having a lot of private conversations off the page, just the three of us. Which was good, because the FCU Alumni Facebook page was about to get really weird.