© Andy Turnbull, 2006

For more than 100 years the University of Gnostophobia has been the most progressive educational institution in Googlopia. With the completion of the Lector computer system it will become the first university in the world to reach perfection.

The system was developed by Dr. Sylvester Snodgrass, founder of the university's school of administration and father of the modern science of manageering.

Born on a farm in the far north, Snodgrass was orphaned at the tender age of 17 years when his parents fell into a threshing machine. He moved to Gollywally, and spent his inheritance in two years riotous living.

Then he applied for a job as professor at the university but, because he had never finished grade school, he had to take work as an under-gardener.

Within weeks he was promoted to full gardener and then, after the former head fell into a leaf shredding machine, to head gardener.

Normally the head's job would have gone to the former assistant head gardener but the assistant head declined, because of a sudden nervous breakdown.

The assistant was confined to hospital after he developed an unreasonable fear of Snodgrass. Three weeks later he ran away from the hospital, broke into the university's scholastic records department, threw the records into a leaf shredder and then jumped into the shredder himself.

He must have been in an insane frenzy when he did it, because the police who investigated found that it took at least three normal men to carry the leaf shredder up the stairs to the records office.

Overcome by grief Snodgrass and three of his gardeners volunteered to repair the damage, with scotch tape, on their own time.

Six months later Snodgrass was hired as personnel manager, after the former personnel manager disappeared one night.

Unkind critics have suggested that Snodgrass may have been connected with the disappearance, but three gardeners testified that Snodgrass had spent the whole of that night repairing a shredder that had unaccountably become clogged with some unidentified gummy red substance.

Other critics suggested that Snodgrass was not eligible for the personnel job because he had no degree, but a check of the scholastic records showed that he had earned a Spinster's degree in Obfuscation, a Mistress' degree in Perdition and a Quacktorate in Mendication three years before he came to work at the university.

After reviewing Snodgrass' credentials and record university president Dr. Craven Crawler realized that Snodgrass was in fact qualified to be president of the university and he offered to retire, but Snodgrass urged him to stay.

If Dr. Crawler found the work onerous, Snodgrass suggested, an administrative committee of department managers might be formed to advise him. Crawler immediately asked Snodgrass to form and chair the committee.

Snodgrass was also installed as manager of the personnel department, and he established the policy that all university employees must have degrees.

That, he said, would make it possible to promote from within because if all employees had degrees, all would be qualified for any job. Besides, he pointed out, very few graduates could find jobs and it was only fair that the university that granted their degrees should provide as many jobs as possible.

In order to make the policy easier to administer the scholastic records department was integrated with the personnel department and, after the former manager of the scholastic records department accidentally fell into a leaf shredder, Snodgrass became manager of both departments.

The policy sparked new growth in the university, as new courses were developed to train students for the enhanced job opportunities. The first was a course in lawn administration, taught by two of the gardeners who had Mistress' degrees in mowing and Quacktorates in fertilization. A third gardener, who had a Quacktorate in Coercion, was named dean of the School of Political Correction.

Other departments offered degrees in floor sweeping, dog walking, dish washing and typing but the university still produced graduates faster than it could hire them. The ranks of unemployed arts graduates continued to grow until Snodgrass established the university's now-famous School of Administration Arts, with himself as the dean.

In the past, Snodgrass said, administrators had risen through the ranks of the companies and organizations they administered and while they might know something about the organizations, they knew nothing at all about administration.

Such administrators sometimes gave priority to the needs of their organization over the needs of their own department, and over the needs of administrators of other organizations.

As properly trained administrators they would learn to ignore trivial concerns, the better to concentrate on the welfare of administrators and administrations.

"The world consists," Snodgrass said, "of administrators and administratees, and it is better to be an administrator"

And, he pointed out, since the need for administrators is infinitely elastic they would never run out of jobs. With proper management the university itself would be able to hire all graduates of the school of administration.

Details of the actual course in administration are sketchy, because of the administrative policy of confidentiality, but there is no doubt that the school is a success. It now occupies three quarters of the available space in the university.

The other one-quarter of the university is occupied by the administration itself. Some other departments tried to limit the growth of the school of administration, but complaints stopped after a few people were sent to the school of political correction for re-education.

The Lector system got its start when professors who did not survive re-education were replaced with computers. The next step came after courses in political correction were mandated for all students. Enrollment dropped off, and university grants were threatened.

But if computers can teach classes, Snodgrass said, they can also learn. With a special grant the university bought 10,000 small computers to act as students to the computer teachers. As students, of course, they are eligible for grants.

The system is now being installed. When it is complete the University of Gnostophobia will have achieved perfection, with the faculty and student body almost completely replaced by computers.

The School of Political Correction has not yet been computerized but the Faculty of Coercion Engineering has nearly completed development of a computerized leaf shredder.


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