The American Dissident: Literature, Democracy & Dissidence

Extract from Year of the Citizen, a Three-Act Play by G. Tod Slone

In other countries there was no free speech, while in America you could say anything you wanted but no one paid any attention.
—Ted Morgan, Literary Outlaw


Denial, it would appear, too often transforms academic freedom into academic license to cheat, distort with impunity, exploit, and where it suits a professor’s purposes, harass and intimidate.  Denial, moreover, transforms the norms of collegiality into a protective shield for the mis- and malfeasant, a shield so impenetrable as to rival any Star Wars fantasy fully and perfectly realized. […]  Few things in the world are as powerful as academic denial.  It has a feel-good, narcotic effect.  There is little it seems, dishonest or injurious enough to move those practiced in the art of self-deception even momentarily to accept the evidence of their senses and act accordingly.  Indeed some cases suggest the existence of a causal dynamic between egregiousness and academic denial.
—Michael Lewis, Poisoning the Ivy


The subject matter of this play is controversial.  However, it depicts a reality that needs to be addressed:  internal corruption in public higher education.  “In the Year of the Citizen” deals with this concern and more, for it also considers what can happen when the communities where such realities occur are confronted with them.  It is the story of Henry Cromby, a newly hired French and Spanish professor in the Humanities Department at Fitsham State College, small, century-old public institution located in an old run-down mill-town in Massachusetts.  After two decades of highly authoritarian administration, President  O’Malley announces his retirement, and Dr. Pernod eventually takes over, though nothing changes with that advent. 
“In the Year of the Citizen” begins with the subtle sexual come-ons of Dr. Dick Duhzar, Dr. Cromby’s chairperson and superior.  Because Dr. Cromby refuses the come-ons, retaliation results in sham teaching evaluations and other incidents of professional harassment.  Dr. Duhzar retires unexpectedly after an avalanche of complaints are filed by other department members.  Dr. Goodfellow, professor of music, takes over as chairperson and continues, to the surprise of most of his colleagues, the pattern of professional harassment established by his predecessor against Dr. Cromby. 

A general pervading atmosphere of denial, unprofessional behavior, and institutional mediocrity, resulting from two decades of autocracy, characterizes Fitsham State.  Denial is exemplified by the College’s selection of Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” as the freshman theme book for the Year of the Citizen, dubbed as such by the new College president.  Uncannily, neither the College’s professors nor administrators truly comprehend Ibsen’s work, yet the play is staged and, over the course of the academic year, various professors hold workshops and present lectures on it.  Incredibly, they fail to grasp that Ibsen was pointing the finger at people just like them.  They fail to perceive that their own microcosmic community, the College, is none other than an actualization of “An Enemy of the People.”  
The department chairs and administrators, on the one hand, and the professorate and the student body, on the other, are carbon copies of the “leaders” and “compact majority” Ibsen so detested.  “[The leaders], these parasites—all these venerable relics of a dying school of thought...constitute the most pressing danger to the community...  The most dangerous enemy of truth and freedom amongst us is the compact majority—yes, the damned compact Liberal majority...” 
Besides denial, authoritarianism has produced a fear-ridden and indifferent faculty motivated by special favors and conditioned to avoid, at all costs, conflict with those in power who, because of the very weak collective-bargaining agreement, arbitrarily wield the sword of retaliation, which can take any number of forms, including rejected grant applications, and sabbatical and course schedule requests.  Any professor, or student for that matter, daring to decry unprofessional or unethical behavior is ineluctably eschewed by the College, as well as by the surrounding community and, in some cases, designated a veritable enemy of the people. 
Because of circumstances and his deeply-rooted sense of ethics, Dr. Cromby is forced to follow the same path as Ibsen’s protagonist, Dr. John Stockmann who states that “It is the majority in our community that denies me my freedom and seeks to prevent my speaking the truth.”  The truth in Dr. Cromby’s case embraces not only the corrupt evaluation procedure, but also the revelation of the rampant cowardice and indifference of his colleagues, who, in a conspiracy of silence with the student and local newspaper editors, refuse to acknowledge, much less debate, the issues Dr. Cromby evokes in his various attempts to circulate information.  The period of time covered in the play is five years, comprising three chronological acts. 


Act I, Scene 1: At Dr. Duhzar’s home in the kitchen.  Dr. Duhzar has been inviting Dr. Cromby over nearly every Saturday or Sunday for several months.
Scene 2:   In the Geophysical Sciences office at the College.  A handful of professors chat and eat
cake in celebration of the successful lecture Dr. Cromby presented the day before.
Act II, Scene 1: In a conference room at the College.  Drs. Brightmore, Howard and Professor Costello
meet as the second Ad Hoc committee formed to evaluate Dr. Cromby’s teaching.
Scene 2: In the Vice President of Academic Affairs’ conference room.  Drs. Neuberger, Bach, Cromby and Captain Hagman sit around a conference table where Dr. Cromby is issued a formal no-trespass order.
Scene 3: In a branch office of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).  In front of a large conference room, the College’s Affirmative Action officer and deacon, Ms. Mary Thomas, Drs. Cromby and Brightmore are seated before three male MCAD hearing officers.  In the back of the room is a crowd of people, each waiting for his or her particular hearing.  Dr. Cromby had filed a formal sexual harassment charge against Dr. Duhzar and the College.
Scene 4:  In another College conference room.  Drs. Cromby, Goodfellow, Neuberger and Belly, as well as Attorneys Peet and Wanderton, the arbitrator Goldberg and a stenographer sit around a table in the context of an arbitration hearing.
Act III,                                   Scene 1: In the living room at home, Drs. Brightmore and Cromby discuss the latter’s case. 
Scene 2:                 Downtown Fitsham in front of The Sentry newspaper office.  Dr. Cromby is standing
with a knapsack full of flyers, informing the public about corruption at Fitsham State.  Dr. Jeffries, Professor Ailleurs, Judge Zyedeco, Man-In-White-Shirt-And-Tie and Professor Beedle exit the Platte Club, which is adjacent to The Sentry.  Dr. Cromby hands out flyers and provokes conversation with each party.

(All characters may easily be doubled or tripled)

Dr. Henry Cromby— New faculty member on the tenure track in the Humanities department.  He is about 45.
Dr. Dick Duhzar— Chairperson of the Humanities department.  He is about 60 and wears an evident black toupee.
Dr. Bob Chaplin— Chairperson of Geophysical Sciences.  About 50.
Dr. Izzy Valnad— Physics professor.  About 55.
Dr. Dick Glib— Philosophy professor in the Humanities department.  About 50.
Dr. Robert Grant— Chairperson of Graduate Education.  About 65. 
Dr. Jeanne Brightmore— French professor in the Humanities department.  About 50.
Barbara— Shared secretary of Geophysical Sciences and the Humanities department.  About 35.
Dr. Geoffrey Howard— Chairperson of the Biology department.  About 50. 
Professor. Louis Costello— Art professor in the Humanities department.  About 60.
Professor Jeannette Farkstein— Spanish professor in the Humanities department.  About 50. Has a Spanish accent.
Dr. Franz Neuberger— Vice President of Academic Affairs.  About 60.  Has a thick German accent.
Dr. Helen Bach—  Dean of students and curriculum.  About 50.
Captain Hagman— Campus police chief.
Mary Thomas— Director of Personnel, Affirmative Action officer and College deacon.  About 40.
Hearing Officer In The Middle— Middle-aged man in white shirt and tie. 
Hearing Officer To The Right— Middle-aged man in white shirt and tie. 
Hearing Officer To The Left— Middle-aged man in white shirt and tie. 
Dr. Harry Goodfellow— Music professor who replaces Dr. Duhzar as chairperson of Humanities.  About 60.
Dr. Jack Belly— German professor in the Humanities department and Chapter president of the union.  About 50. 
Lisa Wanderton— The union attorney. 
Malcolm Peet— The college attorney. 
Wendy Goldberg— Arbitrator.

Dr. Will Jeffries— Philosophy professor in the Humanities department.  Wears a brown wig.  About 50.
Long-Haired Teenager.
Professor Dave Ailleurs — Physical Education professor.  About 35.
Senior-Citizen Woman.
Judge Jack Zydeco— Local judge, part-time professor and husband of the Dean of Continuing Education.
Man-In-White-Shirt-And-Tie— Bill Wicks, editor of the local newspaper, The Sentry.
Professor Carol Beedle— Physical Education professor.  About 50. 


ACT  I  (Scene 1)
Dr. Henry Cromby is seated in the kitchen with Dr. Dick Duhzar, who has just served coffee and is cutting up a sticky bun loaf with a large butcher knife.  He gets his thumb full of white icing, waves it around for a while, then sucks on it.  It is Sunday morning.  Dr. Cromby has been going to Dr. Duhzar’s home reluctantly at the latter’s request nearly every weekend since he began teaching at Fitsham State College several months earlier.  He is wearing a black shirt, jeans and black leather jacket; Dr. Duhzar, baby blue pyjamas, slippers and a black toupee.

Dr. Duhzar—  This stuff is real tasty.  I got it down at Shaw’s on sale, fifty percent off.  It’s a week old, but that doesn’t matter.  Heat it up a bit and you’d never know.  Where do you go in town, Henry?
Dr. Cromby— (A bit groggy.)  What do you mean?
Dr. Duhzar— You know:  Demoula’s, Star, Shop & Save, Purity, Victory?
Dr. Cromby— Hell, I don’t know… sometimes the Market Basket, sometimes Harker’s.
Dr. Duhzar— Oh, well, that’s what I call Demoula’s.  The Demoula brothers own the Market Basket just like the

DiGeronomo brothers own Victory and the Harker brothers, Harker’s.  Jack Harker went to BC.  Andy, well I don’t know if he went to college or not, but Jack, he majored in business and did pretty damn well as you can see.  BC has a good program. 
Dr. Cromby— How do you know all that, Dick?
Dr. Duhzar— You want another cup of coffee?
Dr. Cromby— Yeah, okay. 
Dr. Duhzar— (Gets up from the table, walks over to the stove.)   Well, I went to BC, the seminary, and almost became a goddamn priest.  Those Jesuits will keep you in line, boy.  Besides, I get the local paper, you know, The Sentry.  I also get The Boston Globe.  You ought to get that yourself now that you’re in Massachusetts.
Dr. Cromby— The Globe or The Sentry?
Dr. Duhzar— Well, probably The Globe, though it wouldn’t hurt to get both.  Sometimes The Sentry covers local stuff that The Globe doesn’t cover.  Bill Hines’ death wasn’t in The Globe.  They didn’t cover O’Malley’s heart attack either. 
Dr. Cromby— O’Malley had a heart attack? 
Dr. Duhzar— Yeah.  He’s had several.  Used to be a big drinker.  I never touch the stuff.
Dr. Cromby— You don’t drink anything?
Dr. Duhzar— Not a thing.  Never have.  When the boys down at the Elk’s have their beers, I order water.  I play cards every Saturday night with them.  You ought to come down with me.  Been a member for years.  Anyhow, we all thought O’Malley was a goner.  All you have to do is look at his face:  drinker’s pink with Irish veinlets.  I think Neuberger was rubbing his hands, thinking it was his time. 
Dr. Cromby— Is that how it works?  The vice president takes over if the president dies? 
Dr. Duhzar— Well, yes, at least until they find someone else.  But usually it’s someone from inside.  Neuberger just might get it.  It’s hard to say.  But O’Malley’s still kicking.  He’s just got to let up on the hard stuff a bit.  He’d been hitting it real heavy before the attack.  Not long ago, he stood right up on a table at a faculty dinner and started singing “Danny Boy.”  You should have seen him.  He’s got a good voice, you know.  Used to sing in the choral over at Farmington State.  That’s his alma mater.   
Dr. Cromby— He got a doctorate from there?

Dr. Duhzar— Yes he did, in education.  First one in the history of the College. 
Dr. Cromby— You mean the other presidents didn’t have doctorates? 
Dr. Duhzar— Nope.  All had master’s degrees, except Kerry and Conlin.  They only had bachelor’s. 
Dr. Cromby— Well, I guess that’s pretty good then, hah?
Dr. Duhzar— I guess, you could say that.  No sugar right, Henry?
Dr. Cromby— No. 
Dr. Duhzar— (Brings two cups of coffee back to the table and sits down.)  How about another sugar bun? 
Dr. Cromby— No thanks.
Dr. Duhzar— (Cuts a bun with the butcher knife.  Butters it.  Stuffs it into his mouth, chews and swallows.)  Boy, they’re tasty, even a week old.  You know last week I clipped out a coupon for Tide.  That’s another reason why you should get the papers.  If you want I could call up Bill Wicks first thing tomorrow and get your name on the list.
Dr. Cromby— Who’s Bill Wicks?
Dr. Duhzar— Former student of mine.  Now he’s the editor of The Sentry.  I had him in Philosophy of Love back in 1959.  Gave him an A-. 
Dr. Cromby— Geeze, how can you remember that?
Dr. Duhzar— I don’t know.  Just sticks in the mind. You know, I can list all the Popes.  In fact, I can name them going backwards chronologically.  Pope John-Paul II, Pope John-Paul I, Pope Paul VI, Pope John XXIII, Pope Pious XII…
Dr. Cromby— Wow.   
Dr. Duhzar— So, how about it?
Dr. Cromby— How about what?
Dr. Duhzar— Subscribing.
Dr. Cromby— Oh, that.  I don’t know.  I’m not really set yet.  I’m still over at the motel.  I don’t know how long I’ll be

Dr. Duhzar— Whatever.  You could always fill out a change of address card.  Just let me know when you’re ready and I’ll give Bill a call. 
Dr. Cromby— Thanks, I’ll do that.
Dr. Duhzar— So, as I was saying, I got that coupon for Tide and brought it down to Purity’s.  They double them at Purity’s.  Don’t go to Demoula’s when you have coupes.  They don’t.  I got the box for $1.50.  But I had a rebate slip too, so I sent that out with the register receipt and the UPC code.  You know, the symbol on top of the box that goes under the scanner.  They’re going to send me a check for $1.50, and I’ll end up paying nothing for the stuff.  Well, sure, there’s the stamp, you’ll say, but I always slip these things in with the College mail.  Hell, I’m chairperson.  You use coupes, don’t you, Henry?
Dr. Cromby— Well, uh, sure, I guess when I get them.  What’s that noise I keep hearing, Dick?
Dr. Duhzar— Oh, that’s nothing.  (Walks into the bathroom, which is in the kitchen.  Doesn’t close the door and starts urinating.  Keeps talking.)  It’s a police-fire scanner, uh, oo, that feels good.  I can’t drink fluids like I used to.  They just come right out of me, oo.  I can’t drink anything after six o’clock, you know, or I’ll be up the whole goddamn night.  Anyhow, that’s how I first found out about old man Hines.  I keep it on all the time.  You have to keep informed, you know.  Fire scanner’s probably the best way to do that.  Just last night there was a call for 280 Highland Avenue, just around the corner from here.  Old lady Scanlon must have fell out of her bed again.  God, she’s a heavy smoker.  Every time I see her down at Purity’s, she’s got one in her mouth.  Lucky for her, they caught it on time.  Her daughter, Emily, has a degree from the College, you know.  Oh, I had her in Philosophy 1010.  Gave her a D.  That was back in, uh, let’s see, Reagan’s first term began in 1980, well, 81 to be exact.  Yeah, that was back in 1982.  She must have graduated in ‘84 because she was a sophomore in my class.  She’s married to an insurance salesman now, Jack Gilbert.  He tried to sell me a policy, but no way Jose.  I’m with Hancock.  (Steps out of the bathroom.)  God, that was good.  Look at this Henry.  (Stands two inches in front of Henry, and then quickly lifts up his pajama shirt, exposing a large belly scar.) 
Dr. Cromby— Geeze, Dick, give me a little space, will you?  (Pushes him away slightly.)

Dr. Duhzar— That’s from my gallbladder.  Had to get it removed five years ago.  Some scar, hah?  (Puts the shirt back
in place and sits down.)
Dr. Cromby— I guess so.  (Looks a bit perturbed.)
Dr. Duhzar— Say, Henry, what’s your p.s.a.?
Dr. Cromby— My what? 
Dr. Duhzar— You know, your p.s.a..
Dr. Cromby— I don’t know.  What’s that?
Dr. Duhzar— Oh, yours is probably around three or four, but you should find out for sure.  You never know.   I bet you don’t know what your triglycerides are either. 
Dr. Cromby— You’re right on that one, Dick.  Aren’t you going to tell me what p.s.a. means?
Dr. Duhzar— So what is it?
Dr. Cromby— What’s what?
Dr. Duhzar— Your p. s. a..  I thought I told you last week.
Dr. Cromby— You probably did, I just don’t remember.
Dr. Duhzar— Well, it means prosthetic specific antigen.  It’s a chemical in the prostate.  If you have 14, you’re in big trouble, boy.  That’s why you’d better find out what yours is. Did you decide on an insurance plan yet?
Dr. Cromby— Uh, no.  I haven’t really had time to give it much thought.
Dr. Duhzar— Well, you better get that taken care of.  Go with Hancock.  I’m with Hancock.  Jeannette has Tuft’s Medical.  But you can’t choose your doctor like you can with Hancock.  She’s going to be sorry one of these days.  Go down to personnel first thing tomorrow, well, not first thing but after your Beginning French class.  You have an hour free then.  I could go down with you and help you fill out all the papers.  Then you could get your p.s.a. and triglycerides checked.  I’ll make an appointment for you at the hospital.  You know, Hearn set up an appointment for me to take an ultrasound.  I was sure they didn’t do that kind of testing at Bates, but I went down there anyway, and sure enough I was right. 
Dr. Cromby— Who’s Hearn?

Dr. Duhzar— Oh, he lives up the street.  Went to Worcester Tech.  Now he’s a cancer specialist.  He was a student of mine back in ‘73.  Philosophy of Ethics, I think it was.  Yeah, that’s what it was.  Room 213 in old Morse Hall. The bulldozers took everything with them in ‘75.  That’s where the Northside parking lot is now.  Gave him a B+.  Oh, he was mad as hell, but he got over it.
Dr. Cromby— You better hope he did. 
Dr. Duhzar— So he had to set up another one down in Worcester.
Dr. Cromby— Another what?
Dr. Duhzar— Another appointment.  So I drove down there yesterday, took it all off and lay in fetal position.  How about a bun, Henry?
Dr. Cromby— No that’s all right, thanks.
Dr. Duhzar— (Slowly starts to cut another bun with the butcher knife.)  Jenson tells me, don’t worry it’s not going to hurt.  I say to myself, oh yeah, tell me about it.  Well, he’s right.  It doesn’t hurt, it just feels a little uncomfortable.  So he digs this big wand instrument into my rectum and starts pushing and pulling and ramming.  (Lifts the butcher knife up and starts mimicking the probe.)  He said I was lucky I had a small one. 
Dr. Cromby— A small one?
Dr. Duhzar— Yeah, not my asshole, my prostate.  Then he says the right dorsal area looks funny, so he wants to check it out for calcium deposits.  That’s bad.  Then he takes another instrument, like a small spatula or something, and shoves it up there and starts moving that around too.  By that time, sweet Jesus, I mean with those two prods up there I was at the guy’s mercy.  Then he says I’ll be pissing blood for a couple of days and not to worry about it.  The test went all right okay, but I sure as hell couldn’t sit too well when I drove home.  I shot a load at night and Christ there was blood all over the place. Yeah, you better have your p. s. a. checked, Henry. 
Dr. Cromby— I’ll do that.  Listen, I got to get going early today, Dick.  I’ve got to do a lot of preparations this afternoon.  Ellen, my girlfriend, said she’d be calling too.  

Dr. Duhzar— I didn’t tell you about the gallbladder operation, now, did I?  It was quite something, you know.  Dr. Bigsby’s retired now and living over on Beel Street.  His wife was a nurse over at Bates Hospital.  She divorced him in ‘84, or maybe it was ‘85.  Yeah, it was ‘85.  That’s when they put the new road in down at Willard....  (The curtain falls as Dr. Duzhar continues yapping.)  They’ve got two daughters and a son.  All of them went to the College.  Well, Mary only took a couple of courses, but Jane and Herman got their degrees there.  Herman’s working up at the electric plant.  Mary’s got a couple of kids now.  Her husband’s in sales over at...