by Sasha Tremento
Amanda Chen, recently elected student representative to the Southwest State University Board of Regents, launched a hostile takeover of the board yesterday, declaring, “Enough of this touchy-feely student-centered crap. It’s time we bring some metrics and some hard-assed accountability to this flakey operation.”
The student regent seat has long been considered primarily ceremonial, a learning opportunity for undergraduates interested in careers in policy and public service. The student regent isn’t allowed to vote, but is rather a liaison tasked with bringing student concerns to the board’s attention.
A shocked Simon Wartly, president of the board, said after the meeting, “You could have knocked us over with a feather. We’ve been operating very frugally the last couple years and have made some painful cuts. But I guess we just weren’t moving fast enough.”
“We thought students wanted us to focus on preserving cherished programs, facilities, traditions, and the reputation of the institution,” said Christina Wellington, of the Wellington banking and realty empire. “And here comes Amanda, calling for budget blood. A few of my fellow regents were literally in tears. One had to be hospitalized.”
“This ain’t a freakin’ popularity contest,” Chen told reporters after the tense meeting at the Brimley Administration Building. “Let’s cut the sentimental crap, shall we? It’s time to smell the coffee, lower that endowment spending, and pump up the profits, people!” Sipping a grande cappuccino, Chen demanded that tuitions be raised by 20 percent, that 15 percent of the teaching budget be shifted to tech-transfer research in the professional schools, and that an across-the-board 10-percent cut be made in all undergraduate programs and facilities, with an additional annual 5 percent for each of the successive six fiscal years.
Wellington called the proposals “absurd,” and Wartly said they were “beyond draconian—we can’t make that kind of cut and still call ourselves a university.”
But Chen called her agenda “new priorities for a new era,” and said regents could “embrace it or kiss off.”
Friends and classmates of Chen said they were dumbfounded by the sudden change in her thinking and demeanor.
“She was always incredibly soft-spoken and tactful,” said Peter Stanton, a high-school friend of Chen’s and her regent-race campaign manager. “Her position papers were all about enhancing teaching and emphasizing the academic and cultural richness of undergraduate life, starting a new intramural squash league, reviving the foreign-film club, that sort of thing. Then, after she was elected, she attended one dinner with, like, some higher-ups and legislators and alums, and then, two days later, she went to her first regent’s meeting and just went ape. I texted her asking, you know, what gives, but she just flamed me on Twitter. This is not the girl I knew in madrigals.”
Though the regents are still sifting through details with their attorneys, it appears that Chen, a petite comparative-literature major in her junior year, an accomplished ice dancer, and a violist with the university’s Baroque Chamber Consort, has leveraged some previously unknown political and financial muscle on Wall Street and in the state capital to buy out the other regents.
Chen denied this reporter access to the documents she handed out at the meeting, and other participants said they were too intimidated to share them. Said one attendee, who, lip quivering, asked not to be identified: “Chen said if we leaked anything, she’d tear us a new one, if not in American courts, then offshore. I’m sorry – I’d like to help you. I just can’t.”
But Marv Baiston, chair of the Alumni Investment Overseer Group, did say: “From what I’ve heard, this was prepared deftly, quietly, and ruthlessly. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars in blue-chip equities, and that’s on the front end. Then there’s a series of highly sophisticated stock swaps and commodity futures involved in the follow-up. It gets exceedingly complicated, but it’s for real. Apparently there’s some loophole in the original 1847 university charter that gives her the right to go through with this. No one had ever noticed it before.”
“We’re reading the details carefully,” said a tearful Sean Crayshaw, chief operating officer of Red Rock Turbine, a great-great grandson of Southwest State’s first president, and a regent for 37 years. “But we’re talking a 1,500-page binder here. I have to be careful what I say. Her legal team is very aggressive. We don’t want to rush to judgment on this thing. We haven’t arrived at a formal position. I will say this Chen woman sure seems to have her ducks in a row. You don’t have to like her, but you do have to respect her.”
“I’ve never even heard of something like this,” said a visibly shaken and pale Southwest State President Glenn Brimmer. “I mean, it’s just crazy. She would, for all practical purposes, own the university. We’ll have to fight this. I’m speaking with our counsel, but it’s a little early yet to say just how we might respond.”
“Brimmer? Oh, puh-lease,” said Chen of the 26-year president, former provost, and beloved Donne scholar. Chugging Red Bull at last night’s fund raiser for a newly proposed, privately funded Southwest Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, she added, “He wouldn’t know an opportunity if it came up and bit him on the thigh. Hey, could you pass me another of those crab cakes?”
Said state legislator Bobby Clemmington, “I’m just happy to see someone there in the University of Fairyland with their feet on the ground. This Chen gal seems like someone we can finally do business with.”
That sentiment was echoed by Muriel Peakley, chief executive of the esteemed, secretive, and privately held Globus & Sporn New York investment-banking group, which Chen hinted was involved in the takeover. “Amanda may seem quiet,” chuckled Peackley, “but she sure knows how to play the hand she’s dealt. I don’t know what promises she made or precisely what her vision is, but she clearly has a very bright future ahead of her.”