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by Diana Senechal

“I created an algorithm for the search committee to select the perfect presidential candidate without any interviews or committee meetings,” said a consultant for the 21st century. “The new president will have already saved the institution over $12,000 in search costs before she walks in the door.”

Tempura, AZ—In a stunning press release last month, Tamkin University, whose long-term president would retire at the end of the year, announced its decision to have the presidential selection committee consist of the 21st century itself.

“While we deeply appreciate your thoughtfulness in nominating hundreds of qualified individuals to the role of committee members,” the release explained, “we have decided that there could be no better committee than the 21st century. While such an entity may seem abstract to you, it embodies the diversity and innovation that we as a community cherish. In addition, it will ensure that the new president obeys the mandates of the times.”

Public outrage followed.

What community?” asked a senior in a blistering opinion piece. “Why must any president obey the mandates of the times?” a literature professor raged. “It should be ‘obey,’ subjunctive,” a graduate student noted. “The 21st century’s getting uppity, as I see it,” fumed a homeless man.

Petitions circulated; some thousand people protested outside the Office of 21st Century Skills, which did not respond to our phone calls or emails.

When contacted by Skype, the 21st century told us affably that it had designated twelve puppet committee members in order to appease the crowd. “People need to think they have some influence here,” it drawled, flashing an ephemeral smile. “So much so, in fact, that they’d rather obey all my mandates than give up their committee seat.”

Two days later, the university apologized for the misunderstanding and announced its “official” committee members: two economists who invented a numerical measure of human worth, a holistic group communications specialist, a computer scientist who had convinced her department to eliminate all theoretical courses, a tech-savvy student, a physicist who was told he didn’t have to attend meetings, five hedge fund managers, and an English professor who taught the oversubscribed course “YouTube and You.” They selected the new president within minutes, thanks to the 21st century’s promptings, but pretended to take three more weeks.

“Picking someone that fast is a bit suspect,” observed an anonymous committee member. “Plus, we get more pizza this way.”

Never one to turn down a PR opportunity, the 21st century divulged its tactics to us. “I told them to steer clear of anyone with a background in the humanities,” it said. “Humanities are messy and old. We want someone with a good grasp of the lingo. Someone who isn’t afraid to call herself data-driven. Someone who isn’t too tied to history.”

The incoming president, Stultitia Leeg, told us in person that she was “honored to have this opportunity to lead a notable institution into the future.” Her priorities, she said, were to “align academic goals with our national security needs, implement standardized assessments, exceed the demands of the global economy, endorse market-based innovation, and embrace change of all kinds. You can call this the AIEEE plan.”

Regarding the last point, she admitted with a blush that she had recently entered a relationship with the 21st century. “We’re very much in love,” she said. “I don’t know how long it will last. Change is change. But the outcome will determine the value of the input, so all I can say is, look forward to the future. Because that’s where we almost are.”