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Atlas’ big smug shrug

WCUBy Ron Robinson • Guest Columnist

The other day I attended a basketball game at Western Mountain University. I could not help noticing a very large person sitting in the upper decks near the rafters. He seemed intensely focused on the game and was continually smiling. Sometimes even grinning. My curiosity was growing, so at halftime I climbed the stairs to his seat.

I greeted the trendy casual but expensively dressed gentleman and introduced myself. He then introduced himself. 

“They call me Atlas,” he said with a grin. 

“I see, do you have a last name?” I asked. 

“Shrugged,” he stated. 

“The Atlas Shrugged,” I asked.

“Yes,” he admitted, “one and the same”. 

“You seem to be in a very good mood,” I observed.

“Yes,” he said. “I am ecstatic. You see, I made an offer to buy this university and made a down payment of $2 million just before Christmas. I really like what I see here. The basketball team is doing better and generating positive revenue. The football team’s numbers last year were better and we are expecting even better receipts this year. The school increased tuition and fees again this year with more increases scheduled next year. Our revenue should be in great shape going forward. We have gotten labor costs under control. The average faculty and staff salary is lower than before the 2008 crash and total salary budget is also lower. Worker productivity has skyrocketed since we increased the number of classes and class sizes per faculty member”.

“You must be very happy”, I said.

“Yes, things are looking up. With the assistance of Coca and Cola, the Coke brothers, we installed Libertarian Economics professor, Ted Rolex, PhD, here and the General Assembly selected our candidate to be the new system president.” 

“I hear she has difficulty with grammar” I observed. 

“Possibly, but her Spelling is fairly good and she is familiar with our next steps”. 

“Next steps?” I asked. 

“Yes, our strategy is to do here what we did with another university. We bought the University of Airy Zone’s Freebird campus and with her on our board, converted it from a public institution to a for-profit enterprise ‘cash cow.’  We call it ‘Greater Flexibility and Lower Student Costs.’ We replaced tenured faculty with adjuncts and automated classes with e-learning programs developed by a partner enterprise. We bilked the U.S. Department of Education out of millions of dollars making our stockholders quite wealthy.” 

“What about the students,” I asked. 

“Oh, them.” Atlas said. “Our philosophy is to be Objective. Everyone is expected to look out for their own best interests.” 

“I hear students are unhappy, have burdensome debt, and have been unable to find employment.” 

“That is their problem. They should have done more research before attending our schools,” he said. “We shrug off their complaints”.

“Aren’t students and faculty complaining?” I asked. 

“Naw, we tell students tuition is less than other campuses and faculty is kept in line with heavy workloads.“

“Well, I can certainly see why you are smiling. It sounds like you are setting the table for another great success story for your investors.”

“Yes, the General Assembly is very excited and legislators are lining up to invest. We have big plans including changing the name of Western Mountain University to Appalachian Leadership Education College or A.L.E.C. for short. This could be bigger than Freebird University and go international. You can get in on it too!” 

I noticed the teams coming back on the court so I thanked Atlas for his time and went back to my seat. The players did seem older and more like a semi-pro team I thought. Maybe they should change their mascot name to Privateers. Might play well on Wall Street.

(Ron Robinson of Sylva can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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