No one danced in the Ballroom. A series of Vice Princes claimed they had already cut every unessential servant in their budgets. The last Vice Prince to speak was a woman who decreed: CUT THE EDUCATORS! Cut 50 of them!
Two days later, Cinderella put in her service to the Kingdom, then went home. She was laboring over the slimy seeds of a butternut squash, when her common, unionized, prince walked in out of breath.
“Check your messages!”
Cinderella opened her tablet. The Dutchess had assigned her a date and time (Friday, December 11, 2pm) to be sentenced to exile.
She posted on Fairy Book that she was laid off, wandered up the stairs and down, then sat with her family to attempt to swallow a soft pudding of butternut squash.
Cinderella didn’t need a dutchess. She needed a fairy godmother.
Cinderella lay awake all night, and then dressed for an 8:00 am interview committee meeting for director of the Western Courier. Upon entering the hall, she saw the Vice Prince of the committee and recalled that he had only recently become a member of the court. And then she looked at the candidate and realized that she—or any journalism faculty—could have done the job they were interviewing him for. She looked down and her own tears falling on the sheet of interview questions, blurring the words.
The Dukes and Dutchesses began to read an identical lay-off notification script to 40 or 50 professors. 15 of them were either tenured or had tenure in hand—Cinderella’s tenure file was complete—all the criteria met, the rest was formality.
The Dutchess of the Liberal Arts and Sciences wore black. Four others attended the sentencing: the Chair of Women’s Studies and three members of the union leadership. The Dutchess unrolled the scroll and read: “You are being laid off.” Cinderella had three semesters left in her contract.
Cinderella asked the Dutchess why her junior step-sister was protected. “Because she can teach German.” If German was so much more essential than Spanish and Women’s Studies, Cinderella later thought, after the step-sister suddenly resigned, why hasn’t this German-speaking step-sister been replaced?
“But,” the Dutchess said, “I will not cut off your head!”
The following week, the King and his court returned to the Ballroom, and invited the lowly unionized educators, but again, not for dancing.
Cinderella and her laid-off colleagues sat in the front row as the King and his court discussed their fates.
During the break, the King called to Cinderella and her senior sister.
“Cinderella, Tabitha, come here,” he said.
Cinderella’s heart fluttered—the King could end her layoff sentence. HE COULD END IT! right then and there, for her and the rest of the doomed educators, and then they could all dance, like one is supposed to do in a ballroom.
“I didn’t make that layoff list. I know I’m still responsible,” the King said, when no one else was close enough to hear, “but we’ll work to remove some of the names from the list.”
Cinderella delightedly skipped around the room until she spied her lowly prince, an optimist who found the words of the King reassuring.
Before the King dismissed his subjects for Holiday, they decided to delay the decision on the fates of the laid-off educators.
At Cinderella’s Christmas table, once the feast was cleared, she asked the family Wizard, a retired Vice Prince, a scholar who defended the liberal arts, what he made of the layoff decrees.
“It sounds like a Joker made that list, but a sharp one, trained in business,” said the wise old Wizard.
“I’m a line on a spreadsheet?? That’s bloody medieval!”
“He or she was looking only at numbers,” replied the Wizard, “but if the King says to you or anyone that he didn’t make that list, he should be dethroned.”
Cinderella balked. She held fast to her fairy tale that the King and his court and his Vice Princes were curious thinkers, capable of broad and balanced perspectives. They were creative and open-minded, and would defend the Liberal Arts. Educators were not the King’s medieval subjects. Or maybe they were.