With the sad news of Wharton Dean Harker fleeing Penn for more, well, Delawarian pastures, we at the Punch Bowl are reminded of Winter 1988, during the life and times of another famous Wharton dean.
Somewhere Over the Schuykill
Dorothi sat in her dorm room in the University of Kansas, brooding over how boring the campus life was since the basketball team was banned from the post-season play.
“Jeepers! Campus life is boring since the basketball team is banned from post-season play. Maybe I should transfer to another school, where the weather is lousy, crime is rampant, and I can live two blocks away from a professional wrestling arena. I know! I’ll transfer to Penn State.”
It of course comes as no surprise that Dorothi, through a bizarre admissions mishap, accidently applied to the University of Pennsylvania instead. She was accepted easily, being the only applicant from Kansas.
Dorothi knew something was wrong as soon as she saw her dorm room in Hill House. Then she found out it was a double. Then she met Munchi Kinstein, her roommate.
“Oh, like glad to meet you,” squeaked Munchi. Dorothi approached her, but Munchi suddenly screeched in utter pain.
“Oh my gawd! Like where did you get those shoes!” Munchi pointed in horror at the tiny ruby clogs Dorothi wore. “Like clogs are so out of it! Don’t wear them when I’m in the state. Gawd, where are you from, Kansas?”
Dorothi sat on her bed and cried. “I can’t take this place. I want to go home!”
“And about time, too,” said Munchi, throwing her roommates’ clothes around the room. “I mean, you don’t have anything in my size. Besides, I need the closest space. You should go see the Wizard. He’ll help you.”
“Who is the Wizard?” asked a depressed Dorothi.
“He lives on the other end of campus. Just follow Locust Walk.”
So Dorothi set off to find this Wizard who would help her go home. But as soon as she was outside Hill, she was approached by the evil Financial Aid Officer who stuck a warty nose in her face and said with a breath of halitosis, “Your financial aid was rejected. You can’t be on work-study. We revoked your meal plan. Your major was cancelled.”
“I don’t care. The Wizard will help me.”
At the mention of the word “Wizard,” the Officer screamed in hideous pain. But the Financial Aid witch would not be beat. “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little clogs too!” (You had to see it coming.)
Dorothi continued on her quest for the Wizard. She didn’t get as far as Van Pelt, when she saw a large senior sitting on the button. He looked very depressed. Dorothi approached him.
“What’s the matter?” asked Dorothi.
“I haven’t passed a single course since I got here,” said the Jock. “And Coach says if I don’t meet aca… Aca Joe…”
“Academic standards?” offered Dorothi.
“Uhh, yeah. Those. If I don’t do it, I’ll lose my single in the Quad and I’ll have to live in a single in the High Rises!”
Well, Dorothi could not bear to see a student maltreated like that. “Listen,” she offered, “I’m going to see the Wizard to see if he can get me home. Maybe he can get you some grades.”
So, the two set off for the Wizard, following Locust Walk. But when they reached 36th street, Dorothi saw one of her professors who looked very distraught. Dorothi went up to him and asked him what was wrong.
“I’m being reviewed for tenure this year, but I don’t think I’ll be accepted,” said the Professor.
“Why?” cried Dorothi. “You’re a great teacher, you’re the foremost expert in your field, and you’ve published a dozen books and hundreds of prestigious articles.”
“I’m in the Political Science Department.”
“Oh,” said Dorothi glumly, “I’m sorry.” Then her face brightened. “Maybe the Wizard can help. Jock is here looking for grades, and I want to go home. I’m sure he can get you tenure.” The Professor quickly agreed and they were off again.
They didn’t take more than two steps when Dorothi was suddenly accosted by a short nerdy kid with glasses and a bright red three-ring binder.
“Hey, babe!” the Penngineer said confidently, “Wanna do it in Fortran?”
“Go away,” responded Dorothi, noting the swarm of flies over his left ear.
“C’mon, my pocket protector’s loaded.” He reached into his pocket to demonstrate.
“Jeepers,” cried an exasperated Dorothi, “get a life.”
At that, the Penngineer suddenly broke into tears. “Get a life! Get a life!” he cried. “Everybody keeps telling me to get a life. But I don’t know how!”
Dorothi suddenly felt sorry for the unshowered purveyor of plaid pants. “Listen,” she said to the Penngineer, “we’re going to see the Wizard. He’s giving the Jock some grades, and the Professor tenure, and I’m going home. Maybe he can give you a life.”
The Penngineer wiped his nose on the back of his bare hand and smiled. “Affirmative, captain!” he cried and joined the ranks. Together the four trodded on.
Finally they reached their destination: The Pastel Emerald Building. They took in a breath of awe as they entered and asked the secretary for an appointment to see the Wizard.
Soon they were ushered into his office. When they saw the Wizard they all gasped.
“Russ Palmer!” cried Dorothi. “The Dean of Wharton! You’re the Wizard?”
“I prefer the term financial genius, myself,” he said self-importantly. “What’s the problem?”
The Jock spoke first. “I need better grades. Can you help me?”
Russ Palmer smugly smirked. “Transfer to Wharton. Most of your teammates are already here.”
“Will my grades get good?”
“No,” answered the Wizard. “But we can get you into the gut College courses and you’ll help the curve for those students who actually deserve to be here.”
The Jock thanked him and walked out happily. Then the Professor approached.
“Mr. Palmer, I really need tenure, but I don’t think I’ll make it.”
“Of course not!” responded the Dean. “You’re in Political Science. Change to something useful, like Finance or Management and join our staff. All our professors get tenure.”
The Professor’s eyes lit up at the word, and he left to start his new career. The Penngineer was next to approach the Wizard.
“I really need a life, Mr. Wizard, so I can get the babes.”
Palmer studied the hormonally imbalanced youth and laughed. “Why don’t you transfer into the Management and Technology Program?”
“Will that give me a life?” asked the Penngineer hopefully.
“God no. You’re hopeless,” retorted the Wizard. “But you’ll have so little free time, you won’t be able to bother any more girls. Now get out of my office before you stain the carpet.”
The Wizard turned to Dorothi. “How can I help you, toots?”
“I want to go home!”
“Home? Wharton’s your home now, little girl. Transfer in.”
“But Financial Aid won’t let me stay.”
Russ Palmer laughed through a toothy grin. “Financial Aid? I own Financial Aid. Wharton gets more alumni donations than the other schools of the University combined. You need money?” Dorothi gasped as Dean Palmer opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out a handful of hundred-dollar bills. “Now,” he said, handing the wad to Dorothi, “if you need any more, just come back here.” He winked at the new transfer. “I’ll take care of you.”
“But won’t I still be homesick?”
“Who cares? Once you start raking in the dough after graduation, you can buy Kansas. Oh, by the way, lose the shoes.”