In a shot heard ‘round Cobleigh Hall, a mostly peaceful coup d’état has toppled a tight-knit social group of three civil engineering professors known colloquially as the “Engineering Plastics.”
Dr. Dan VanLuchene, a structures professor, orchestrated the apparently successful coup, according to sources within the College of Engineering Dean’s Office, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The three toppled professors were Drs. Joel Cahoon, Otto Stein and Dan Miller. According to sources within the civil engineering department, the three professors had overseen a reign of terror since Miller was hired in fall 2008 and regularly ate lunch together in the Union Market.
Bozeman Police Department officials said that VanLuchene allegedly pushed Cahoon in front of a Latenight Streamline Bus, when all four professors met for drinks at the Rockin’ R Bar after work Tuesday evening.
Reports, hidden from MSU’s students until now, show that the Engineering Plastics — as they are identified in confidential reports — routinely harassed and hazed their colleagues.
In March 2012, for example, the three professors received a stern warning after the discovery of a “Friction Book,” essentially a diary filled with mean-spirited comments about people who were believed to be their friends. This specific book targeted MSU’s School of Architecture, drawing upon the hundreds of years of animosity between the two professions.
Dr. Warren Jones, a professor of environmental engineering, explained that “Cahoon is their queen bee, the star — those other two are just his little workers.” Exasperation evident in his voice, he compared the troublesome group of professors to high school girls or animals on the African savannah. “I’m not really sure which metaphor fits them better,” he said.
Stein corroborated the depiction of Cahoon as an evil queen bee. Last April, Stein had hoped to run for MSU’s biennial Pay Raise. Currently, each college nominates one professor every two years, in each odd-numbered year, for this honor. Each “tribute,” as they are called, must then fight the other nine professors in a battle royale held in Bobcat Stadium, similar to the plot of the recent teen fiction novel “The Hunger Games.” The winning professor is then sent to Helena, alone and defenseless, to beg the Montana Legislature for a pay raise.
“It would have just made me feel so valued,” Stein said. “But that damn Joel Cahoon said that the biennial Pay Raise was ‘his’ thing.”
Officials at the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital reported that, as of press time, Cahoon was in stable condition and recovering. There was some concern that he may have suffered a concussion, however, because the first visitor he requested was his laptop so that he could “run some Excel calcs.”
When reached for comment, Cahoon explained that he simply needed to grade some homework and wanted to write up another particularly nasty homework problem to “take out his pain” on the students currently enrolled in his Closed Conduit Hydraulics course.
According to College of Engineering Acting Dean Brett Gunnink, VanLuchene, known for his public disdain of architects and his belief that “education is a dictatorship,” is now, in an ironic twist of fate, a dictator himself.
“The only question that remains,” Gunnink explained, “is whether Stein and Miller will switch their allegiance to VanLuchene or reject the new queen bee.”