Illustration courtesy of Vector Shock

Vice Chancellor Comes Out as “mere mortal,” Sparking Controversy

“Contrary to popular belief, I am not a literal demigod.”

May 2, 2020

This article is a contribution to The Gazelle’s weekly satire column.
Shocking news rocked campus this past week. In her 15,341st Covid-19 related email to the student body, NYU Abu Dhabi Vice Chancellor Marinate Pemican confessed that she was but a “mere mortal” living in “reality”. As many had assumed her to be a clairvoyant, omnipotent celestial being, reactions to the news were quite varied. It remains to be seen how this revelation will affect policy announcements moving forward.
“Contrary to popular belief, I am not a literal demigod,” explained Pemmican in her email. “I am subject to the laws of thermodynamics. I experience time in a linear fashion, and Starbucks has yet to spell my name correctly. That’s just how the universe works. Some things are beyond my control.”
Upon reading these words, hundreds of NYUAD students sat stunned and confused by the implications.
“I don’t understand,” remarked Strez Bayker, Class of 2023. “Her instagram is so on point! No way could a ‘mere mortal’ have composed some of those shots.”
“I always had suspicions,” confessed Nohin Turship, Class of 2021. “But I never actually took them seriously. I assumed they were just wild delusions — like a Zoom class where everyone is wearing pants, or the prospect of getting a job in the next two years.”
After a paragraph break to allow her readers to recover from the startling announcement, Pemmican continued: “As such, there are things I don’t yet know, things I can’t yet tell you and (inevitably) decisions you won’t all like. It’s not ideal but it is what it is. Even when acting with maximal creativity and wisdom, gross imperfection is an unavoidable side effect of a species-wide catastrophe.”
It was this admission — that the administration was subject to the constraints of an uncertain, ever-changing reality — that produced the most visceral student responses.
Annie Malkrosing, Class of 2022, exclaimed, “Wait... does this mean she can... make mistakes? And being frustrated… or even angered by them is… completely justified?”
In stark contrast to Malkrosing, Aight Imahedout, Class of 2020, found only fury: “I blindly trusted you to be the panacea to all the world’s problems and this is how you reward me? I put that expectation upon you fair and square. Now pay up!”
This spring has been one set of frustrations after another. Just a few examples include campus service reductions, insufficient fall courses, overly competitive housing and the freezing of most summer employment.
Noting this, Pemmican stated later in her message: “Given the long list of inconveniences the new policies have produced, I had assumed that my non-divinity was self-evident. Yet… here I am, drafting this email.”
The presumption of supernatural power, however, was but one source of faith within the student body. Many others simply believed the institution itself could transcend worldly limitations.
“Who cares what plane of existence she’s on?” said Stuk Hiir, Class of 2023. “NYUAD is absurdly exceptional in so many other ways; her (lack of) supernatural status is irrelevant. This school was built with the expressed purpose of defying the constraints faced by other institutions. Why should those of the pandemic be any different? Is one more exemption too much to ask for?”
That said, news of the VC’s finite capacity has led many to seriously doubt if safety, solvency and normalcy will be mutually compatible for the foreseeable future. With faith wavering, students have begun confronting the notion that even the most generous institution in the world cannot, by definition, exist outside of it.
“This is one of the few places I feel safe,” explained Phil Dwithangs, Class of 2022. “This is my home. I don’t know where I’d go if I left and I’m worried if I leave I won’t be able to come back. I have no idea what to do. Understanding the rationale for hard decisions doesn’t make it any less difficult to accept.”
“In the back of my head I fantasized that she was off collecting infinity stones to snap Covid out of existence,” lamented Class of 2021’s Hopez N. Dreems. “I was waiting for her to disinfect the entire world through the sheer power of her art history knowledge. But with that off the table, what is she supposed to do? What chance do we have if the future of the school rests on the shoulders of a single, finite human being?”
Fortunately, it doesn’t. Marinate Pemmican may be a mere mortal, but the responsibility is not hers alone. While her position is unique, she is but one of hundreds of administrators, faculty, staff and contractors bearing the burden of devising, implementing and communicating policy solutions. All of them are imperfect humans, but they are desperately well-intentioned.
In that respect, they are not so different from the students whose lives they impact. We too are limited creatures navigating obliterated expectations and opaque futures. Likewise, we are not alone in our struggles. We help each other solve problems and we can commiserate when we can’t figure out how. We support each other through the extended, repeating cycles of denial, confusion, frustration and certitude. We bring each other joy and meaning.
There are many things we still don’t know: whether we’ll see each other again in August or January, how big the Class of 2024 will be or if the boy you met speed dating on Zoom is your soulmate. The one thing we do know is that we’re all only human. Let’s do our best to expect nothing more and demand nothing less.
Ian Hoyt is a Columnist. Email him at
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