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Tenure

From THE NEW YORK TIMES, October 28, 2030:

NEW YORK (AP)- A potentially precedent-setting case has been cleared for a hearing in the coming days at the Supreme Court.

Flora McFlimsey, a member of the Gandolfian alien race, who has been a sessional instructor in quantum physics at Columbia University, had first sued the university for wrongful dismissal shortly after she had been discharged from her duties seven months ago. She claims that it was entirely due to the fact that the side effects of her unique condition as an alien being, and not because the quality of her instruction was poor, which was the claim made by the university. Moreover, she claims that the university had offered her a tenured position of some prestige. The university’s representatives have denied ever offering her that position, claiming that not only was her instruction of poor quality by the university’s standards, but that she was injecting what they believe to be fascist protocol into her lesson plan covertly. Ms. McFlimsey has denied these charges, claiming that while she is a member of the Gandolfian race, which has a political profile similar to the fascism of Earth, she does not support that cause, and has never exploited her background in any form or fashion for educational purposes.

Recently, this reporter was allowed to have a brief discussion with McFlimsey regarding the case before it was to be heard by the Court.

McFlimsey prefers to be addressed by the pronoun “they”, because she, like all Gandolfians, is capable of assuming an almost entirely new body, personal identity, and physical appearance on a daily basis. They therefore do not appear to the average human eye to be the same person from every individual person’s perspective, even though her legal identity (including the “human” name she adopted for the purpose of assimilation prior to her emigration from the Gandolfian home planet) remains constant.

“This is particularly frustrating”, she said, “because of your planet’s regular use of photographic materials as largely the only means of identification. Because of the vast range of my transformations, I have often been at great pains to convince those who want to identify me based only on those cards that I am the same person depicted on the cards. I have often been accused of stealing someone else’s cards so that I can enter a building or perform certain tasks, which is very frustrating, not to say simply indignant.

“And likewise on the meaningless accusations of “fascism” towards me. Yes, there is something of a culture like your fascism on Gandolf. And it is repressive towards those who do not share the view of that of the government, which is very much in the minority. It is only when you advance up the corridors of power within the system, which I did as a bureaucrat before coming here, that you come to understand the totalitarian nature of what it is going on. It was while witnessing a speech being made by one of our previous leaders where he made it appear, metaphorically, that anyone who did not care for the politics of himself and his cronies had no business being on the planet, that I understood fully the fascist nature of our system. At which point, I resigned from the government, and surreptitiously made it to your planet- don’t ask how- and took up what I thought would be a safer job. But apparently not.”

When she says “transformations”, I asked, what does that involve?

“Simply that. I may appear to you now to be a middle-aged human woman, but that is only how I will look for today. Tomorrow, I may appear to be a much younger male being. And, afterwards, I may become a figure which merges male and female characteristics. Hermaphroditic, in other words, as many insect species of your planet sex themselves. However, this latter type of being is a kind that you human beings are only just beginning to comprehend. But I must, at all times, insist that I am the one and only Flora McFlimsey to those who do not believe that I am who I am. They do not always understand this, which is where the complications begin. Any other Gandolfian would be in a similar position, I assure you.”

This, she believes, is the heart of the matter. It is not simply that her changes of appearance cause the creation of a lack of trust in students and administrators alike, who end up confronting various figures on a daily basis only when they expected a single being. It is that further complications- often of a sexually harassing nature- can often result as well. Which she refuses to discuss further, for good reasons.

“What I want,” she concludes, “is simply to conduct my studies and research without complications. I do not believe that anyone should be prevented from working by the physical condition they assume or are forced to assume, and many here, as I have discovered, feel similarly. Likewise, for any political beliefs held by any of us, human or alien, unless they harm others. I do not support the agenda of the government of our planet, nor do any of my fellow educators on this planet. Why do you think we are here now and not there, after all? It remains to be seen, however, whether the more conservative members of your educational establishment will allow me to act as I please and as I want to, in the condition I may assume at any particular day. That is all I ask of them.”

No staff members of Columbia University could be reached for comment on this affair.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Fiction, Sci Fi

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