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Myckola Yabluchansky

WHO us

Kharkiv 2000

Who Is the Leper Here?

Our world beggars description by a single truth

Ilya Prigogine

Contents

My Motives The Beginning

The Physician-cum-Researcher Dream If We Don't Close You Down, We'll See Straitjackets No Love Lost

Whims

Making Myself Clear Fear

An Excerpt from a Conversation Telephone Law

It's Not the Places That Grace the Men?

The Matrix

A Whistle Stop

You Are Not Alone

Things Old and New

Paranoia

My Kids

The Rake

The Rake For Ever?

The Right to Sue

From the Professional Council to SAC and into the New Millennium The Arrow of Time What Gives Me Strength The MOH Saga

Things to Remember

My Motives

A little about my motives in writing this book.

"Exasperated?"

"Not really."

"Then what, er, made you put pen to paper?" "Educational reasons."

"?"

"A lesson of democracy."

This is how I imagined my conversation with the Bureaucrat (not necessarily a character of this book).

Nature is stingy with its laws. I mean, its applicable laws. In this sense, my book is a good textbook for the author himself. Not that I think too highly of the author... and yet I hope the Reader will leaf through it with interest. The situation it describes has standard didactic value: it's all about the human-bureaucrat interface (face-to-face) and what it can produce if there's a conflict of interests and the tricks being used stink of the good old U of SSR, excuse my French.

So much for my first motive. As you may have guessed, it's about furthering the democratization of this sorely undemocratic society.

My second motive is to make a positive impact on the average Ukrainian - a person just like myself. Everything is not so bad on the imperial shambles. Wherever you look... oh, that you may live in times of change. But our times of change are about not only destruction. They are about creation, too. Even though they could be less difficult, to be sure. So, as you can see, this book was born of the author's own experience.

My third motive is to commit to memory (my own memory, to start with) the remarkable story of rebirth of one of the finest traditions there is. It's the story of rebirth of classical medical education in Ukraine. And it is set in the University I went to in my day. The Kharkiv National University named after Vasyl Nazarovych Karazin. It's a story that seems absolutely incredible in the destroyed Empire which never cared a fig about International Experience. Because that Empire lives on in our brains, bidding us to "raze the old world to the ground", as The Internationale goes.

I'm proud of my University. And its Department of Medicine. And my Mission, which is no piece of cake.

I invite you to read this book. You won't regret it. Believe me, I've done my very best.

June 20, 2000 The Author

The Beginning

It was really the beginning of the whole thing, and this is how it all started. I came home from a business trip (I worked at one research institute at the time). The first thing my wife told me was that Professor N had called from the University.

I could not put the face to the name for a time. Then I recalled. He had once been to our research institute. Our director said he was a scientist of world renown.

"Renown my foot," I remember saying to myself. "If there are so many of them in this country, why is its science up the proverbial creek?"

My scientific interests did not cross his in any way, so I couldn't figure out why he had called. And I forgot all about him.

The next Saturday he called again.

"I have to pass you an offer from the Rector. The University is opening a school of fundamental medicine. To function as a part of the Department of Biology. The faculty will have the right to practice. The Rector proposes to discuss the possibility of your assuming - "

"I have to think it over."

"Will a week do?"

So I got to thinking. Talked with my teachers, colleagues and friends. The local Establishment, too, to be sure. "A most interesting and important thing," everybody said with one voice. "You have to."

A week after he called again.

"Are you ready to discuss our proposal?"

"I am."

"Four o'clock tomorrow." "I'll be there."

My pride soared as I approached the University. A long time ago I attended the evening classes of its department of mechanics and mathematics, and I had never even seen the rector. And the very fact that I was being invited to my alma mater.

We got down to discussion. The subject was revival of classical medical education. Bright vistas. Great prospects.

We agreed I would work part-time and then we would see.

The decision seemed to suit all parties. The Rector poured me some Napoleon brandy. It went down good, on an empty stomach. Warmth radiated throughout my body. My head swam.

I did not even notice him slip that piece of paper under my hand. The next thing I knew he was dictating an application to me. It was an application for a full-time job, with an official transfer from previous place of employment. As if we hadn't agreed that it would be like a trial for starters.

I felt a bit uneasy in my new role as I went to the University the next day. Too abrupt a change. But what can you do?

So I headed straight for the department of biology to try on my new clothes.

The beginning. What would it be like?

I introduced myself to the medical students and talked with them. Late March, and they had not even gotten around to medicine. They were still into the ABC's of biology. Almost a year down the drain.

I regrouped the column on the march, changing the plan completely. And we took on the ABC's of medicine.

Problems galore. But we got a lot of help, too.

Textbooks were the number one problem. Where could I get them?

I asked our neighbors at the Medical Institute. They said sorry.

Then I turned to my people at the research institute. They helped me out, may God bless them.

The city medical library also helped us a lot. We used its services for a long time after. A magic wand of tested quality.

Things developed at a breakneck speed.

Then the summer examinations set in. And the "production practice". And the holidays.

The holidays were for the students. For the faculty, it was a month of preparations for the new academic year.

Our first priority was the kids - the students we had gotten from the Department of Biology. There was no enrollment for the school of medicine. We had selected a number of biology students based on the results of the winter exams.

We got the cream of the crop. I mean it.

It was with them that we started out. They became the beginning. They wrote the first lines into the annals of the rebirth of classical medical education. A whole new vista opened before us.

The perestroika, the Ukrainian independence and the democratic process bolstered our bold plans. The inebriating wind of change went to our heads. We painted ourselves a rosy picture of our prospects.

Nothing betokened struggle. Hard struggle. No holds barred. Struggle for the life of our baby. And the Constitutional right (endorsed by a whole string of laws and acts) of the revival of classical medical education.

The new academic year began. We had barely got under way when the Ministry sent a commission to check on our progress. We had only been working two months (without the summer exams), and they sent a commission!

It was the beginning of a bitter confrontation. An artificial, absurd confrontation engineered by the MOH Bureaucrat.

But I did not know it right then. I didn't know that it was the beginning of something like a lingering skin disease that makes people steer clear of you.

The Physician-cum-Researcher Dream

The University had introduced the medical school with the intent to train physician-cum-researchers for the nation. The same kind of physicians as those the MOH trains within its education system. The same career opportunities. The same rights. But different, too. Different in that they would have a medical education based on a solid classical university foundation - something that other universities cannot deliver no matter what they call themselves.

This is what we had been striving for, popping out of our skins.

Everything would not turn out as I expected. And yet we did well.

We trained them to be physicians-cum-researchers. Physicians in the first place.

The researcher part was OK with the MOH Bureaucrat. The other part was not.

"You can't have it. I'll tell you why."

Medicine had been re-introduced in the University shortly after the Independent States had come into being. It was when the heady spirit of freedom seemed to whisper: "Just make your wish, and it will come true."

But the dream remained a dream. The dream of bringing the medical education home - getting it back into the higher education system. The way it had once been in the Russian Empire, out of which we too have emerged, whether we like it or not.

Alright, alright. Let's leave the Russian Empire alone (lest somebody ascribe politically incorrect ideas to me) and say, The way it is in the civilized world of today. Let our physicians' qualifications keep up with the state of the world. A world in which education and health care are two different things. No conflict of interests. Highest quality results.

I am confident that the reason why we have fallen behind almost for good and will hardly ever overtake the West is precisely this conflict of interests: medical education in the health care instead of the education sector.

Dreams beget action.

A whole series of conferences on the organization of MD training in universities was held in Russia back when there were no pseudo-universities. The establishments of higher learning that were called universities in those days now have to add the word "classical" to their names.

Yes, and one such conference took place in Leningrad University. It was attended by all the Russian academic beau monde, complete with the luminaries from the Academy of Medical Sciences of Russia. Or the USSR? No matter.

One report hit me where it lives. The subject was experience of the then Second Medical Institute of Moscow. Its department of medicine slash biology trained physicians, and its graduates were thought very highly of and were high in demand throughout the former Soviet Union. I heard it from a number of internationally recognized academics whom I personally value very highly, too. Somebody may not care a damn about my evaluation, but it has value for me. Within my own set of values.

The problem that came in the limelight was a serious one. Graduates of the med-slash-bio department had better qualifications than their counterparts from "purely" medical departments but had no access to patients. They were more like physicians assistants.

"Can you imagine an assistant who is stronger than you? This is sheer discrimination."

It was that series of conferences that formulated the approach I can only dream of introducing: physicians-cum-researchers with the right to practice. The brightest of the graduates would go into research, to be sure. But in all event, they all should have the same rights and duties.

To avoid problems, we may follow the example of the Lomonosov University in Moscow and write "physician, physician-cum-researcher" in their diplomas. Twice a physician. To eliminate all suspicions.

We write "physician" in our graduates' diplomas. Not that we want to. This is an outcome of numerous commissions. It suits me for this transition period, though. Just so it's not a problem with the Bureaucrat. Some day - soon enough, I hope - we will be able to put them down as "physicians, physicians cum researchers" in their diplomas. The kids we are teaching deserve that.

Dreams tend to come true, if they're for real. This is what my chief dream is about: Physician cum researcher.

If We Don't Close You Down, We'll See

And then the first MOH commission arrived. It had a serious task to perform. In fact, it had been initiated by both MOH and the Ministry of Education, so the tasks were several. One was to close down my school. The other was to keep it.

It was not an easy time. The early stage of perestroika. On the one hand, everybody painted themselves a rosy picture. On the other, we all were still up to our necks in the totalitarian system. That meant that the Bureaucrat's opinion carried a lot of weight with us.

For me, it was a doubly difficult time. The school had only been in existence for six months when a new Rector came to the University. As any newcomer, he needed experience. And, like so many of us, he was a graduate of the old system. He supported me all right, but

he was also afraid of the MOH Bureaucrat. On his part, the Bureaucrat felt all too well that he was feared.

In all times, the Bureaucrat's main trick of the trade has been to put the fear of God into you and keep you in fear as long as possible. If you fail to do something prescribed by their rules, Fear comes back and things get completely out of hand. I remember one instance when one of them tried to use that trick on me and I thought I saw a cloud of Fear sailing my way.

"You are not afraid," he told me after a while.

I was not. Nor am I. That is, I can feel fear just like the next man. But not in situations like those.

Was the time suitable for a commission in the first place? The school had just been born and was three months old - two months in the spring and one in the fall. A newborn baby, you could say. We had just been allocated some space. The University had about as much money as the national government (there were no contractual students at the time). In fact, a lot of things at the University looked as appalling as in the country at large. At first, my heart bled to see it. Then I saw that other universities fared much worse.

But all the same, I will never get used to that.

The commission consisted of two inspectors. One was a Friend, the other a Foe, even though it pains me to say that. The merit went to the MOH Bureaucrat.

Even as the first commission was working, we could feel that the seeds of hostility toward "classical university education" had been planted. The situation could have become even clearer if not for a bit of good luck: for reasons of state importance, the MOH Bureaucrat could not attend in person. So everything went off fairly well.

And yet not well enough. Later I heard that the MOH inspector had signed the protocol but painted the Bureaucrat an altogether different picture.

Luckily, a spoken word cannot be filed. What is said is said, what is written is written. I still keep a copy of that protocol for the School's annals.

In a timid attempt to establish contact, I rushed to the MOH. The appointment was for two o'clock. I sat waiting in the reception. In came the Bureaucrat, tall, lean and straight as a ramrod. I could almost see him feed on the fear of his subordinates.

Someone was ahead of me in the lineup, and I felt genuinely glad. In the hope that he would have less Fear left for me.

I went in. Said hello.

He fired a broadside right off. Could not keep it in anymore, the poor thing.

"Let him talk it away," I thought to myself. "Maybe he'll soften up."

I can't say how long his monologue was. Not less than forty minutes, I think.

Then he stopped in the middle of a sentence and there was nothing to talk about. If we don't close you down, we'll see. That was all I read in his eyes as an answer to my quizzical look.

They did not close us down. The School is eight years old now and is accredited until 2009. We still have time so they could see. Time is the best eye doctor.

Straitjackets

An ugly, vulgar little world left over from the "Iron Curtain". The rules of the little world (directions for use) included. The Bureaucrat will tell you how to play. His is not to change the rules. No-no, his is to oversee compliance.

Their rules are like little hooks. Designed to catch, hold and punish. What can you do? Man has to eat.

The rules of their little world are a noose.

When you feel it around your neck, you obey. As soon as you show signs of not feeling it, the Noose tightens. A remote-controlled life on a thinning diet. Or you won't obey and respect the Noose-holder.

"Boy, does it take a lot of patience!"

The Noose is the main reason why our higher medical education will always lag behind the Big World.

In principle, the School's curricula and syllabi coincided with the standard ones prescribed by the MOH. But there were some digressions we thought necessary for the New Millenium Physician.

The standard curriculum had many disputable points, to be sure. It had since long fallen behind life. It could be adjusted, of course. Brought into compliance with the requirements of society, so to speak. But the Bureaucrat did not have enough leverage.

Remember perestroika and how it opened our eyes on who we all had been? Little cogwheels of the system. Robots. Not even cyborgs.

The standard plan is designed to make more cogwheels for the system.

And Hi-Ed Industries keep churning them out! Not thinking that there is no place to put them any longer.

Abruptly, there was a cavalcade of commissions. Each demanded that we show our curriculum. Each disagreed with this or that. You could almost feel their desire to close us down "because of non-compliance with conditions of the license."

"What are you afraid of? You suspect we're not training cogwheels? You're damn

right."

They made us adjust our curricula. We adjusted them. Changed a lot of things that should not have been changed. Left a lot intact, too. Just because they had not noticed.

The standard curriculum had a large budget for anatomy, for example - so large you wanted to pinch off a bit for other, New Millenium subjects. Do we need that much anatomy? I am sure not. Every student needs an outline of sorts, and then each medical profession requires its own selected chapters in accordance with its specialization.

For example, there is no topographic anatomy in the West any longer. I remember the proposal to strike it from the curriculum being put forth back when I was a beginning professor at the Medical Institute. But what will topographic anatomy teachers do for a living? There are always living people to think of, you know...

"OK, what about students? They are not living people? Or they don't count?"

Then we all lived by the rules of the little world. This is why topographic anatomy was never struck from the curriculum.

But even today, we still have it on our curriculum. If we didn't, we wouldn't "comply with the conditions of the license."

Another example. Pathological anatomy and pathological anatomy are General Pathology broken up in two. We wanted them to be one course just like all over the world. One of the commissions said it was all right if we wanted it that way but students still had to take two exams. Why? Three guesses...

I could continue for ages. To put it in a nutshell, the curriculum is appallingly outdated, especially in the clinical disciplines section. The syllabus of therapy, my favorite subject, is a simply a mess.

And, surely enough, the curriculum has few subjects without which a real physician can't be in the computer/Internet age.

Mind you, I haven't even touched on the recent radical changes in our understanding of the world, Man and the nature of human health and illnesses. Today, you just can't build the structure of professional medical knowledge on the groundwork of secondary school education. School knowledge is confined to an idealized linear world. The world we live in is nonlinear. Chaos and order cohabit in it. It's a world of determinist chaos, you could say.

"Are you with me, my dear colleague from the Medical Institute? You say you have tough luck with fundamental subjects?"

The Bureaucrat puts straightjackets not only on curricula.

"What is your full-time to part-time employees ratio?"

Foul play. The department of medicine is a small one. There are many special subjects about fifty academic hours long. Sure enough, a lot of our professors work part time.

But the conditions of the license demand that the ratio be maintained on a prescribed level. If you have more part-time teachers than you can, you're on the hook.

"Don't worry, boys, our ratio is OK."

The University helps us out in this case. Thanks to the basic disciplines taught at both the University at large and the School, the ratio is tiptop. Every law has a loophole... We found one, and everything was all right again.

"Don't waste your time running over the personnel department with a pencil. Our ratio is calculated for the entire university. We won't let you count it for the School only. It's the university that teaches a student. The School is a specific thing, a superstructure over the fundamental university education."

Clearly, you just can't get the right ratio if you count only the clinical disciplines. We have part-time professors enough and to spare.

The question of the ratio was raised by a commission which had arrived in the very middle of the crisis, when full-time employment in MOH colleges got you one fourth of the standard salary.

"You should be ashamed."

Nobody can live on one fourth of a college professor's standard full-time salary. Nor do they any hopes on it, to tell you the truth. The real main place of employment with many people is where they earn a living. But if it is in the cash economy...

"I hope you understand that I have private practice in mind."

With us, it's a bit different. It's all right if a course is a short one. Just the opposite, we can invite the best practicing physicians in town. It's an honor for them, because they teach at the University. It's an honor for us, because we can have the best specialists in town. A double hit.

The quality of medical education shows in the outcome. The teaching process is successful wherever society accepts its result.

So it's time to stop putting moth-eaten straitjackets made in the Little World on medical education.

No Love Lost

I understand a public servant caters to State interests in the first place. He has the right to have his own, to be sure. But he signs a piece of paper when he enters public service. It is just a piece of paper because he never reads it carefully. If he did, not only this chapter but this entire book would not be. It all began when a new Bureaucrat took his chair in the MOH. New boss, new hopes.

New hopes are as short-lived as any other.

I sent a congratulatory letter to the New Bureaucrat on the occasion of his taking office and so on. The letter said a few words on the educational role of the University in health care and the way we train our physicians, giving them a more solid background in natural sciences. It also confirmed our readiness for cooperation.

The reply did not tarry. Stop playing games, it said, and close down your school. Your students may go over to the Medical Institute.

Just like that. They at the top get a better picture.

But the University was of a different opinion.

I as the school dean rushed to the Press for help. My articles appeared in The Ukrainian Medical Journal, Mirror Weekly, Governmental Courier and other respected newspapers. After a time, I felt I had touched it on the raw.

I could cite many examples.

I was sitting in the Rector's office. There was an issue I had to call the MOH Bureaucrat on. But his is the Rector's rank, not mine. So the Rector had to oblige.

Good luck! The Bureaucrat was in and his secretary was kind enough to put us through to him.

"Sorry to disturb you. I'm Rector... We have a proposal."

The Bureaucrat interrupted him in the middle of a phrase to start on a long harangue. Standing right next to the Rector, I could hear every word. It was like pricking a boil. The Bureaucrat had forgotten he was a high-rank public servant and we were discussing a business question. Did he fly off the handle!

"Your what's his name," he said speaking about me, "wouldn't be able to hold my office even a goddamn day."

"What does he mean?" I asked myself. "He sounds like a betrayed lover."

Love thy neighbor, and your love will be returned to you in kind.

Whims

Well, they showed their ugly face once again. For all their face-lifting and powdering, they would never change. Their cabinet reshuffles were a catch for beginners like me.

The New Bureaucrat. I thought - or rather hoped - he would initiate some changes. But he didn't. Instead, he added some metal to the MOH policy.

Overall, it remained the same. Same old tricks made in the good old U of SSR. Beating around the bush. Acting on the sly. Using hearsay and innuendo. Quoting people without their consent. Taking their words out of the context and citing them in a national conference as if to say, See, he himself said that. As if there is no Constitution or it doesn't have a Guarantor.

But every bureaucratic action produces counteraction - in strict compliance with the laws of Nature. An open fight is not the best method. Don't know who said that a bad peace is better than a good war, but he was a great guy.

So I kept my defense and looking for peace at the same time. Sometimes I thought that peace was in, but it turned out just another dirty trick. "Let them relax, then hit them where it lives." Well, I learned the hard way.

The School had to survive. Sometimes it was difficult. But it was never easy. The most complex environment was the medical community. Medical education is its sorest spot.

This is why it's always a bit of problem to find your way to a medical forum if you are a champion of classical university medical education.

One autumn, there was a Health Partners workshop in Kiev. One of the organizers, an old friend of mine, invited me to take part. I gladly accepted the invitation. Such an opportunity to present my arguments and talk with the Bureaucrat without ties! In search of peace, so to speak.

"You're an incorrigible dreamer, my dear friend."

The conference shed light on the problem right away. The problem was the Bureaucrat's attitude. An international conference called Efficiency of Health Care Reform, and the Bureaucrat demands that the organizers exclude classical universities from the list of participants!

"Exclude? But how is that possible? Now that the conference is steaming full ahead... An international conference to boot. Isn't this a democratic country?"

Hesitation. Consternation. One of the organizers felt unwell. Thunder struck. Pandemonium broke loose. Everybody was in a panic. Then they saw that there was no way out but to stick to the program.

"But why is he against us participating? It's such an opportunity to show everybody that those classical university good-for-nothings are a bunch of schmucks!"

So the conference on health care reform began without the Bureaucrat. A personal offense, what do you want.

A whim is something you shouldn't indulge every time. The conference continued. I made my report on medical education in classical universities, its largely artificial problems and its prospects. How the audience took it is a different pair of shoes. But it left no one indifferent, that's for sure.

During the lunch break of the first day the Bureaucrat made his condescending appearance. I asked a colleague to introduce me, but he started away from as though I was a leper. Well, I got the picture. There is still a long way to peace and a civilized dialog.

Was it a whim on his part? I can't find a different word for it.

It's a good thing when a person remains a child well after forty. In a way, I'm like that, too. But there are things that don't become an adult, particularly a public servant. One such thing is acting on a whim.

Making Myself Clear

I feel that if I don't put the picture into perspective for you, dear Reader, you'll throw this little book away. I want you to read it to the end. I spared no effort to locate abscesses on the still tender body of our pubescent society so that we might lance them together.

From times of old, you lance an abscess where there is the most pus.

Fear

I had never thought I would meet one on one with Fear some day. I just didn't think it was possible in our time.

We were entertaining a MOH commission. We had stopped counting them. This time, however, we had initiated it. The School was preparing for the graduation of its first class, so we had to have it accredited if only because the graduates had to obtain valid diplomas.

As with many things in this country, accreditation is a simple procedure if you are in the system. Professional Council is the first step.

It is never about patting you on the head only. But criticism is to the point and in good measure. A showcase for the centrally planned system still going strong. The Bureaucrat has a quota for everything: how many and what kind of comments, and when to make a few critical remarks for good balance. And he always knows what to expect afterwards: a light buffet with brandy or a full-blown dinner.

But this was not our case. We were from "a different system". It transpired the Council would be presided over by the Bureaucrat himself. The no-love-lost one.

A side pass. Somebody in the upper echelon advised the Bureaucrat to include yours truly in the Council. The Bureaucrat got panicky and refused to cooperate. The upper echelon wavered and gave in to the Bureaucrat. They should have known better.

Now the Council sent their own commission. Not that I expected a lot of good from it - just mere decency. Isn't this a democratic country? More, I knew its chairman pretty well from many episodes in the past. I had never counted him among my colleagues. Nor had we ever been friends. On the contrary, I had a very distinct aftertaste from our professional contacts.

I remember one instance particularly well. I was a deputy director of one prestigious research institute at the time. No, I'd better stop at that. Deep in my heart, I try to follow the Biblical principle: Judge not lest ye be judged.

I tried to get in touch with the man. The situation was quite clear to me. He worked under the Bureaucrat and was totally in his control. But still I thought I had at least to meet him at the train station and show some formal hospitality. Even if it would never be appreciated.

I found out his phone number and called.

"Hello, this is ... . I know you head the ministerial commission. I'd like to meet you at the train station. I could also help book the hotel for you." "Please don't bother. I'll do it myself."

"Oh, it's not to -- . I understand the situation. I only want to create appropriate working conditions for you."

"No!"

Did I get nervous? I did. Not because of what he said, but rather because of the Fear that had emanated from the receiver.

Fear is a destructive element. Fear hath a hundred eyes. A man in Fear is like a wolf at

bay.

And yet I had anticipated his reaction with both fear and joy. Fear is better than fake friendliness.

The Commission arrived. As the Chairman was introducing its members to our Rector, his pent-up tension electrified the atmosphere. Prior to that, he had had a close briefing with the Commission members. Now they sat there like so many zombies.

Fortunately, not all of them had succumbed to Fear. When he was not around, they expressed their sympathy and regretted their thankless mission.

We knew that many of them were not to blame, and really tried to support them with our understanding. Some of them slavishly obeyed the Chairman. Others behaved like normal human beings. Many thanks to them for their good human qualities. As our national anthem goes, Ukraine is not yet dead...

"What has he brought all this canned Fear for? Does he think he can drive out all the circumstances that prove your compliance with the license?"

In our business, noncompliance with a license is suicidal.

"I wonder if they understand this at all?"

Something that had never happened before: the Chairman did not like the room we had given him for the commission's work. "Let him go fly a kite," the Rector said to that. Good boy.

The Chairman simply needed a pretext to work out of the Medical Institute. After all, our neighbors are answerable direct to the MOH.

Like the Medical Institute, our School has "training bases" all over the city.

I don't know if he had felt like passing me some of his Fear, but as soon as we had left the Rector's office, the Chairman said he wanted to inspect our training bases.

"Why are you driving in circuitous ways?" he demanded as I was driving them across the entire city.

"He's driving down the right road," someone from the commission at the back seat countered, unable to check his resentment.

Thanks to him, too. Just for the fact that he had supported me, perhaps without even knowing it. For me, his remark was like an arrow shot at the Chairman by his own men.

I wish there had been more such arrows.

The Commission would alternately come and go. Everything was enveloped in a mist of mystery and suspicion. Like a mania. In a word, Fear at its best.

"You are to blame just because I'm hungry!" as the Wolf said to the Lamb in the well-known fable.

One day, the Chairman popped up at the School. He was even more stern than ever. Was the Judgment Day coming?

"Would you care for a cup of tea?" "No thank you."

OK. I did not insist. But when I offered to give him a lift to the University's main building and he agreed, I was struck numb. It's only five minutes' drive from the School to the University, but I was on cloud nine. At last I had a chance to talk to him in private!

"Why are you like this? Do you think we'll beg you for a good report? The situation's quite clear as it is. Our condition is complete objectivity. This is why we want to help you. You see, there are many peculiarities to our situation, and if you go on without us, you may inadvertently make mistakes. The risk of misinterpreting facts, you know."

The main thing is to create the right atmosphere. He opened up right away. True, I knew all he had to say. He confessed he was mesmerized by Fear. The Bureaucrat's hypnotic seances had turned him into a rabbit.

"What did I need this commission for? I couldn't sleep at night. I tried to refuse it. But I've got to work. Others can find themselves a job. I couldn't."

"I can't envy your situation, to be sure. But what about human dignity and human feelings."

"It's easy for you to judge."

In short, he wouldn't listen to me. The orgy went on. I felt sorry for that man. I still

do.

"What has the MOH done to him and many others like him? When will it stop? X marks the spot.   Our School is only one example."

The goings-on outside our walls continued. Rumors snowballed. Our neighbors had a finger in the pie, too, even though supposedly they were not on the Commission. But they wanted a negative report.

On the other hand, it was good that they were working outside the University. What kind of a fact-finding mission was it, working out of another institute? They were bound to make a few blunders.

Their blunders filled me with joy. I even developed a temporary hobby - counting their mistakes.

An important aspect of any commission's work is the evaluation of students' academic achievement. Something may be wrong. Professors or programs may be inadequate. But what if for all that the entire class is straight-A students? What then? Maybe something is wrong with the Commission?

The conclusion was: Under any circumstances, the students had to show a minimum of knowledge.

I think the fifth- and the sixth-year students took those tests - can't remember now. The fifth year showed very poor results. The Commission checked their papers and passed the verdict, Very bad.

I went running to our professors. "What did you teach them?"

The professors were aghast. Take the test papers from them, they asked me, so we could see what's what. And then the margins of the papers began to fill with notes. In a good many cases, there had been mistakes either in the assignments or in the evaluations. Every law has a loophole.

Things went from bad to worse. Another day, and shit would hit the fan.

The Chairman called me on the phone.

"Call it off and return the papers!" he bellowed.

All right, we returned the papers to the Commission.

The sixth year produced a lot of D's, too.

"Look, how should you rig the results so that even the sixth year would get so many D's! They've never had anything less than B's!"

Rigged? Doctored? And how! Now I know it for sure.

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