Part Two (in which we ring in the ability to read exciting chapters from a scintillating text)
Read Chapters 6 and 7 in your text, covering visuals and graphic design of a report (pp. 130 – 185, How to write for the world of work, Cunningham, Smith).
In a specially marked email called “Mayhem” which you may send to everyone in the class (as well as to me), write a special memorandum report based on the following case. (You may write it in Word and attach it to the email.)
Read the circumstances of the case carefully, then having reviewed our discussion of facts vs. opinions, assess the material presented in the case. In your memo, use the following elements for subheadings. (You may of course shorten the questions, as they are, in themselves, much too long to appear as subheadings):
1. How do you assess the objectivity of John Morrison as a person?
2. What about the author of the case?
3. The Dean of Men?
4. What is your assessment of the problems that exist?
5. What are the responsibilities of the people involved?
Just a Bit of Mayhem
Mayhall House is an independent men’s dormitory on the campus of a large Midwestern University. The grade point average of the dorm was one of the lowest of any house on campus. This was mainly because almost all of our 65 residents were majoring in either engineering or commerce–generally acknowledged as the most difficult schools in the University.
And, of course, we had our share of “goof offs”–five or six fellows who had the ability but never seemed able to apply themselves to their studies. We chalked them up as immature and hoped they would “see the light” before their academic probation ran out. But as long as they didn’t disturb anyone, we felt we could get along with them.
As a matter of fact, there was very little horsing around in the house. I had visited a number of the other dorms and was surprised to see college men, or rather “boys,” running up and down the halls yelling and chasing each other and playing silly pranks on one another. As I said, I had always considered our house remarkably calm and dignified–until this year. Now wouldn’t you know it–everyone’s calling it “Mayhem House.”
The situation has become so out of hand that it’s difficult to know how to describe it, but I’ll try to start at the beginning.
When we started school in September, two important events (at least to me) occurred. I was elected president of Mayhall House, and a new counselor moved in. His name was John Morrison, 23, a graduate student in theology. John seemed very pleasant but made it clear in his first meeting with the residents of the house that he had heard our grade point average was low and hoped we could raise it. He gave quite a pep talk and said if we could all pull together, we might put Mayhall near the top of the list.
I agreed with this, but I didn’t see how there could be much improvement, in view of the fact that most of us were in the toughest schools.
The first evidence that John meant what he said occurred when he first established his “closed door policy.” The fellows had the custom of leaving the doors to their rooms open, occasionally talking across the corridor to one another. If John happened to be passing by, he thought the fellows would simply close the door without saying a word. I suppose he thought the fellows would take the hint, but they only got sore about it and started doing more “transcorridor communicating.”
It got to be quite a joke. John would start at one end of the corridor and close ten sets of doors as he walked to the other end. Two minutes after John was gone, all the doors would be open and the talking would start in again–only louder and more of it. On one occasion, as student yelled, “Go to hell, John!” after John had closed his door. John opened the door again and put the student on formal warning.
Next was the radio episode. About the middle of November, John posted a notice: “In order to provide proper study conditions, no radios will be turned on after 7pm; effective this date.” This seemed high-handed and unnecessary to me. Radios had never been a problem in the house before. A few students liked to study with some soft music in the background. But if anyone objected, they would turn their radios off.
The fellows seemed to accept this as a challenge. The same night the notice was posted, about seven or eight men turned on their radios but not loud enough for anyone to hear.
Then one radio blared up full blast for a second and was quickly snapped off. John came bolting down the corridor to find the radio. When he got near the room, another radio blared up for a moment at the opposite end of the hall. John wheeled around and streaked back. At that moment two other radios opened up, and John started twirling around in circles. It was the most ridiculous thing you ever saw, and the fellows couldn’t help bursting out laughing.
John was furious. “All right, children! If you can’t take proper care of your toys, someone will have to take care of them for you!” He then started moving from one room to the next, confiscating the radios. It took him over two hours, but he picked up every radio in the house, put them in the store room, and locked the door. Maybe the seven or eight pranksters deserved this, but he took all the radios–mine included!
Well, that was the sign for open warfare. What happened then was one continuous nightmare. The next night, somebody brought some firecrackers into the house, and the mayhem started! Someone tied a firecracker to a burning cigarette and laid it outside John’s door. A few minutes later, the cigarette burned down and ignited the firecracker, John threw open his door, and not a soul was to be seen.
He was fit to be tied. That was the night to remember. All night long, about every ten minutes, a firecracker went off somewhere–outside the dorm, in the corridor, in somebody’s room, or outside John’s door. John didn’t even come out.
The next day it snowed, and that night it was snowballs. I won’t go into the gory details, but the end result was the damage of various property, including five broken windows.
This, of course, brought in the Dean of Men. I was surprised that he hadn’t come in before. I guess John never mentioned our situation to him. The rest is history. John has been transferred to another house, and we are on social probation for the rest of the semester.