A hard-working, well-liked, and professionally productive Associate Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Science at Upstate Consolation University has hired a law firm to help him in his fight to have his recent summary termination of employment overturned and is promising to take his complaint to civil court. Brainerd Feta-Stilton’s firing came astonishingly enough just after he had generated major publicity for his institution by discovering a new Trans-Neptunian object. Even more surprisingly, Feta-Stilton had tentatively named the object Ugna, in honor of Dr. Edwima Ugna, the very same university official who subsequently terminated him. Ugna, who has served as Upstate Consolation University’s Provost since 2006, had in the past praised Feta-Stilton for his scientific achievements, which have brought many grants and endowments to the institution, as well as much positive exposure.
Ugna, the planetesimal, is properly a Kuiper-Belt object like Quaoar and Salacia, but with an elongated orbit resembling that of the classic “scattered-extended” object, Sedna. According to Feta-Stilton, Ugna, the planetesimal, in its orbital characteristics, is highly Sednoid. “It is also one of largest trans-Neptunian objects yet discovered,” Feta-Stilton told a February meeting of the Upstate Division of the American Astronomical and Planetary Society; “not Quaoar large, but Orcus large.” Feta-Stilton also told the meeting that he would never have identified Ugna except for data gleaned from “ten years of Quaoar studies” by other scientists. At the time of the announcement, Ugna, the Provost, sent Feta-Stilton a congratulatory memo. Given the excitement generated by the discovery, it seemed that Feta-Stilton’s career was assured, perhaps with promotion to a deanship in the near future. Ugna, the Provost, went so far as to convene the academic senate so that Feta-Stilton could explain the significance of his research in lay-terms to the non-STEM faculties. Feta-Stilton once again expressed his indebtedness to a decade of Quaoar research.
It was after his faculty lecture that Feta-Stilton’s troubles began although they began unbeknownst to him. Upstate Consolation University “Trans Studies” Associate Professor Jaquisha Laptoyanqua-Salacia, who chairs the Standing Ad Hoc Committee on Microaggressions, Privileging, and Cultural Misappropriations, convened that committee in an emergency session to discuss what committee members were describing as Feta-Stilton’s “lack of professional qualifications to teach either Quaoar- or Trans-Studies.” Laptoyanqua-Salacia believed that Feta-Stilton had made a gratuitous and insulting personal reference to her during his lecture, and that, in addition, he had “egregiously misappropriated the culture of the Trans Neptunians by automatically assuming that everything Trans is necessarily Quaoar – not to mention Sedna.” Laptoyanqua-Salacia sent a sternly worded memo to Ugna, the Provost, who in turn contacted the Chair of the Women’s and Minorities’ Grievance Committee, Petweena Sedna-Crocus, whom she commissioned “to investigate” Feta-Stilton’s work in light of the fact that in hindsight his presentation was “highly insensitive – like former Harvard President Lawrence Summer’s remark that women don’t understand science.”
The two committees collaborated on the investigation by accessing social media on their laptops while lunching in a vegan cyber cafe and soon submitted their report to Ugna. Although designated “confidential,” a FOIA request by Feta-Stilton’s attorneys produced the document, which Feta-Stilton entered in the public record. According to the joint committee report – which begins with an apology to the people of Neptunia and of adjacent multicultural societies such as Barbados and Domenica for Feta-Stilton’s having “objectified” them – Ugna “is structurally non-diverse, ultra-privileging, and microaggressive, a place without an affirmative-action program that Upstate Consolation University should not be associated with.” The report goes on to assert that Feta-Stilton’s claim of a mean temperature on Ugna of 240 degrees Celsius “contradicts global warming, which is supported by women, minorities, and the LGBT community.” Sedna-Crocus personally accused Feta-Stilton of “trying to fool people by not making Ugna warmer.”
Sedna-Crocus also speculated whether bathroom accommodations on Ugna were in compliance with Title IX.
In a legal deposition, Feta-Stilton was asked by his attorney to describe Ugna. Feta-Stilton said that Ugna is “potato-like, misshapen, with bulbous protuberances that may indicate past episodes of out-gassing.” “No,” the attorney interrupted, “I meant Provost Ugna.” When asked about Sedna and Salacia, Feta-Stilton said that, “Whatever their qualifications in their own fields might be, their comprehension of planetary science was dim, uninformed, and less than useful.” “No,” the attorney interrupted, “I meant the planetesimals Sedna and Salacia.”
News outlets have contacted Ugna with a bid to give them her side of the story. Ugna, who earned her doctorate from Upper Blovis Land-Grant Polytechnic by writing a dissertation on “Intersections of Feminist and Hyper-Obesity Themes in the Contemporary Albanian Graphic Novel,” responded through an intermediary, saying that Feta-Stilton’s lawsuit prevents her from commenting in detail. She also cited the fact that she is not yet fully recovered from her recent bariatric surgery and had been advised by her physician to limit both her physical and mental activities. A reporter arriving outside Ugna’s office in the administration building was nevertheless able to shout a few questions through door before campus police escorted him away. According to his notes, the Provost replied by emitting a deep-oceanic vocalization that sounded to him like, “Quuaaooaaaaaaaaaaaar.”