A guest blog: The Philip Dolly Affair

While community colleges are currently receiving heightened attention, this novel provides a behind-the-scenes analysis of many whispered truths, those simmering but unspoken workplace behaviors, issues, and machinations every worker (Everyman!) will recognize. A humorous and biting read with a clever mix of satire, political intrigue, failed romances, and tragic-comedy, this novel will open your eyes to the truth about community colleges …

College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair is literary in development but grounded in “chaotic” community college daily experience. The novel is comic, satiric, quasi-politically correct, edgy, and richly descriptive of community college life, leadership foibles, brittle and failed romances, and cultural themes. This hyperbolic text is entertaining, edifying, and fun. Little community college fiction—comic or otherwise—exists—the authors are fearless in their humorous—and sometimes biting– analysis of community college culture….

The “stereotype-busting” authors reacquaint readers with the [faded] ideals of the 1960’s social renaissance.

While community colleges are currently receiving heightened attention, this novel provides a behind-the-scenes analysis of many “whispered truths,” those simmering but unspoken workplace issues, behaviors, and machinations nearly every worker [Everyman] in America will recognize.



Professor Julia Flowers

. . . Besides teaching and mentoring the Responsible Fatherhood Young Men’s Group, Professor Julia Flowers only serves on the Program Review Committee, the Interactive Television Committee, the Curriculum Committee, and Safety First at CCC Committee, Salary Committee, and the ongoing Mission Statement Review Committee. Life has been much easier since she cut her committee load in half.

Professor Flowers always wears crisp business clothes [and even dons special maternity business suits when appropriate]—strangely enough, she almost always wears ballerina slippers.

Her red hair is long, silky, and luxurious. Sometimes her students think the green eye shadow she wears makes her mysterious looking—sort of like a gypsy or a half-size red-headed Cher…at least those students who still remember Cher.

At the office, she is very private, but sometimes has long soul-tearing and tearful conversations with one of the other Communication Division instructors, Jack Frost [Spanish Instructor]. Jack is much older, in a committed relationship, and safe.

Frost rides a motorcycle, writes medium-grade poetry, and stays more or less aloof from the day-to-day CCC buzz. His thinning hair is always a bit oily from tonic—and he typically smells like a whistling sea captain.

Frost seemed to understand her concerns with her children, their impact on her career, and the torrid love she felt for her husband. In many ways, Frost was like a college girlfriend—someone she could talk to, someone helpful and not threatening, reassuring and supportive. She always felt warm and comfortable in his office, and hugged him tightly when she left. Sometimes, on tough days, she clung to him for a moment or two and felt, well, better.

He was so confident—so manly—so different than—much of the world. He thoughtfully supported and acknowledged the frequent potlucks, bake sales, pancake feeds, and vampire novel discussion groups at CCC but seldom attended such events.

Sometimes Jack and Julia would have lunch together at the Copper Coin and, while conversing, she would touch his hand to make a point, then a faint smile would cross his face, and he would stare out through the window and sigh. At such times his heart hurt—but this discomfort might be caused by enchiladas and frijoles or the torrid Gusto con Hobgoblino salsa served at the Copper Coin.. . .

From C. P.’s Excellent East Coast Review—

The Philip Dolly Affair is an assembly of more than “thirteen ways of looking at” life, especially life in America today, using the “community college” as focal point.   Anyone concerned about either America or community colleges will find stuff to consider in the book.   Many readers will enjoy countless smiles and chuckles as they go on reading.  There are both heavy and light ironies to enjoy.  The “uber plot” (born in Argentina) has the ironic implication that Philip Dolly, and perhaps the entire American enterprise (education, informed citizenry, democracy for all, “leadership” for all, etc.) is ineffective, and contradictory.  It is also possibly malignant, relying on infant-implanted computer chips to subvert dissenters.  Lesser ironic exposures of folly, sartorial, culinary, olfactory, and automotive, for example, load the book with risible details.   Dust storms, repetitions of clichés (with occasional variations), the triviality of lost keys, sixteen ounce fast-food cups (a coach’s spittoon) and the preoccupation with potlucks, bake sales, pancake feeds, and vampire novels—all these details and many more inspire wonder at what a community college is doing.

Oh, yes, the character sketches that dominate the lengthy first part of the book. They are too numerous and peculiar (from a sane perspective) to catalog.   Yet, deserving mention is the “politically Machiavellian” Dean Paxton Preston, who will never forget the advice he got from his mentor Dr. Sushy when he got his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the so-called University of Toledo at Akron: “Nothing is as important to you as your career.”    Preston’s meeting with the local Marxist bartender Henry McDougal in the last part of the book is wonderfully comic, as well as proof that knowledge is not necessarily owned by the workers at our schools, but is actually banished there, in favor of bureaucratic efficiency.   Copperfield janitor Guitar Bob Zontarg, like McDougal, a dissenting outsider like McDougal, has the last word in the book—a poem that demonstrates how much of the wisdom lacking in American education can be found among the janitors and barkeeps, the non-leadership people who are reflective and thoughtful.

Author bios:

Jann M. Contento has a broad range of experiences in higher education including student affairs administration, athletics, and institutional research. He is currently working in a community college setting and has co-authored several articles on leadership and college culture.

Jeffrey Ross, who resides in Gilbert, Arizona with his wife and son, is a writer, rockabilly musician, and former full-time community college teacher. He has had four “Views” pieces published on InsidehigherEd.com since 2007, has authored and co-authored several op-ed articles on community college identity, purpose, and culture, and has recently had several pieces published on the Cronk News  higher education satire website.

You can read more about them and their fascinating book on Facebook, Twitter, and on their blog.



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10 responses to “A guest blog: The Philip Dolly Affair

  1. Thank you so much for hosting our book, The Phil Dolly Affair, at Writing Cops!

  2. I’m happy to host! Hope you get some response.

  3. Thank you for hosting the authors today!

  4. Catherine

    I do have to laugh at all of the committees…We have many of those here at my community college. AND, I will sheepishly add that I am the Chairperson of the Committee on Committees! LOL.

  5. Jeffrey Ross

    Hi, Catherine. I have to tell you, I, too, have served on a thousand committees. I heard someone say once that committee work could keep us busy even if we didn’t have any students!

    • Catherine

      That’s true! Some days, students are my distraction from committee work rather than the other way around!

  6. Theresa

    To the authors:
    This is a wonderful novel. I have a paperback copy and often share pages of the much entertaining text with colleagues. So much of what you bring to comic life is true, at least at the college where we work. Thanks for creating such delightful story. I simply adore Professor Kat Van Dorn…reminders me of a very good friend.
    Many, many smiles…

  7. Hi– just wanted to let you know– we tried to characterize Prof Van Dorn as a “university-type” [if such an academic exists] who finds gainful (and yet personally rewarding) employment teaching writing at Copperfield Community College. Perhaps she is an ethnographic voice– Kat is constantly analyzing the “meaning” of events, activities, and issues at Copperfield– from a “hyperbolic” university perspective. I might ask– do you think there are differences between university and community college instructors and their attitudes towards the work place? Thanks to everyone for your comments.

    • Theresa

      Thank you for your response Mr. Ross. Yes, I’d consider a multitude of differences exist between community college academic culture and that of the university. Your charcter, Van Dorn, not only questions some of the obvious differences but appaers to abide by them. Well, most of them anyway, I guess she needs this higher paying stint at the college to better her teaching experience.

      • Jeffrey Ross

        Hi again, Theresa. Thank you for your comment. We discuss some of those differences between universities and cc’s [real or perceived] in the Phil Dolly Affair. I’m not sure what you mean by “higher paying stint.” Are you hinting that community college faculty members are paid better salaries than university instructors?

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