tagNovels and NovellasThe Freshman Ch. 02

The Freshman Ch. 02

bycaligula97236©

Chapter 2 - The first day of classes

The next day Jason went over to Ken's room to see about getting breakfast. Ken was sitting at his desk, fiddling with a camera lens with a frustrated look on his face. He had not bothered to get dressed yet, but quickly slipped on a pair of shorts, sandals, and a Hawaiian-style shirt. The two college students ate by themselves, as Ken showed a class roster to Jason and gave him an interesting piece of news.

"Check this out. Looks like we're in the same section of Life Drawing. First thing this morning at nine."

Ken and Jason barely had enough time to purchase drawing pads and markers at the student store before the class started. They headed over to the Art Building, which was one of the oldest buildings on campus. The rooms were well lit with huge old-style multi-paned windows that let in plenty of natural light. The windows had not been painted over, so the classes could look out onto the yard in front of the building, and passers-by could see into the classrooms from the sidewalk.

That lack of privacy in the classroom caused Jason's art instructor her first crisis of the semester; her life model had quit upon seeing how visible the room was to the outside. The instructor was left with no model for that day's session, and possibly would be short a model for the entire class. As soon as the students were assembled the woman made an announcement, she needed a student to model for the semester. She sweetened the deal by offering to waive three general requirement credit hours to anyone willing to volunteer.

Several students thought over the offer, but Jason was the first to raise his hand. He was not planning on majoring in art, and the three extra credit hours would get his humanities requirement out of the way after just a single semester. But of course, what excited Jason even more than the three credit hours was having an opportunity to stand naked in a room of other students and get rewarded for it.

Five minutes later, with his heart pounding, Jason climbed up onto the model's platform after hanging up his clothes on some hooks near the professor's desk. The windows were open, letting the hot August air into the room as thirty sets of eyes continuously glanced up at the his body and then back to their sketchpads. People walking outside had a clear view into the classroom, and many glanced into the window or through the classroom's open door. Jason was truly on display to the world, it seemed. When Jason's eyes shifted over to Ken, he noticed his friend was pure business, carefully studying his figure to render it to paper.

When class ended Jason's professor handed him a light robe, pulled out a contract, and discussed the modeling requirements in more detail. The next modeling session would be for the class at 11:00. He would spend the first month of the semester modeling for the professor's two morning classes, then would switch places with a female model who was working the afternoon classes. In exchange for his time Jason would be added to the university's work-study program as well as receiving the three class credits.

With his contract signed Jason hung up his robe and ascended the platform for the 11:00 group. By late morning the room was sultry and it turned out that Jason was the most comfortably dressed person among the class. The sweaty students had their sketchpads ready as they looked up at him with curious expressions. At the command of the art professor, Jason took up a standing pose, one that required him to spread his legs and was revealing to the students immediately at the foot of the model's platform.

Jason held his position, but his eyes moved about the room, curious to see who was enrolled in the class. Then, off to one side, Jason noticed a very familiar face, his RA Cecilia Sanchez. The attractive Dominican was absorbed with her sketch, as she carefully lined up the features of the model's body to convert the vision to an image of ink and paper.

Their eyes met. Cecilia's face seemed to shine. She was relishing every detail, along with the knowledge that he would be in here, exposed to her and the world, for at least another month. This was the third time in less than 24 hours she had seen him in the nude. The freshman's body now held absolutely no secrets from the RA; she could observe and study him at her leisure. And yet...even though he was modeling for her class she desperately wanted to see even more of him. She fervently hoped to catch him naked in the dorm hallway again later that night.

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Cecilia left the art class to go back to her dorm, changed her clothes, and returned to the Economics Department for an appointment at 12:30. Her thoughts were in turmoil, as her mind raced back and forth between the fears from her past and her desires and hopes for the future.

The sophomore's thoughts moved to the freshman Jason Schmidt. At first she couldn't understand her fascination with Jason, other than he was so totally different from every other guy she had ever known. He was quiet and serious, but seemed like a fairly decent person. It was obvious that his family had money, but he did not flaunt it like many of the other dorm residents. He was handsome, but there was nothing flashy or flamboyant about his appearance. His runner's physique was a definite plus. However, as she gave the matter more thought, she realized that Jason interested her because of the combination of exhibitionism and submissiveness in his personality. It was a strange mixture, but one that caught her attention and that she found extremely desirable in a potential partner. It was clear that, if properly handled, Jason would be perfectly willing to submit to the right woman...

Cecilia forced herself to stop thinking about Jason. She needed to clear her head, because of her upcoming appointment with her economics professor and mentor, Dr. Ruth Burnside. She cringed at the prospect of having to deal with that unpleasant woman, but she owed Burnside for having changed the course of her life.

Ruth Burnside was the reason Cecilia was studying in Chicago in the first place. The economics professor was on the executive board of an academic foundation that identified promising students from lower income urban and rural communities for grants to study at the university. The economics department was interested in producing more than just corporate analysts and business majors, hence the scholarship program and invitations to students such as Cecilia Sanchez to come to Chicago and study.

About six months before she graduated Cecilia's high school counselor called her into his office to let her know she was in competition to get a scholarship to study economics in Chicago. He encouraged her to look beyond her immediate future and think about where she might want to be five or ten years in the future. With the fire of ambition lit in her soul, the young student applied herself even more in her studies and in preparing to compete for the scholarship. Several essays and interviews later, a very nervous Cecilia Sanchez received a packet of materials that indicated her next year would not be spent in the military or some urban community college in New Jersey, but rather at one of the most prestigious universities in the Mid-West.

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Cecilia carried with her three reserach projects she had needed to prepare that summer to keep her scholarship, three reports to turn into Burnside that later would be passed along to the entire scholarship committee. Cecilia's professor graded severely, but the projects were designed to help her do better in her department's classes and ultimately prepare her for post-graduate studies. The three folders in the Dominican's hand represented a massive amount of work and a ruined summer, but they also represented her final escape from a dysfunctional family, rough neighborhood, and unhappy childhood.

Burnside was still relatively young for a professor and in excellent physical shape from constantly exercising. She was only 37, but had a very severe appearance. Her intense dark eyes and sharp nose somewhat reminded Cecilia of the face of a hawk. Burnside's appearance was made even more intimidating by her immaculate dark business clothing and her jet-black hair pulled back tight and wrapped in a bun.

Burnside's demeanor was partly that of a strict military officer and partly that of a dominatrix, the result of her religious childhood and several years of service in the Navy. She stood very straight and walked crisply around the classroom tapping a pointer as she lectured. When alone with the professor Cecilia always was tempted to stand at attention, and never would have dreamt of sitting down in her office without first being offered a seat. Even the way that Burnside referred to herself, using just her last name, reflected a total lack of warmth in her personality. The most intimidating detail about Dr. Burnside, however, was her sharp stare. When she was talking to a person her eyes seemed to bore right into her listener. Her expression always seemed to say. "Look, you pathetic little slacker, I know you better than you know yourself, so don't try to bullshit me."

Cecilia entered Burnside's office and noticed the time, 12:35. Shit. Her appointment had been at 12:30. Her year with Burnside was not about to get off to a good start. She rushed into the back office, but it was too late. Burnside was standing in front of her desk, her arms crossed, with a cold stare that tore straight into her student.

"Well, Ms. Sanchez, I see we're keeping bankers' hours."

"I...I'm sorry Dr. Burnside...but it was only five minutes, and I was comin' from another class."

"Cecilia...two things. First, don't tell me you're sorry. If you were sorry you would've been here at 12:30 like I told you. What you're sorry about is that I'm pissed off."

"Yes Dr. Burnside."

"The second thing is that you come to me with an excuse, some bullshit about a class, even though your class ended at noon. Now, what do I say about excuses?"

"That 'excuses are like assholes, everybody has one,' Dr. Burnside."

"That's right. I'm not interested in hearing some excuse. Now that we have the apologies and excuses out of the way we can talk about your life and your summer projects. First thing, you got the RA position, right?"

"Yes, Dr. Burnside, I'm the second floor RA in Huntington Hall."

"So we got your living arrangements taken care of...good. Now, let's see your work product for this summer."

Cecilia handed Burnside the three papers. Burnside briefly looked at the tables of contents, then went straight to the endnotes. She went down the list of Cecilia's citations on the first paper, taking notes into a separate ledger. She seemed satisfied with the first paper and moved on to the second paper. Burnside's face became increasingly irritated as she flipped back and forth through the endnotes of the second project.

"OK, very simple question. Why isn't there any reference to Keynes in here? We covered Keynes in class in last semester. Covered him quite thoroughly I believe. So where's your reference to his work?"

"It was a 20-page project, Dr. Burnside. I wanted to concentrate on..."

"Well, that won't cut it, Cecilia! You simply cannot understand mid-20th Century economic theory without mentioning Keynes. And oh, by the way, you didn't reference the Weber articles either, did you?"

"No..."

"Then I would say what you have is an incomplete project! You had all summer to do this right, and you didn't!"

"Dr. Burnside! That's not fair! I couldn't get it all in! You said I couldn't go past 20 pages!"

"That's right, 20 pages is the cut-off! And why do you think that is? It's to make you force yourself to think about what's truly important. Now, if you don't think Keynes and Weber are important enough to put in your paper, that's fine, but you'd better damn well be ready to defend your opinion. Now you take this paper back and return it to me next Monday, done right. Either Keynes and Weber go in, or they stay out, with a proper justification. If I show this to the scholarship committee as it is now, you'll have them shaking their heads and me looking like a fool."

Cecilia took the paper back, her heart stinging from the total unfairness of the situation. It seemed that had she been anyone else, the paper would have been perfectly acceptable, but because she was Burnside's scholarship student, she was at the woman's mercy. Tears welled up in her eyes, but with every bit of her emotional strength she forced herself to hide her distress.

Burnside clearly understood what was going on in her student's mind. "Cecilia, look at me."

Reluctantly Cecilia raised her head.

"Now I'm going to explain something to you. I can tell you think it's unfair that I'm pushing you like this. But there's a reason, a reason why I expect you to work way above the sophomore level. Is it unfair that you have to bust your ass over the summer while your drunken classmates relax and party and still get the same grades you do? Of course it's unfair, but that's the hand in life you've been dealt. You'd better get used to 'unfair', because you're going to be stuck with 'unfair' for a while. I know, because I was dealt the exact same hand in life as you. You think I don't understand where you came from and what you've had to deal with?"

Cecilia was quiet, not knowing how to respond to Burnside's last statement. The professor continued.

"Look. You'll have to understand those frat punks and sorority bitches have their money and their families and their connections, so they'll coast through life, even though they're nothing but a bunch of worthless drunks. You won't ever get the chance to coast through life, because you've got absolutely nothing except this..." Burnside reached forward and tapped Cecilia's forehead, "...so you've got to be better than them. Way better. You don't have any choice, if you're going to stay out of the 'Hood. Now you use that head of yours and you fix that paper!"

"Yes, Dr. Burnside."

With that Burnside looked over the endnotes of the third paper. Cecilia stood quietly, dreading the thought Burnside might find something wrong with that one as well. However, after giving the paper some consideration, finally the professor took it and set it on her desk with the other accepted project.

"Is...that it, Dr. Burnside?"

"No, that's not it. I've got class in 30 minutes and I need you to help me take my supplies over and pass out syllabuses. But before we do that I want to address the issue of your punctuality. Today's the second time you've been late to an appointment with me. I let you slide the first time, but I warned you never to do it again. Well, you did, and now you're going to pay for it. Now, you were thinking about joining the Army before you got your scholarship, right?"

"Yes, Dr. Burnside, I was thinkin' about the Army."

"Well, then let's give you a taste of what you're missing out on by being here instead of there. Get in the front-leaning rest position."

"What?"

"Push-ups. You owe me some push-ups, just like you would in the Army. Now drop!"

As ludicrous as the order sounded, Cecilia could tell that the professor was dead serious. Reluctantly she got into a push-up position, her hands and toes on the floor as she tried to keep her body as straight as possible. She couldn't believe...

"These will be four-count push-ups, military style. Do you know how to do a four-count push-up?"

"Yes, Dr. Burnside, I..."

"IN CADENCE...EXCERCISE! ONE, TWO, THREE..."

"One!"

"ONE, TWO, THREE..."

"Two!"

"ONE, TWO, THREE..."

"Three!"

"ONE, TWO, THREE..."

At the count of "ten" Burnside ordered Cecilia to "recover". The student stood sweating, breathing heavily, and her knees were shaking.

"You're out of shape, Cecilia. You need to spend some quality time in the gym. Now drop!"

Once again Burnside's sour voice rang out as Cecilia struggled to do 20 more push-ups. She barely managed to do ten and then her arms gave out. Burnside showed her absolutely no mercy as she yelled at her to keep her back straight. With a disgusted sigh the professor ordered her to "recover" and moved directly in front of her gasping student.

"Are you going to be late again?"

"No...Dr. Burnside..."

"Try speaking with some enthusiasm in your voice. I can't hear you."

"NO, DR. BURNSIDE! I WON'T BE LATE AGAIN!"

"Let's make sure about that! Drop!"

Once again Cecilia struggled to make it through 20 push-ups. After only the second count her entire body was shaking and her arms no longer responded to what her brain was asking them to do. When Burnside ordered the student to "recover", she was gasping for breath and her blouse was saturated with sweat. Her eyes were wide with shock and fright over what had just happened...Burnside had punished her!

Five minutes later the professor and her shaken student carried boxes of syllabuses, course schedules, and sample textbooks to a large auditorium-style classroom. The class was Burnside's introductory Theory of Economics course, the grueling 5-credit hours that always started with 150 students and usually ended with about 75. Cecilia had taken the same class the year before and had received a "B".

Over the next few minutes the auditorium filled with freshmen, as Cecilia managed to calm her nerves from the unpleasant session with her professor. Burnside was joined by her teaching assistant, a graduate student working on his Master's degree. Cecilia, meanwhile, walked down the rows of young students passing out paperwork and signature forms. She noticed Jason Schmidt sitting with Ken, Mike, and her neighbor Lisa. As she passed him a stack of papers, she gave Jason a knowing smile, at which he blushed.

Burnside stood quietly at her podium until her assistant finished with the final row. As soon as Cecilia glanced up at her, the professor pointed at the doors and motioned her and the TA to close them. Burnside always ordered the doors of her classroom shut before she started speaking. The professor's policy was that to be late was the same as missing class altogether, since she had absolutely no tolerance for any disruptions once her lectures began.

As previously instructed, both Cecilia and the TA stood at the back, to make sure that no one responded to the desperate knocking of stragglers trying to get into the locked auditorium. The latecomers would have to wait until the class was over, then endure a nasty lecture about punctuality once the doors opened and the other students departed. It was the professor's first hard lesson to her class, there was no flexibility when it came to discipline in the Introduction to the Theory of Economics.

Burnside quickly went over the course readings and schedule, then gave a short introductory lecture about the fundamentals of economics. She concluded by holding up two of the course textbooks, explaining what the homework would be for the next class. With Ruth Burnside there was no such thing as "settling in". She presented testable material on both the first and final day of class.

Finally, Cecilia opened one of the doors, while the TA stepped outside to round up the nervous freshmen who had not made it to class before Burnside began speaking. The TA led a small group of 18-year olds to the professor to be reprimanded, while Cecilia looked for Jason. She saw him, and could tell that he and his companions were extremely worried about the class and their new professor.

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Cecilia Sanchez had a full night ahead of her. Not only did she have to continue with the interviews of her residents, but now she had the unexpected responsibility of fixing her summer project, something she had only five days to complete. On top of that she had her other classes to worry about, including Burnside's Theory of International Development and another economics course taught by a senior professor called Dr. Jim Halsey. The RA had the foresight to understand that she needed to read ahead and be prepared to answer questions on the first day in both classes. She had a lot to do, and could expect not to get much sleep over the next couple of nights.

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