On 15 September I e-mailed the university’s Development Office to tell them about my idea. The e-mail address appears on their Web site next to the photograph of the Director of Development. Getting no response that day, on the Monday following I telephoned them and spoke with an administrative officer. She seemed interested, even encouraging. But as yet I had received no firm response from the university, and no contact from the director.
On 22 September, I sent an e-mail to four people, including the heads of the departments that would be involved in judging entries. That afternoon I received one e-mail response, from the Department of Italian Studies, which contained this:
I think this would be extremely well received by colleagues and by the Faculty, and I am very deeply touched that you should be thinking of us in this way. … The University's investment office should be able to maintain some capital growth and award a prize along those lines, and the Department of Italian Studies would be very happy to administer the Prize in conjunction with the Department of English.
She also said that she would contact the faculty, as she thought that the administration for prizes was in the hands of faculties. On 25 September I sent another e-mail, suggesting, this time, that the prize be opened up to students from all other universities in Australia that have both a department of English and a department of Italian. Nothing happened for a few days.
Then, I went to the university’s Development Office and shook hands with and spoke to the same administrative officer I had talked with on the phone. Later the same afternoon I telephoned an officer in the Scholarships Office. He admitted that it was possible to set up the prize so that students at other universities could participate, but added that the prize was unlikely to attract many submissions from there because of communication issues.
He said that he would follow up on my e-mail to the Department of English. Following our conversation it was my impression that administration of prizes rests firmly with the Scholarships Office.
And when I admitted to him that I would like to read the essay submissions myself, he made a little explosive sound and advised me that sometimes winning entries were entered in the Rare Books Library. I suppose I must content myself with visiting that place, where there is no photocopier, to read the winner’s entry, seated on one of their uncomfortable chairs.
It is now almost two months since my idea first came to me and the university is no closer to accomplishing my desires, their desires, anyone’s desires. They must be too rich for their own good. Or maybe it was just a bad idea in the first place. In either case, I’m fed up. If they contact me about it in the future, I’ll say I’ve used the money to buy an elephant. A white one.