Ministry of Fear

The system struck back last week. Having obtained the names of a few students who planned to study for their exams, the Department of Buildings and Grounds moved swiftly: teams of painters were dispatched to the students' bathrooms. Despite piteous scenes as undergraduates, enfeebled by weeks of reading period, tried to defend their commodes, work began.

Although the general public knows little about the art of bathroom painting, connoisseurs know that the best men in the field like to start early. The real artists are careful about the materials they use, too. With a cunning rarely equaled in recent Harvard history, a special variety of low-grade fish oil was included in the paint mixtures.

It was rumored that a few Stakhanovites did the insides of ventilating shafts; it is certain that no student could study the morning of the raid. It must have been the spirit of the thing that really mattered, for all the bathrooms were repainted the same color. All except those whose walls were mauve, that is. These the men painted ochre.

The action was an unqualified success. Few of the sleepless victims passed their next exams. Temporarily the system could relax. Yesterday, however, disturbing reports reached the central office that one of the fluorescent lights in Lamont had stopped buzzing...