“These people are putting their careers on the line for you. It doesn’t take much to get them spooked.” — University of North Carolina President Molly Broad, urging for a secret process to select the next chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, as quoted by the Associate Press on August 26, 1999.
Shhh. Good morning, nature lovers. Today we’re searching for Academicus timidus, also known as the Elusive Executive Candidate or E.E.C. You probably call it the Eek.
Most of you have seen Eeks. Bipeds, they are very human in appearance, but they have ten times the earning power of the average human being. They make their nests atop ivory towers and have a very distinctive cry: MO-nee, MO-nee, MO-nee. They seem to be the most audacious creatures this side of peacocks, but that’s only when they’ve established a nest. When they’re seeking a nesting site, Eeks are quite vulnerable, and then they’re as timid as titmice.
When an Eek decides to seek new nesting grounds, it undergoes tremendous physiological changes. Its belly turns bright yellow, its liver shrinks to the size of a pigeon’s, and its spine becomes so limber it is as if it has no spine at all. Its teeth chatter, its knees knock, and its whole body trembles. In this stage, a direct question could cause it to die of fright. They are that easily spooked.
So as we look for our Elusive Executive Candidate, we must be very, very quiet. Not a peep from any of you. I’ve successfully found Eeks in Arizona, California and North Carolina without spooking any of them; I know what I’m doing. Silence is essential.
Once they establish themselves in a new territory, Eeks proceed with their life’s work of lining their own nests. An established Eek quickly regrows its backbone, loses its yellow belly markings and begins to invite attention to itself. Being capricious creatures, however, eeks often seek new territories.
Occasionally an Eek will make a secondary nest, normally near the halls of legislatures. They exhibit seasonal aggression, tending to be the most aggressive while the legislature is in session. In fact, it’s usually around budgeting time when you’re most likely to witness an Eek laying an egg.
Eeks feed primarily on legislative bounty. They are pesky and formidable foragers always ready to swoop down upon the prime pickings. They share a symbiotic relationship with the Common Lobbyist (Gotany moneyforus). The Eeks rely on the Lobbyists’ keen nose for detecting general-fund prey, and the Lobbyists benefit from Eeks’ superlative seizing skills.
No real predators threaten Eeks, although when looking for new nests they can be fatally spooked by News Hounds (Canis tellus). Only two nuisances really bother established Eeks. One is the Vociferous Taxcutter (Dinero retentus), a rare organic compound that reduces legislative bounty. The other is the State Auditor (Campbellsgonna auditus), a cyclical pest that eats away at the lining of their nests.
OK, everyone, keep quiet. We are nearing Chapel Hill, where there is an unoccupied tower. It’s perfect for an Eek. Keep your eyes open; we’re very likely to spot one soon.
Chapel Hill was, in fact, the site of the first known Eek sighting in North Carolina. That was in 1793. Since then, of course, they’ve been seen all across the state. Interestingly, Eeks weren’t seen at the legislature until 1881, but today they thrive there.
Sh! I think I heard one. Everybody be very quiet. Don’t spook it.
Never mind. It was just a chicken.