Begin at the beginning and go on until you reach the end: then stop.
Fifty-three years before the date conventionally regarded as the birth of Christ, a Roman proconsul by the name of Julius Caesar invaded an island which he called Brittania. This was neither the first invasion of Britain nor the first invasion undertaken by the proconsul. Caesar, in fact, would go on to take over the Roman Republic, begin turning it into an empire, and get stabbed by his enemies and loyal friends one March 15th.
The island of Britain would go on to be invaded by more Romans, by the Angles and Saxons, by the Vikings, by more Vikings, by still more Vikings, and finally by some Vikings who had settled in Normandy and were pretending to be French.
These Norman French Vikings brought along with them the invention of feudalism. Now feudalism is an often misunderstood concept. In fact, Christopher Brooke says that we will never be able to understand medieval society until the word "feudalism" is eradicated from our vocabulary. You probably don't care about understanding medieval society, so just remember this definition. Under feudalism, a lord would grant the use of his land to a vassal, in exchange for the service of the vassal's personal army.
This was a popular arrangement in Norman England, because there was a lot of extra land and a great need for personal armies, because people kept on trying to invade. The Scots tried it frequently. The other branch of the Norman Viking ruling family tried to take over, and eventually succeeded. The French and Spanish attempted it every century or so for another five hundred years.
About that time, the medieval period ended and the Age of Reason began when the study of logic was removed from universities' core curricula. Private armies became obsolete and the feudal system became less prevalent. It was replaced with a new arrangement in which a landlord would grant the use of his land to tenants in exchange for perpetual rent. This new system was still called feudalism, even though it was only partly similar. It was this new fake feudalism which the Dutch established in New Amsterdam.
Soon afterward, the British got sick of being invaded and began invading everyone else's territory instead, from Canada to Egypt to South Africa to Australia to Hong Kong. In particular, they invaded New Amsterdam and turned it into New York.
After another hundred years, the people in New York and surrounding areas got tired of fake feudalism and declared themselves independent. Of course, the British Army invaded, but their invasion failed. The feudal system still exists in New York and the rest of America, but nowadays we call it property taxes instead of quit-rents, and it funds a national army instead of a personal one.
All these changes to governments and feudal systems made things difficult for leftover New Amsterdam landlords like Stephen Van Rensselaer. Even with a title like Great Patroon, he couldn't run New York or hire a personal army. Needing some other way to spend his time and money, he decided to found a school. He hired an amateur forger and some academic misfits to run it and teach useful subjects like math, engineering, and surveying. Unfortunately, logic got left out again.
About the time that Stephen Van Rensselaer's school changed its name to RPI, America began invading itself in order to put an end to yet another variant of fake feudalism. A student by the name of Albert Harper took a year off to help with the invasion and returned to school a hero. His classmates gave him a heavy mace and a beaverskin helmet and called him the Grand Marshal. As they didn't get him a personal army, this was just a leftover imitation feudal title.
When Albert Harper graduated, the students elected a replacement, and this became a long-running and highly valued tradition. If the RPI curriculum had been centered around logic, they might have realized that the GM's position hadn't been created to get things done and wasn't so important. But being engineers, they made up tasks and importances as they went along.
A hundred and thirty years went by, and the world was full of invasions and armies, and the days of Palmer Ricketts and Ned Harkness and Willie Stanton came and went, and RPI became harsher and more uncaring until the students began referring to the system as "the 'Tute Screw". The Grand Marshals did almost nothing about it, because the Institute was being run on an imitation feudal basis, by which the school granted use of learning materials to students in exchange for tuition rents, research service, and perpetual donations. The elections passed through a stage of being a fraternity-controlled popularity contest and became a machine-dominated popularity contest. The Rules and Elections committee invented a complex system of regulations which made sure no one could be elected without a large and experienced political party serving as a personal army for the campaigning battle. Once in office, there was no reason for student government officials to do anything useful or confront the illogicality of the school's administration. Attendance at Student Senate meetings was almost as low as attendance at classes.
Sometime around March 15th, 1997, some concerned students without any personal army attempted to run for office and came face to face with the stupidity and uselessness of the current student government system. While pondering the unfairness, they were struck by a revelation: inanimate objects would be just as effective as their current leaders! They began calling themselves the Inanimate Objects Party, in mockery of the political machine parties, and adopted as their logo an honest, dependable fork. But the most forceful expression of the IOP spirit appeared when their leader, Rob "r()b" Collona, obtained a seven-foot inflatable whale to serve as their candidate.
His name was Arthur Galpin.
The Ioperatives set out to take the word to the student body, proclaiming the advantages of the only inflatable candidate with creative and humorous posters. Of course, their campaign was a failure. The Rules and Elections committee pointed out that the Grand Marshal had to be a member of the Student Union, and that inflatable whales were not eligible for membership. They proceeded to throw out all Arthur's votes. Just to make sure, RPI's injustice system put r()b on disciplinary probation. They also decided IOP posters violated campus sign policies and attempted to take them down as fast as the Ioperatives could put them up.
But the IOP not only struggled on, it turned its attention to other important topics. The campus was under invasion by a new imitation feudal system invented by Microsoft and Intel. Students would be granted the use of computers in exchange for upgrade fees, perpetual service fees, and Solitaire addiction. With the slogan "Unix or death!" the Ioperatives fought to keep the campus clean and free. But bombarding the VCC with a hail of toast failed to reduce the allure of thousands of free Stinkpads. Even though they eventually became decent machines, computing at RPI was never the same.
This was only one of the many issues the IOP took an interest in. They ranted against lead paint in dorms, wastes of money, discrimination and harassment, and insufficient parking. During those first seven years, they managed to complain about everything that was wrong and a good number of things that weren't. They attacked every power structure on campus. They made fun of everything on campus, including themselves.
Meanwhile, the election battles continued as Arthur Galpin returned every year to run for Grand Marshal and every other position on the ballot. The Rules and Elections committee continued to throw out his votes, even when he allegedly defeated the animate candidates. The Ioperatives managed to pay the Union activity fee on Arthur's behalf, but still he was refused the right to run.
Arthur's candidacy was not confined to student government positions. In December 1999, the Institute held a meeting in DCC 308 to announce the choice of the school's next president. Just before the ceremony began, the IOP took the floor and presented Arthur Galpin as President of the Institute. Sadly, the Trustees continued with their choice of an animate object.
Obviously, the IOP made many enemies. The administration and student government were not happy to be told that an inflatable whale would do a better job than them. Calling their program of operations "Campus Overthrow" didn't help either. The Dean's Office continually bothered the Ioperatives, and both the grounds crew and other enemies tore down their posters in an attempt to stop the subversion.
But what mattered was the students, and every year they turned out by the hundred to support the inflatable whale and his struggle against uselessness and oppression.
Semesters passed, and Ioperatives grew old and graduated, and activity decreased until Arthur was merely another campus legend. But the same forces that had brought the IOP into existence would ensure its survival. Another group of failed candidates grew disgusted with the campus political system. In the fall of 2006, they mocked the vote by reviving the IOP campaign. For GM Week 2007, they covered the campus with posters, balloons, and miniature inflatable whales. On election day, Arthur's personal army seized the Commons polling station and used it to distribute subversive IOP propaganda.
Since then, the IOP has continued to spread the word about Arthur while protesting the many failings of RPI. Over the past few years, there has been some improvement in animate student government, mostly due to adoption of IOP ideas and tactics. Nevertheless, Ioperatives still campaign every year with their unique methods, such as the incarnation of Arthur that appeared on top of the CII during GM Week 2009.
Even if it is no longer completely obvious that an inflatable whale is the most qualified for student government, one must admit that RPI is in great need of someone like Arthur. With less and less logic in the curriculum, recent plans for the construction of a feudal castle, and the continual invasions of uselessness, the Inanimate Objects Party and its inflatable hero remain as vital at RPI as they ever were.