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In a small university in the American Southwest, a young college religion professor is eager to escape an abortive career in the ministry and a hair-raising affair with a parishioner. Hired into a department that he discovers is about to be shut down, he's thrust into the role of academic dean by a president who promptly disappears. As Connor Ransom sorts through the complex affairs of an Hispanic/Anglo college, he discovers that a nationwide education reform movement seems bent on assessing it to death. Connor is aided by a jive-talking history professor and a svelte, Latina journalism professor with an inscrutable past and an insatiable spirit. But when his own past turns up in the national movement, along with an old love, he finds that he must put his job on the line, and then his life, to stand up for his school. Connor must unmask the forces at work in Ocotillo U if he is to save it. Includes Readers Guide.