Campusland by Scott Johnston is a satirical debut novel set on the picturesque grounds of Devon University, a fictional Ivy League institution, at the start of a new school year. It is clear from the moment Johnston introduces English professor Eph Russell that he intends to have plenty of fun at the expense of elite universities thriving on bloated endowments and emotionally coddled students.
Eph is young, handsome and popular with students. So popular, in fact, that he becomes the target of campus agitators looking for Instagram attention. Lulu is a bored legacy student who decides that an affair with the professor will be just the thing to make college more interesting. Red, an aimless trust fund kid in his seventh year at Devon, takes advantage of Eph's Mark Twain lectures to incite moral outrage among students as a way to boost his own diminished popularity. Making matters worse for Eph, the dean of diversity and inclusion is on the hunt for a trophy Title IX case to justify her high salary, while the president will do anything to avoid the wrath of generous alumni, including throwing the innocent professor under the bus. Johnston brings these characters together for a comedy that will entertain readers even as they wonder if there is any truth to the extreme political correctness that paralyzes Devon.
Excerpts from the campus newspaper documenting mishaps at Devon serve as an amusing sidebar to the main action, but Johnston's parting thought is a sobering one: Campusland may be a work of fiction but it is based closely on the realities of college life today. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer