In his final year of college at Middle State University, senior Chris Warren finds that the courses he needs to graduate are not offered and he will have to return to school for an extra year. As he and Dr. Brumley, a sympathetic instructor, try to remedy the situation, they confront the indifference and increasing hostility of the university administration, whose members, as well as most of Brumley's colleagues at Middle State, are committed largely to their careers and to rising in the university hierarchy. Or as one student has it, to kicking ass from a swivel chair.
In their year-long attempt to find justice, Warren and Brumley encounter most of the follies and perversions of modern academia. Collect athletics, the current lunacy of literary studies, student apathy and inability, the menace of particular biological and physical science research, corporate influence in higher education, the dominance of computers - all are targets of Middle State's satire. But behind them is the larger issue: What is an education for?