- "Scariness is the true measure of a monster. If you're not scary, what kind of a monster are you?"
- —Dean Hardscrabble
To Dean Hardscrabble, there are scary monsters and there are all other monsters. It’s no surprise she feels this way—she is, after all, a legendary Scarer and Dean of the School of Scaring at Monsters University. Aspiring Scare students must be up for the challenge to impress her, though she is convinced that her assessment of who is truly scary and who is not is never wrong.
In Monsters University, Dean Hardscrabble is first seen flying into Professor Knight's classroom, causing all of the lights in the room to go out with a single flap of her wings. Hardscrabble then tells all of Prof. Knight's students (including Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan) that they all have to complete a final exam so that they can enter the Scaring Program or else they will be kicked out of the school. Unfortunately, Mike, despite wanting to be a scarer very badly, is unable to scare anyone and Sulley, despite already being scary, never studies or completes his homework. Because of this, Hardscrabble sees Mike and Sulley get into a big roar-off, ending with both monsters accidentally breaking the dean's prized scream canister. Despite staying calm about it, Hardscrabble has the two both kicked out of the School of Scaring.
However, Mike and Sulley find out that the only way to get back into the School of Scaring is to compete in the Scare Games with a fraternity of rejected monsters called Oozma Kappa. And as a result, Mike makes a deal with the dean that if they and OK win the Games, he and Sulley can go back to MU. But if they lose, they will have to leave the school forever. During the Scare Games, Dean Hardscrabble is secretly watching Mike and Sulley competing from afar, aware that they are both going to fail. But after OK wins the Games when they beat Roar Omega Roar in the final round with the scare simulators, Sulley tells Hardscrabble that he cheated by setting Mike's simulator level to easy just to make OK win since to him it's a no-win situation for them otherwise due to Mike's inability to scare. The dean orders him to leave the campus when all of a sudden, she is alerted that Mike had secretly snuck into the door lab, prompting Sulley to go there to save his friend. Hardscrabble then shuts down the door in question, which led to a cabin at a campsite until the authorities arrive, but Mike and Sulley manage to escape back by scaring several human adults in the form of a team of police officers.
Hardscrabble then has both Mike and Sulley expelled from Monsters University permanently, but was sad to let them go because their actions, while considered as a major offense to her school, ended up surprising her. Hardscrabble suggests that the two of them work at Monsters, Inc., much to their delight.
Hardscrabble is tough and strict, and always thinks she's right.
Dean Hardscrabble somewhat resembles a dragon, with her red, dark, long, scaly appearance, red bat wings, and her tons of millipede legs.
Character Development and DesignThe Dean was originally to be a male character, whose design was based on an alligator. However, late in the production, a few weeks before starting animation, Dan Scanlon decided the character had to be a female. Character Art Director Jason Deamer says Scanlon likes "to play things again type" and believes that was the trigger of the change, as "a male antagonist Dean is an accepted thing in the college movie genre, so the idea was that it would be more interesting to make her a female; it’s something new". Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann says about Hardscarbble male version that "he just came in and did a lot of yelling and screaming and it didn’t really intimidate you. [With Hardscrabble's final version] It’s a kind of quiet reserved judgement that really sends the chills up your spine".
The artists first tried to make minor changes to the male design they had to feminize it, but found it wasn't sufficient, and started over from scratch. A team of character designers, comprising artists that worked on the original Monsters, Inc., was gathered. They went through many designs, trying basing her on a crab, scorpion, snake, moth, bat and owl. The biggest problem came from that her appearance had to reflect she is both the dean of the school and a legendary Scarer, two ideas that they found were not necessarily compatible. As Deamer explains, "Some designs worked as the Dean of a school but maybe not as the best Scarer ever, and then others works as the most amazing Scarer but not convincing as a Dean, and it wasn’t until we came across this giant centipede that it happened."
They finally settled on a type of centipede called Scolopendra Gigantea, also known as the Amazonian giant centipede, that combined the creepiness, authority and elegance they wanted Hardscrabble to have. One was brought to Pixar for reference, and was called Kendra the Scolopendra by the MU crew. An expert was also dispatched to manipulate the beast. Hardscrabble's head takes from the crowns of horned lizards, and her wings are based on those of bats and designed to blend into her jacket when folded.
- Hardscrabble bears some resemblance to Maleficent, the villainess of Disney's Sleeping Beauty, especially her dragon form. Curiously enough, the librarian bears some resemblance to Ursula from The Little Mermaid.
- In some ways, Hardscrabble appears to be the complete opposite of Waternoose: while Waternoose appears friendly and kind-natured but is actually cruel and evil, and is therefore the original film's main antagonist; Hardscrabble appears stern and unpleasant but is actually caring and benign, and is therefore an ally to Mike and Sulley.
- Hardscrabble's personality resembles Anton Ego's from Ratatouille.
- When Hardscrabble sees Sulley go into the door leading to the girls' cabin to save Mike Wazowski from several human policemen by roaring at them she yells, "Don't go in there!" A similar line was said by Waternoose at the end of the original film when Sulley and Boo trick him into exposing his evil plans and being arrested by the CDA by luring him into the scare simulation room, which he yells: "Don't go in that room!"
- Hardscrabble used to be a member of HSS.
- Hardscrabble founded the Scare Games when she was a student, and won them four years in a row.
- It's unknown of what happened to Dean Hardscrabble's career when Monsters, Inc. switched from scaring children to making them laugh. It's possible however, that she still determines which monsters are scary and which ones aren't, since other companies may still be reliant on scaring, and the ones that aren't scary end up at Monsters, Inc.
- "Hardscrabble" actually means very poor reward regardless of hard work, which appropriately describes how she treats her students: anyone who does not live up to her expectations cannot attend her school.
- "Very well. If you win, I will let your entire team into the Scare program. But if you lose, you will leave Monsters University."
- "What, this? My one souvenir from a life time of scaring? Accidents happen, don't they? The important thing is, no one got hurt."
- "No one goes near that door until the authorities arrive."
- "Until the authorities arrive, this door stays off!"