Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I ended a previous post by saying that sometimes it takes me a while to catch on.

Universities sometimes ask faculty to waste time. Of course, faculty members cannot complain too loudly because there is some administrator somewhere that thinks the most productive thing that the faculty member can do is take two months to change three words in the mission statement--to the three words that the administrator wanted in the first place.

At my previous university, I was asked to go to a board meeting three hours away. Drive three hours, eat a mediocre lunch, listen to pointless reports, listen to the staff of the organization tell the board what I had done for the year, stand up and repeat what the staff said along with seven suckers like me, then drive three hours home.

Pointless. All that time wasted. My only function was to tell the board what the staff already told them--no function at all.

I was sick when one of the meetings was held. Of course, with all that crap, it probably did not take much to incapacitate me. I called the staff and sent them my report. They did their usual thing. When I did not show up at, the university president was not amused. He said I should have asked a colleague (who knew zero, zippo, nada about the work I was reporting on) to go in my place.

I did not understand what the big deal was. It took me a few years to figure it out.

Professors think that the most important use of their time is in teaching. Another vital use of their time is in research. Missing a class day to blather to some idiots at a boring meeting is a waste of time, unless one is a mindless bureaucrat who only wants to climb the ladder. Oh . . . like a university president.

I figured it out. For a university president the most valuable thing in the world is to stand behind a microphone before a group of bankers, legislators, and the like. So when I was giving my report, my U president was thinking, "They are listening to a real professor from my university. This shows that I am just as good as the presidents of the real U's in the state."

As regards U service, I now try to look at things from the mindless bureaucrat point of view. It makes me nauseous and gives me a rash in the bends of my elbows. But I understand a bit more.

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