March 02, 2005

Best Freudian Slip of the Day

All kinds of drama at this morning's department meeting. It would have been exciting to watch if it wasn't so incredibly tedious and boring. We spent considerable time (a wasteful and exorbitant and annoying amount of time) analyzing one particular committee, with at least one faculty member making an impassioned plea that the committee be disbanded and re-formed in the fall. CommitteeGuy was arguing that although it looked like the committee hadn't done anything, it actually was doing stuff vitally important. He never did explain what the vitally important stuff was. The discussion went something like this (I may be paraphrasing a bit):

Funding! Resources! Blah. Blah. Blah. Budget! Budget Cuts! Blah. Blah. Blah. Option K undermines our program. Blah. Blah. Blah. No one likes Option Q. Blah. Blah. Blah. The provost likes Option X. Blah. Blah. Blah. No one likes the provost anyhow. Blah. Blah. Blah. What is the charge to the committee? (silence)

Blah. Blah. Blah. We need to stake a claim! Blah. Blah. Blah. What were the recommendations? Blah. Blah. Blah. Science is important! Blah. Blah. Blah. No one cares about literature. Blah. Blah. Blah. Humanities people are warm and fluffy. Blah. Blah. Blah. No one cares what they think. Blah. Blah. Blah. The right people are not on the committee! Blah. Blah. Blah. What about the students? Blah. Blah. Blah. No one cares about the students. Blah. Blah. Blah. Everything the committee has done is wrong. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Then CommitteeGuy, who was getting defensive about this committee that has done almost nothing, was asked to explain why he felt the committee should continue, rather than be disbanded and re-formed in the fall. He fumbled for words and said finally, "I think we need to keep going. I don't want to lose the inertia."


wolfa said...

That's actually a reasonably good use of inertia -- which includes the tendency of a body in motion to keep moving unless acted on by something else. (Because these actions always happen -- friction and so on -- we don't think of this particular meaning of inertia, but it's just the tendency of things not to accelerate (in the "change velocity" sense, not the "speed up" one) without having a force acting on them.)

Sorry, sorry, I'm a pedantic nerd.

jo(e) said...

Yes, wolfangel, but that's what made the remark so revealing. CommitteeGuy wants the committee to keep moving exactly the way it's been going, which is to say, accomplishing nothing, with no new ideas, no changes, nothing that will act upon it to force it to do anything worthwhile.

But I think he actually intended to say something about how the committee was going to gather momentum and suddenly start accomplishing something.

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

Isn't that one of Newton's Laws: a body at rest stays at rest. It looks like it is a social law as well, at least in terms of academic committee work.

We have a wonderful director of undergraduate studies who has held zero meetings and accomplished zero tasks, yet still gets to maintain her course release for all of this non-work (a course release!! In a department where a full load is 2/2!!! Unbelievable.)

wolfa said...

But doing something requires *effort*. I think it was revealing too -- but I think it was accidentally so.

anbruch said...

Blah, blah, blah. What does it say about the academy that nearly all committees operate with such "inertia"—not doing anything now, won't do anything in the future?

Blah, blah blah. I suppose it gives everyone lines on the annual report so it looks like we are doing service when we're really just sitting on our butts going blah, blah, blah, squirrels.

And, besides, if we didn't have our blahing at these committee meetings, we might actually get something useful done. Can't have that now, can we?

Great post, blah, blah, blah.


Cut-Rate Parasite said...

I hate to sound boastful, but at my new job (started in the fall) I've only had two meetings all academic year. Both were over in less than half an hour. No blah, blah, just "let's do this and this, the rest is bullshit, OK? Good." As far as I can tell we don't really have any committees. I'm always nervous about asking. I asked something about committees at my last job and was chairing it within a nanosecond after asking the question.

At my last job we had two meetings a day, at least, sometimes three if those two took up less than seven hours between them. For some reason I don't feel like less is getting done where I am now.

jo(e) said...

Cut-rate parasite: You are really lucky. I spend a lot of time at committee meetings that get nothing accomplished. And the worst part is that they turn my brain to humus and leave me writing in phrases like: Blah. Blah. Blah.

PPB said...

Committees make me crazy.
Gratefully, I now work for a dean whose longest faculty meeting this year was 41 minutes. We time him.