On the natural behavior of the academic class

Nov 30 2010 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Tribe of Science

If you put more than about 6 academically trained people on a task of joint action, it invariably turns into a faculty meeting. Complete with all the archetypes.

Discuss.

8 responses so far

  • CoR says:

    Lunch does not escape this problem, either. Three is a better number.

  • Malone says:

    Many times I wonder about starting my own company. No bullshit, just passionate work. If no work, don't have to hang around. If there is work, work the ass off. When things aren't going so well, don't have to hang around. When things are rolling and feel motivated, work the ass off. No bullshit, just pursue the passion, just like the old west.

    Contrast to 6 independent faculty each with their own agenda. Perhaps, everyone be reminded of Nash's equilibrium.

  • I don't think this has anything to do with academia per se. It's just the ubiquitous inability to kep eyes on the ball, and check the egos at the door.

  • Kaija says:

    I grew up in an academic family and now work in academia so I suppose I have not much else as a point of reference. My top of the head hypotheses are that a) The lack of a structured "hierarchy" (as in business, the military, etc) means that no one gets to be right by rank (and this can be a good thing but certainly makes agreement on action and decision-making harder), b) in a collection of academics, every person is convinced that s/he is the smartest person in the room and thus everyone else needs to hear his/her thoughts/opinion/analysis/recommendations, which leads to c) no one is ever really listening because they are busy constructing their own pitch and waiting impatiently for their turn to hold forth. 🙂

    I love/hate it simultaneously.

  • drugmonkey says:


    I grew up in an academic family ..c) no one is ever really listening because they are busy constructing their own pitch and waiting impatiently for their turn to hold forth.

    Oh, Lord. Are you related to me? HAHAHAHAAHA.

    /sob

  • Amy says:

    I'm on a committee right now that has exposed some of my colleagues' weaknesses (which of my weaknesses have been exposed as well? Aargh). But I have learned over the years that the colleagues whose approach to problems is most different from my own and who are the most difficult to work with are often the colleagues I can learn the most from. They force me to "think outside the box" so to speak. And those afore-mentioned weaknesses often end up being strengths in disguise. So hooray for impromptu faculty meetings! (wait, don't stone me!)

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I done a bit of study on interdisciplinary teams, committees, etc. I think there is an 1930's article which shows that the most effective size for a committee is 0.7 persons.

  • Pinko Punko says:

    As long as someone is clearly acting and saying things that they think they should say because that is how they conceive faculty meeting should be like. Consider the person who loves coming up with ever more extreme hypotheticals in defense of the status quo, which of course would be equally prone to such hypotheticals (but they only work one direction). The other phenotype of this sh*thead is "we have got to work within the existing guidelines" [but what about this guideline, can't we enforce that] "no, that existing guideline is really not enforceable because you can't make the faculty do that or you might hurt someone's feelings."

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