Thursday, April 5, 2012

Saideman's Law


During the last dinner of the ISA, I learned that I have a law.  Well, my old chair at TTU (the very best chair I have ever had [that might seem like I am damning him with faint praise, but that is not my intention]), David Lanoue said that he frequently invokes Saideman’s law. 

Well, what is Saideman’s Law?  Apparently, during a department meeting at TTU, one of my colleagues was arguing that we had to do something because we had done it before.  I responded by saying that we should not do something that is quite stupid just because we did this stupid thing before.  The essence is that precedents should only bind if the precedent has legitimacy.   So, David, as chair at Alabama and now Dean at Columbus State College, has frequently invoked my argument when somebody says that “well, we did this before, so we need to do it again, even if it is a bad idea.”

Update: one of my commenters phrased the law thusly:
Saideman's Law: You are not bound (legally, morally, or otherwise) by the worst decision you ever made.

My take should not surprise readers of the Spew since I have railed against tradition for the sake of tradition, but it was gratifying to learn that my outburst has had a lasting impact.  I just need to find a snappy line to go with Saideman’s Law so I can make a bumper sticker akin to “Gravity: It is not just a good idea; it’s the law!”

Any suggestions?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is also known as an is-ought fallacy...

Anonymous said...

This is also known as an is-ought fallacy...

Anonymous said...

It's a great law, often invoked when someone cites precedent as a reason to make a dumb decision regarding tenure and promotion.

"Well, 10 years ago we promoted Margot to Full Professor based on her publishing three letters to the editor in the Springfield Banner. So now that Jim Bob has published his third letter, we have to give him tenure, too! Otherwise, we might get sued."

Saideman's Law: You are not bound (legally, morally, or otherwise) by the worst decision you ever made.

Bill said...

Outstanding stuff! I'm stealing this (with attribution, of course) and using it liberally. This comes up on an almost daily basis in administration, as you might imagine.