Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Iron Laws of University Life

I was about to blog about the timing of proofs as I got two batches today (one book, one chapter) just as things are heating up with a conference ahead, classes starting soon, meetings starting to pile up and the old August "I must get everything out" pressure building up.  And then I realized that I have a certain tendency to name "Iron Laws."  So, I thought I would collect them here and use this post for future reference.

  • The Iron Law of Publishing, as suggested above: academic proofs will always arrive at the most inconvenient time.  They always seem to have short fuses, like two weeks.  Oy.
  • The Iron Law of Publishing Perceptions: academics make far less money from their publishing efforts than people think.
  • The Iron Law of Dissertations (and applies to much else): Just because you learned something does not mean it belongs in the dissertation.
  • The Iron Law of Academic Reading: the more you assign, the less the students will read.
  • The Iron Law of Administration: when all else is being cut, administration grows.  When all is growing, administration grows faster.
  • The Iron Law of Instructions: There will always be something like ten percent of the class that simply cannot follow instructions.  Asking them to sort themselves is a mistake since they are unaware AND will not follow the sorting rule correctly.
  • The Iron Law of Meetings: There will always be individuals who will need to say something even if there is no need for them to say anything.  I had a pact in my first TT job with another junior faculty member that we would kick the other if one of us spoke up at a meeting.  It does seem to be the case that there will always be some people who enjoy meetings and enjoy making them last longer. (H/T to PF for reminding me of this)
  • And, of course, the Iron Law of Blogging: If you tell an academic not to blog about something, they are very likely to blog about it.
Alas, Saideman's Law does not qualify for Iron Law status because it is rarely observed. Which, upon reflection, casts some doubt on the Iron Law of Dissertations, but I will keep it for now because perhaps if I call it so, it will be so, and we desperately need dissertations that do not contain that which is not needed.

I am sure I will be adding to this over time and re-posting it.  I am open to suggestions.


The Undergrad said...

The Iron Law of Administration is Iron. What Frustrates me is that they don't seem to get more efficient.

Also, in regards to the Iron Law of Blogging... Definitely DON'T blog about North Korean/South Korean conflict.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sadie,

is changing a department culture feasible? What can be done if the percentage of evilil, criminally stupid, insane, and/or tragically lazy professors is close to 40%? Other than leave...

Steve Saideman said...

I think so. It takes time, and it requires a series of good chairs (not always easy or likely). The key is to marginalize the evil/stupid/insane folks and punish the lazy ones. If faculty do not listen to the bad actors and serve as voices of reason so that the grad students don't follow the bad profs, if the leadership can discern who is reasonable and who is not, then over time the lousy folks might remain loud but lose relevance. My old place just needed a chair that no longer empowered the least reasonable people, for instance. Over time, the senior faculty and fulls can get populated with reasonable people, making the less reasonable people lose power and influence.

40% That is hard. It requires more strenuous leadership, more Dean support, but if the reasonable people can remain united, you can win votes.