The “someone should do it” disease

Jumping off “anonymous’s” suggestion that the department should have a pro-seminar:

Graduate departments and other small social environments tend to be relatively simple organizational environments, where new programs, activities, and the like are relatively easy to establish. In my experience, the biggest impediment to innovation is the “someone should do it” disease.

In graduate school, I saw the epidemic grow, from a few, feeble voices complaining that we were lacking instruction on topics relevant to professionalization. Over time, the feeble voices threatened to become a robust and variegated complaint against the program, and this made it an unpleasant place to learn and work, so some friends and I put together a professionalization seminar. As I remember, we just did it. Picked topics, set a time, got a room, and did it.  Over the years, faculty must have seen the wisdom and value of the seminar, because now they program it without student assistance.

[One of the reasons the ‘someone should do it’ disease bothers me so much is that it is an extremely self-indulgent and lazy criticism. Such criticism does not motivate me to address the concern of the speaker.]

And if “anonymous” is a graduate student in my department, here’s what they obviously don’t know: I’ve offered my files, proseminar syllabus and time to our students, time and time again, to help them generate a pro-seminar. At least one other faculty has done the same, repeatedly, and the faculty as a whole has discussed our willingness to sponsor a student initiative, should one emerge. Despite my repeated offers, all I’ve had is the same conversation, over-and-over, with students. “Someone should do it”, they say.

[Surely someone will ask: Why don’t you just start it, with or without the students’ help? The answer? It is not pedagogically, professionally, or personally rewarding for me to do so. If I were asked to help, brought in as a consultant or advisor, then I would see that as pedagogically useful and professionally not-that-harmful.]

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One response to “The “someone should do it” disease

  1. Pingback: Appropriateness, professionalism, the body, etc « Code and Culture

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