Thursday, July 6
I'm old fashioned. I use my land line for official business and only give my cell phone number to friends and family. But last week, a dean called my cell phone! (A mutual soon-to-be-departed friend divulged my cell number.) What's worse, the reason for the call was that she wanted me to do one of those crossfire-style radio shows. Her argument was that the other position should not go unchallenged, so I should get up there and defend... well, as it happens, it's the status quo that needed defending from a Right-wing whack job. Hmmmmm.

If I had half a brain I would have just done the deed and scored my points with the dean. But I think this is one of the stupidest moves in the book. (Thanks academicsecret!)

I'm quite happy to jump in and defend one position from another for political or empirical reasons. But pimping yourself out to the broadcast media to defend a whole discipline from some whack job who has "discovered" what the public wants to hear is not only dangerous. It's bad political strategy. So I... um... well I may have said something like that to my dean.

Imagine we're all sitting on an airplane. Airplanes can fly, and we all know that, but they just don't look like they can fly. Still, chances are everything will be fine. Everyone on the plane knows this fact, and everyone on the plane needs to know this fact or everything will not be fine. Now suppose that some nutcase stands up and starts shrieking about how one wing is lower than the other and we're all gonna die. If you were the flight attendant, what would be the best course of action? Would you, (a) treat the nutcase like a nutcase, sweetly trying to get him to sit down and shut up, or (b) ask passengers on the plane whether anyone might be expert enough to debate the nutcase. "Is there a professor on the plane?"

Why would I want to help publicize some nutcase's book?

Oh... Right... to make my dean think of me as someone she can depend on. Damn!


Clear said...

I would treat the nutcase as a nutcase, only I wouldn't be so sweet about it. Once they cross the shrieking line, my flight attendant gloves are off.

Turquoise Stuff said...

I just wanted to say that I'm impressed you stood up to your Dean! It's not easy with the status difference. I agree with you that in situations like this, you're not being asked to represent anything of value about yourself or your interests or know-how, it's all about the other person. So then why in the world would you put yourself through it?

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