October 7, 2005

"Please send help!"

My colleague Gordon Smith -- who, by the way is calling for the withdrawal of the Miers nomination -- blogs from the faculty meeting -- for help!

He was plugged into the ethernet. I was in another corner of the room, not plugged in and unable to pick up any WiFi. Had I been able to get on line, I would have blogged, but I wouldn't have blogged for help. I'd have been happy enough just to be able to get on line and to blog. As it was, I really needed help more than Gordon!

UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge is awed by the free-spirited ways of the Madisonians:
Do Gordon and Ann take laptops to the faculty meeting and just whip them out in plain sight? I've occasionally used my Treo to blog from a faculty meeting or, more often, to check email, but even that is pushing the outer limits of the group norms of my faculty. Blatantly working on a laptop while paying only partial attention, at most, to my colleagues' endless rambling thoughtful comments probably would be way over the line of what's acceptable here.

I've written about the role of group norms play in determining in how corporate boards make decisions and remain curious about the role of norms in governing behavior. So I pose a question: If your job requires endless meetings, do your workplace civility norms allow one to blog from the meeting?
I have another question: Does anyone work somewhere where prolonging meetings with superfluous, new issues and philosophical reflections is considered beyond "workplace civility norms"? If not, and if, at the same time, rapt attention must be paid to everyone who takes the floor, you've got a major dysfunction. I think you have to go one way or the other. If you want to require rapt attention, you've got to make the meeting very crisp and fast. To the extent that the speakers want to be tolerated as they luxuriate in extended discourse, they need to show mercy by allowing a lot of freedom to the rest of us folks. We have the mutual tolerance approach here in Madison ... at least as far as I can tell.

Is using a laptop worse than doing crosswords or reading -- the traditional methods of staving off madness? Maybe it is. There's that clicky keyboard sound, and the screen seems to be a barrier, walling you off from the communal spirit so many of the professorial types seem to believe they are generating with all the back-and-forth.

And then, the possibility of blogging... that must be especially disturbing. Many faculty do not understand blogging and imagine all sorts of odd or abusive things going on in this little 'sphere of ours. Is Althouse taking quotes out of context, satirizing us, holding us up to the mockery of her right-wing groupies?


Jacques Cuze said...

Clearly the president deserves a straight up or down vote on his nominations from the full senate.

Ann Althouse said...

He's also entitled to withdraw his nomination if he sees fit.

ALH ipinions said...

Did Kristol and other neo-con elitists call for Bush the elder to withdraw the Clarence Thomas nomination? Or did they really believe that Thomas was the most qualified person in America when he was nominated to the Court?

I understand (and summarily dismiss) the unease right-wing (religious) fanatics have about Miers. But the indignant reaction by erstwhile enlightened political pundits is nothing short of hypocrital and smacks of rank snobbery!

Incidentally, Ann, did you call for Bush the elder to withdraw the Thomas nomination?

Ann Althouse said...

ALH: I wasn't blogging at the time, and wasn't sending out calls of any kind then. I was opposed to him anyway, so you're point doesn't really work. In any case, he had far superior credentials to Miers's, as I've written about in another post.

Demanding qualifications for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court isn't snobbery. That argument is overplayed. If that's what Miers supporters are relying on, it's pathetic.

Mary said...

I read Prof. Smith's post, and think it's kind of sad that he can't concentrate for longer than an hour. That sounds like a very important topic, and for him to be blogging through it and not listening fully and concentrating... Sorry to be so critical today, but I really wish you law professors lived in the same world as the rest of us.

Think paycheck, Gordon. These meetings are part of your salary. Sure nobody likes long meetings, but only an hour? Sorry, no sympathy here.

ALH ipinions said...


"Demanding qualifications for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court [is] snobbery" might be an "overplayed" argument; but I did not play it.

I merely queried the spectacle of a double standard amongst those who would have President Bush withdraw the Miers nomination because she does satisfy their arbitrary criteria; when those same people might've endorsed the Thomas nomination despite prevailing opinion that he was far from the most qualified or suited person for appointment to the Supreme Court. (I infer that's why you "opposed him". And, I respect the consistency of your professional (and political) requirements in this regard.)

Joan said...

When I worked in Corporate America as a midline manager, I would've been extremely ticked off if anyone had come to any meeting with a crossword puzzle or non-relevant reading material. Meetings were called specifically to work through tasks that required more than one person's input, and anything competing for the participants' attention would have been considered at the very least unprofessional, if not downright rude. Certainly if any of my direct reports had done such a thing, I would've had a one-on-one with them asap to ask him why he didn't feel we needed his contributions to the task at hand.

I don't see endless pontificating somehow "balanced" by leniency with regard to expectations for how much people are actually paying attention as "mutual tolerance." It sounds like Ivory Tower silliness to me. In the Real World, where we have deadlines to meet that have nothing to do with academic calendars and funneling students through the system, managers that run meetings like the type you're describing quickly find themselves not managing anymore.

This divergence between academia and the rest of the world is exactly why your harping on Miers as unqualified rings a bit hollow. You Ivory Tower types apparently don't even know how to run a meeting without wasting everyone's time. Do you think any of Harriet Miers' associates ever did a crossword puzzle in a meeting she called?

Rob said...

Once upon a time I worked in a medium sized (a dozen or so deputies) prosecutor's office as a deputy. We had weekly staff meetings which were fun but a waste of time. My boss liked me to be there in case my opinion was needed, however, I eventually learned to bring police reports to the meetings. I would review the reports and happily tune out the meeting. It was not considered rude, and may even have been considered evidence of efficiency. I take it faculty members do not value efficiency?

ziemer said...


it's not only academia that has useless meetings.

in once had to attend weekly meetings that were pointless; since the jackass who held them was fired, we have meetings more like once per year, and the product has improved immeasurably.

and blogging would have been far less rude than what i usually did -- let my blood pressure rise until i finally exploded into a tirade of profanity against said jackass.

ziemer said...

and i would imagine that few meetings could possibly be more of a waste of time than faculty meetings.

as the saying goes, "the reason university politics are so nasty is that the stakes are so petty."

Ann Althouse said...

Joan: You're probably picturing smaller groups in meetings where it really would be rude. Gordon and I were at a meeting with 50 people that went on for over two hours. Much of it was about the application of a technical subsection of a new rule that affected a subgroup within the law school. I followed the argument, but had no opinion about the matter.

Sloanasaurus said...

Quxxo said: "Clearly the president deserves a straight up or down vote on his nominations from the full senate"

I totally agree with Quxxo (for the first and last time I am sure).

Remember Bush probably has another couble dozen appellate court nominations and possibly another supreme before his term is up.

Joan said...

Ann -- you're right! More than 50 people isn't a "meeting," it's more like a conference, and actually it sounds like a presentation at that.

Meetings have different requirements than presentations, the most important one being the participation of the people attending. I detest presentations utterly, since most of the time the presenter spends all of his floor time reading the slides that the participants are more than capable of reading themselves... in like circumstances, I too have been known to bring in draft documents to review, or other work that I could do while still following the general flow of the presentation.

It's amazing how organizations conspire to waste our time.

Beldar said...

I'm proud to be among your groupies.

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Simon Kenton said...

Joan - right on. I worked in a small park with a small staff, and we prepped for our budget meetings. We knew who our opposition was, how we would neutralize their points, even role-played which of us would say what when, had our figures lined up. Budget in a park was 0-sum, and my staff always won.

I transferred to a large 'service center,' and my new boss told me we had a meeting that afternoon. I asked who our allies and enemies were, what arguments we would be using, what our positions and fallbacks were. He gave me the whose-belly-did-your-tentacles-just-pop-out-of look, and said, "It's just a meeting."

Mary - you might want to review the part of Polonius in Hamlet. He is a bore without being boring; you have not yet managed to inveigh against boorishness without being a boor.

Ann Althouse said...

I've deleted Mary's comment because it describes me doing something that is intended to make me look rude and that I not only don't remember doing, but don't think it is the sort of thing I would do. The story contains at least three elements that ring false.

I get it, Mary, you don't like me, but you know me enough to be able to report things about me that you purport to know.

irish guard said...

I am not sure I buy this whole story, but if the JP Stevens thing is true, Bush may have made a brilliant decision. Its a long but interesting read.


bearing said...

Careful! Don't get dooced!

(I suppose tenure protects you from that, actually.)

Ann Althouse said...

Bearing: Not just tenure, but also the fact that the Law School brags about my blog on its official website and has more than once had me give a presentation to students about blogging. Oh, and a little thing we law types like to call "free speech."

reader_iam said...

If Mary knows you, then presumably you know who she is. I can't figure out whether it bothers me more that she seems to thinks it's OK to take out personal animus in this forum (both being rude and excluding everyone else, who can't know the background--and shouldn't) or that she can't appreciate the fact that you are taking the high road by not taking potshots and in fact remaining silent about her outside of measured responses to a couple of her individual posts here, or that--assuming she's a practicing lawyer or soon to be--that she can't appreciate that she may be shooting herslf in the foot, professionally.

Believe you me, if there had been blogging back in the day and one of my career-related profs were doing so, there's no way I'd be putting forth some of the snark we've witnessed here. Enlightened self interest, anyone? I mean, even if I didn't care about that professor and had others from which to get recommendations, mentoring and so, those others (even if they didn't like the original prof, either) would likely not look to kindly upon my unprofessionalism and judgement. (And don't take that to mean I believed in sucking up; I had zero problem disagreeing with and confronting profs--my father being one, I'd had a lifetime of practice--nor did I feel intimidated. It's just that I'd do it in a more appropriate forum.)

In this case, if we can slightly expand the meaning of the term, it's Mary that better watch out for the dooce!