Friday, May 22, 2015


I wish I had taken  photo. Today I got a cup of coffee from the faculty lounge which is also home to the faculty refrigerator which is the home of the faculty freezer. I wanted to drink coffee right away and it was hot so I opened the freezer for a cube of ice to cool it down.

When I cracked it open I found out that the speed of smell is faster than the speed of light because the odor was on me like cat hair on a furry sofa. I know this because I have two cats and two furry sofas. And then I looked and realized the the freezer was not a place for mixed company.

There were abandoned ice cream bars maybe dating from the fifties, frozen foods left from the ice age, and smears along the walls. I had not seen anything like it since I peered into a diaper pail.

So what was going on?  It takes no genius: it was global warming, overfishing, over hunting, clogged roads and every other Tragedy of the Commons in a one foot by 2 foot space. The first thing I though of was I will take my Law and Economics class next year on a field trip to the faculty freezer. No more field trips to Greenland necessary,  Everyone who ever wanted a freezer used the freezer as long as there was space. Spills? Who cares? [I have to be honest, though, the ice trays were full meaning that free riding in the ice tray department had not occurred.]

I mentioned to a pal who said "Why are you surprised, right there in front of you was faculty governance." He was righter than rain unless there is something even righter than righter than rain in which case that is how right he was.

Yes, everyone takes: they want their programs, their conferences, their foreign travel, teach their courses, at their times, 2 days a week max, smallest sections, blah blah blah. It is all put in terms of what is good for the commons but almost none of it is or, if it is, it is a fluke.

The Commons can be solved in a variety of ways. Private property rights supposedly encourage people to internalize the costs of their efforts to benefit. I thought about assigning to each person a designated  4 cubic inches of freezer space but some of that space would be suspended in mid freezer and not usable. As far as faculty graspiness, I do not know how you gets a person who wants to fly a dozen or so people to a continent just below ours so they can confercate to internalize the costs

There also can be contractual rights. I suppose everyone could agree to not leave anything in the freezer for more than 7 years and to clean up spills. This would not work unless there is an enforcer. There are no freezer enforcers. (I Googled it.) As far as faculty governance, few deans with ambition to last for more than a year or two or move on would dare enforce or question whether faculty governance is anything other than Jim Dandy (is that supposed to be capitalized?).

Freezer dictatorship is what we need. He or she has complete control of the freezer and it is only used with permission. Anyone abusing the freezer loses freezer rights for a year or, at least, has to eat one of the ice cream bars abondoned in the late 60s. (Actually, strike that. I'll have one of those myself.)

And, I think that is where I end up on deans and faculty governance. Faculty governance, as everyone knows is another way of saying "free for all." I want a dictator dean. One willing and able to say NO to anything that does not, in a very obviously fashion, advance the welfare of the commons.


Prof. Pedro A. Malavet said...

Start slow, Jeff. Weekly fridge clean out and automatic toilet flushing systems will be a reasonable start.

Athena said...

Is the picture of the refrigerator a real one or is a fake one????

I forgot from the shoc the "hi" and all my good manners! Do something, all of you there without waiting for the dean before a fatal disease comes to hit like a thunder.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Thanks Athena for your kind comments about the MOOC. I did not have my camera so I could not take a picture of the exact one, I assure you that the real one looks no better than this one,

Fred said...

Who needs a Dean, anarchy is the answer.