Adventures in Ethics and Science

Since being tenured, I’ve tried to shift to a pattern of only coming in to campus three days a week, working from home on Mondays and Wednesdays (and giving the earth a little break by not doing my freeway commute on those days).

However, today, a Wednesday, I figured I should go in to campus to catch up on committee-related work. I envisioned a day where I’d make good progress on some things that needed doing, plus maybe get a chance to go out to lunch at a local eatery (something that never seems to fit in my teaching-days schedule).

Suffice it to say that there was barely enough time to grab a cup of decaf and a muffin, let alone to sit down and enjoy a burrito.


Part of this was due to my faulty memory — a meeting I had recalled being scheduled for later in the week was actually scheduled for 3 pm today. (I figured that out by about 9:30 am. The work to be done before this meeting was already on my list of tasks to accomplish for today.)

Part of this was due to the time it takes to discharge certain responsibilities well. For example, it’s one thing to read through a stack of faculty proposals and supporting materials you’re supposed to evaluate as a member of a college committee. It’s another thing to read through them well enough to be able to lead the discussion the committee will be having about how to rank these proposals. (Why do I get to lead the discussion? Because the last time the committee met, I was somehow elected to chair it. This happens to me far too often, but I haven’t yet figured out a good way to make it stop.) Of course, since the proposals we’re evaluating cannot leave the administrative office where they’re being kept, I had to do this two hours’ worth of reading and evaluating around that office’s schedule.

And then there was the page that needed my signature (and the department chair’s, and the dean’s) to indicate that I was agreeing to be personnel on a grant proposal which is due tomorrow. Luckily, I was on campus today (even though I’m usually not on a Wednesday) to chase down the needed signatures. Luckily, the dean’s office agreed to fax the signed page to its final destination, seeing as how my department no longer has a fax machine. (Apparently the fax machine ceased to be last year, while I was on sabbatical. I don’t know if the cost of transmitting and receiving faxes was the issue, or if the machine broke and the money it would take to repair or replace it seemed like more than the budget could bear. Either way, no more faxing.)

Oh, that grant proposal due tomorrow? Also required me to put together a biographical sketch (in a particular format with which I had not worked before, of course). So that chewed up some time.

Finally, there was the unexpected call for an ethics consult from a colleague working against another rapidly approaching deadline. I mulled that over as I was rushing between campus offices and managed to sit down to compose an email response to the query that I hope was useful.

No burrito for me.

Comments

  1. #1 Vibgy J
    October 21, 2009

    It seems like the day which suppose to be a work from home day turned out to be a busy day in the campus. lol… I liked the idea of working from home to reduce the carbon footprint. Well this is definitely a very good idea actually (should we care about carbon footprint? another topic lol). But the most of the corporates don’t allow this because the manager won’t have control over the worker. The problem here is that the supervisors don’t believe that their subordinates can work by self motivation. That’s true actually, in my experience most of the workers don’t have self motivation. Its more like 80-20 rule. 20% of the workers contribute to 80% of a companies results. Well this can not be changed (at least immediately). But motivation is not a born quality (but effort needed to motivate a person varies depending upon their genes). Motivation must be imparted into every individual’s life from the childhood (education, family, friends everything). Some leading companies follow different strategy. They bring only highly motivated people in. This saves a lot of supervision effort for them.

    Oops this topic triggered a lot of thought processes inside my mind. Must be getting ready for office. Nice post Janet bye…

    visit by blog : http://vibgy.blogspot.com

  2. #2 Janne
    October 22, 2009

    “(Why do I get to lead the discussion? Because the last time the committee met, I was somehow elected to chair it. This happens to me far too often, but I haven’t yet figured out a good way to make it stop.)”

    What you do is appoint yourself as the informal election committee before anyone else:

    “Well, we’re going to need a chair for the next meeting. I’m a bit *mumble* scheduling conflict – So, Doctor Countersink, how about you? I don’t believe you’ve had the opportunity yet?”

    It works, in no small part because it’s seen as presumptuous to appoint yourself to a position of authority – even when nobody actually wants it. So if you bring up the subject, everybody will find it natural, even expected, that it go to anyone else _except_ you.

    In fact, if you look for it in meetings I bet you’ll find a colleague or two who are doing this already, knowingly or just by instinct.

  3. #3 Wayne Yuen
    October 22, 2009

    I think this might be fallout from your attempt to reduce your carbon emissions… From being on campus less, you increase the amount of work that needs to be accomplished when you are actually on campus. No? Had you come to campus on the monday before, you could have perhaps read half of the proposals and such.

    Its the trade off that we all have to make… if we spend less time at work, we have to make the time we spend at work all the more efficient, since not all the work that we do from telecommuting substitutes for the work that we accomplish at the workplace.

    btw I just found your blog recently. Hope things are well at SJSU. Say hi for me to everyone.

  4. #4 Vibgy J
    October 23, 2009

    …to Wayne Yuen

    I agree on your point that some of the work which can be accomplished at the workplace can not accomplished at home. But this depends upon the nature of the work and facilities needed for performing that work. Definitely you can not assemble a car in your home. But you can operate a robot from home which assembles the car in the factory. Long time back I heard a news that a Doctor did a heart transplant surgery in North America from Europe (through telecommunication by operating a robot). We may have to change the normal way of business to go green, but without compromising on the efficiency. IT professionals can be able to work from home completely. I remember some of my female colleagues who missed a promotion due to their maternity leave. Think about this, they can not travel but they can work.

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