Prompted in part by Rob Knop’s post on meeting with humanists, an observation about the nature of academia attributed to our late Dean of the Faculty, a former Classics professor:
The key difference between disciplines in terms of administrative business on campus is that scientists tend to do their research work (experiments, calculations, simulations) in on-campus labs and offices, while humanities faculty do their research work (reading, writing, and thinking) at home. This means that humanists only come to campus in order to teach classes and socialize with colleagues, while scientists come to campus to do research, as well as to teach and socialize.
This leads to a radically different attitude towards faculty meetings and committee meetings, which in turn explains a great deal about the way colleges and universities operate (below the fold):
Humanists tend to be perfecetly happy to go to meetings on campus, because it gives them the chance to socialize with colleagues while also accomplishing something worthwhile for the campus as a whole. As these meetings occur on campus during the day, they don’t conflict with research activity directly.
Scientists, on the other hand, tend to resent having to attend meetings, because those meetings directly cut into research time. If we’re sitting in a faculty meeting, we’re not in the lab or office doing more useful work, and that means we have to stay later, or come back in the evening to get work done. It’s a much greater imposition on scholarship, which is why science faculty tend to get more cranky about having to go to meetings than faculty in the humanities and social sciences.
The implications of this difference for the operation of campus governance are left as an exercise for the reader.
(And again, while I heard this theory from an astronomer, it originated with a Classicist…)