Wednesday, January 26, 2011


[See great comment below]

Some time ago I wrote about elites wanting to appear to volunteer for things because asking was a sign of weakness. So you get things like:

1. I told the dean I would agree to go on the around the world trip to research foreign summer school opportunities.
2. I told the dean that I would volunteer to teach one of the small sections.
3. I told the dean that I thought I could fit in spending an extra $5000 on office furniture.
4. Yes, I did volunteer to take the year off.
5. I volunteered to cap my class at 5 students so I could give the students the best possible instruction.

The volunteer gambit means you never asked for anything but did the other person a favor by doing whatever it was that you wanted. Basically it's a flip those doing it are "flippers." You got what you wanted but try to seem like you did something someone else wanted. I've seen it on law faculties over and over. It's because for so many life is a ongoing negotiation.

Now I have discovered a new version of it. In a different context, it works like this:

You, say the director of a program, appoint someone -- Phil -- to travel to Kansas to search for a school that will have an exchange program with yours. Meanwhile you have appointed yourself to tour Europe on a first class ticket to find ideal locations for multiple summer programs. Later you cannot do your tour so you ask Phil to take over the European tour. Then you write to your faculty:

"Phil can not go to Kansas to search for exchange possibilities. Would someone else like to do it."

You do not write: "I appointed myself to go on a European tour. I cannot make it so I asked Phil if he would like to do it and he jumped at the chance. That means we need someone to go to Kansas. "

Other than the close-to-vest style I have no specific reason to cite for why this one seems dishonest but it grates on me and I think it is related to the volunteer problem. You do not want to say "I appointed myself." My goodness, you could never own that! It sounds self serving. And, if you say "I volunteered," the case is so extreme people would laugh. So you leave out that you rewarded yourself. Remember, never admit you got something you wanted -- it shows weakness.

Then there is the "Phil cannot go" part. I mean, can you really get away with saying "Phil cannot go" when you asked Phil not to go and dangled a big plum in his face? Why try this? Maybe because it makes Phil look a like a victim (sacrificing like a volunteer) . In actuality, Phil himself may not care but elites think it is important to appear not to care (caring is weakness) and they attribute that desire to others.

Maybe all I am looking for here is the word disingenuous but I like the idea of "flippers."

[This comment is so dead on I am bringing it up to the post: "This reminded me of the time an individual on our law review sent an email to the law review listserve informing everyone that donuts were in the office. But the emailer failed to mention that the donuts were placed there by someone else."

To me this is part of a mentality that says "If it is not technically a lie it is OK even if it is misleading." This must be a law thing because, in a way, it is what is taught.]

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