Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Sometimes Permission, Always Forgiveness

Inside Higher Ed
May 27th, 2015 


Academe is one of the most institutionally conservative communities that I’ve ever encountered. I have observed to many of my academic friends that when I left a job in the federal government to pursue an academic career, I left the second slowest, second most resistant to change institution in the nation for the absolute slowest, most resistant to change institution in the country. While that quip is mostly tongue-in-cheek, it holds true to a certain extent, at least in my own experience.
It can be maddeningly difficult to initiate some types of work or change within an academic environment. Absolutely maddening.
Enter a timeworn cliché: better to ask forgiveness than permission. The source of this cliché, which speaks to some of the fundamental experiences of life in modern academe, is in dispute. I am not interested in the phrase’s origins, though, but rather its wisdom. And hoary as the saying may be, I nonetheless find some wisdom in it. Maybe not wisdom -- maybe that’s the wrong word. I find some practicality in the saying, some practicality in the idea that -- at least sometimes -- we simply must act on an idea rather than talk it to death or subject it to committee.

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