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