Why So Few Faculty are Involved in Service
To The Faculty Newsletter:
In his FNL article [“Reconsidering the Value of Service to MIT,” Vol. XX No. 5], Bish Sanyal asks why so few faculty are involved in service. He proposes a few explanations but not the one I consider obvious: that few people find service interesting. We faculty are gifted with the opportunity to spend a lot of our time doing just what we want to do – research for many of us, teaching for some. At the same time, we are faced with many responsibilities that we'd rather avoid: raising research money, entertaining funders, getting student fellowships, navigating bureaucracy, writing exams, problems sets, and quals. Service has to compete with all this. Perhaps those who enjoy it will be happy to sacrifice some of their "fun" research time to it. But for those who find service a burden, it has one big advantage over many other unwanted responsibilities: it is optional. If we already feel saturated with our existing responsibilities, we'll certainly avoid taking on more.
Professor of Electrical Engineering