MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXI No. 1
September / October 2008
Silence of the Lions
MIT's New Supercomputing Network
Problems in Evaluating
Four-Year Colleges
Agenda Items: New and Old
An Update on the Educational Commons Subcommittee
Teaching this fall? You should know . . .
Moving From Two Degrees to
Double Majors
MIT 4th Best College,
Top Engineering School
Darwin Bicentenntial Events
Planned at MIT
What is the Global Education and Career Development Center?
The First Step Toward Solving Global Warming: Getting MIT to Listen
MISTI Announces the
MISTI Global Seed Funds
Workplace 2.0: Improving Generativity, Creativity, and Faculty Quality of Life
Why So Few Faculty
are Involved in Service
Research Expenditures by Primary Sponsor (1999-2008)
Printable Version


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.

David Karger
Professor of Electrical Engineering

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