Is there a word for this, where you not only have to waste time doing something absolutely meaningless ("Kafkaesque"?), but where it's also the case that successful completion of the meaningless tasks requires enthusiastic pretense that the task isn't meaningless?
Whatever the term is, it increasingly applies to university assessment procedures. Not only do you have to do a week or so of make-work, but more and more of the make-work is showing the people who check your reports exactly how the assessment process helps your classes get better and better to infinity.
Is this a violation of academic freedom? I did enough philosophy of mind (and virtue ethics) in the past to know how foolish it is to think that simple quantitative surveys of the type acceptable to the assessment Czars (who know nothing about the academic subjects in question) could yield useful information of the sort that would help improve programs. Decent practical reasoning doesn't work this way. I even have a paper with Jason Megill relevant to this topic, and a substantive blog post on four sources of stupidity relevant to assessment. Yet the metastasizing assessment (which at LSU has gone from yearly to now three times a year and almost certainly soon to be quarterly) regime forces me to say things inconsistent with commonsense and the relevant scholarship (again, some of which is my own).
I wonder if the jerks responsible for all of this* will some day apologize to me and my fellow factotums for making us so thoroughly debase ourselves. The Catholic Church apologized to Galileo. It could happen. In the meantime I affix yet another piece of flair.
*Clearly, nobody is really in charge, and this whole thing just some kind of effluvium wheezed up out of something sinister and more pervasive. Consider all of the press this week about how Iraq would have been great if only Prime Minister al-Maliki were less corrupt and sectarian. Nobody asks how a non-corrupt, non-sectarian Prime Minister of contemporary Iraq could possibly keep his head long enough to do anything, much less solve the problems there.
One must appreciate the structural constraints under which individual actors operate. That is, one should never subscribe to the great man theory of university administration.
Winston Churchill purportedly said that you could determine the IQ of a crowd by taking the IQ of the dumbest person and dividing it by the number of people in the crowd. Surely something like that holds for university committees.]