I was over in the mothership mail room (I'm officed in a different building from the rest of the department), and ran in to a dear colleague whom I rarely get to to see.
"How are you?" I asked, not prepared for the fleeting look of terror that preceded the socially acceptable "fine."
He just wants to do things that matter like write his book on the genetic basis of hamster fur taxonomy and do a good job training the future taxonomers. But instead, he is spending his time on the "value of the arts" committee, so we can seem serious on art and on the "student happiness through changing the campus bus routes" committee, so we can seem serious on student happiness. He knows almost nothing about jazz combos (apparently, the last meeting was about whether the uni should invite a 3-piece combo or a 4-piece combo) or public transportation, so his place on these committees is mostly to nod and smile.
Art is great. Happy students are great. We can show our appreciation for diversity by putting dear colleague on every committee and task force we can dream up.
We can. But should we? What are the opportunity costs?