One of my least favorite parts of academic life is the receptions. I am not a reception-y type person. I enjoy talking to my colleagues, but I want to actually talk to them, not make chit-chat while standing around holding little plates of cheese. Why do people think this is fun? This may sound strange (apparently, though, it is a fairly common thing) but I am much happier giving a lecture to 80 students or a talk to a great big roomful of other scholars than I am circulating at a cocktail party. I enjoy public speaking, and I’m reasonably good at it, and I enjoy actual conversations with people, but this reception business – I mean, yeah, it’s good to meet the dean and all that, but I have already met the dean, haven’t I? And the dean I am sure is not particularly interested in my answers to the “so, how are you settling in?” questions.
But enough rant. (And yes, I do understand that it’s important to get to know people and be friendly and collegial and network and all that – I’m obnoxious, but I’m not oblivious.)
One thing that I noticed about this reception was the music they were playing in the background. It was the sort of anonymous jazz that is usually an attempt to communicate something along the lines of ‘we are cool people talking about interesting things,’ which is true only to a very limited extent in this instance. I would have picked some of Haydn’s string quartets, myself, or maybe some classical guitar. Or perhaps we could have selections from various Regie productions of Mozart operas projected onto the walls so that when we run out of things to say (and we do, sometimes) we can discuss those.
When I become dean and run the world, that is what we will do. I do not expect this to be a popular decision, but it will be the right decision.