Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Secret Code

We love our acronymns and code words around here.  We'd rather have an acronym for seven words than a single or two word committee name.  And then there are codes.

I was at a meeting the other day, and afterwards, walked out near someone I didn't know, so we chatted a bit, introduced ourselves.  And the other person asked one of the code words, so I tried to explain.  This is a smart person who's been here a while, but the codes are pretty coded.  I don't know if the people who use the codes really mean them to be as exclusionary as they feel.  (And you know, this is supposed to be the friendly and welcoming midwest, except not so friendly or welcoming sometimes.)  I still don't know codes occasionally, and it's hard to ask what they mean after a certain point (depending on who you want to ask and such).

Codes are like administrator jargon.  It's as bad as assessment codes.  Bleargh.

Does every school do this code thing?


  1. Can you give us a non-identifying example?

    The only example I can think of is at St. Martyr's, where "truth" (or sometimes, when one was feeling fancy, "veritas") was code for "it's the Vatican's way or the highway."

  2. A politician's name works as code among some people. Also trying to figure out the ever shifting "goal," "outcome," "assessment," "evaluation," and so on. "Sick leave" is also code in some conversations, sometimes (and it doesn't mean when you get sick and can get paid for a day even when you're not at work)(but sometimes it means that). Of course, "prayer meeting" means Christian prayer and only Christian prayer, and preferably one of the specific brands of Lutheranism around here, though Catholicism is somewhat accepted, too.

  3. Our list of committee acronyms is terrible. Not sure we have codes, but there are clearly words/phrases that get lots of people going.

  4. We have some codes, but they are fairly transparent - typically something that you don't have to ask about, but rather that you really can figure out if you spend like five minutes thinking about it. So, for example, when people talk about "the eighth floor" they are talking about the administration... because their offices are on the eighth floor. Of the only building on campus that has an eighth floor.

    But I also think this: it's probably true that there are things that seem coded to folks who don't engage in university-wide service at all, which to the people who are doing the service seem totally transparent. I don't think that this is malicious on the part of people who are using the jargon, an attempt to exclude. I think it's really just a matter of those people being in a particular discourse community or discourse communities that others on campus opt out of. So then the question becomes, if you opt out of the work, is it the responsibility of the people doing the work to translate everything for you? I think the answer to that is "it depends."