Imagine, if you will, a football field of standard dimensions. The faculty in Computer Science and Engineering, Mathematics and Statistics, along with a smattering of faculty from other sciences and a few in the Humanities, are sitting in the stands, spectating. The rest of the faculty are crowded together down on the field, wearing football helmets and running into each other at random, over and over and over again. There are no referees.
Such is the electronic behavior of the LSU faculty this afternoon, after geniuses in the registrar’s office decided that all 5000 faculty at LSU needed to be added to an unmoderated listserv. Yes, you read that correctly: an unmoderated listserv. We may never understand how the office arrived at this decision, especially in consideration of the fact (announced proudly on the listserv when it sent its first broadcast this morning) that the listserv would be used infrequently to make general announcements (which we already get through the usual university e-mail broadcast system used by, yes, the registrar).
Every single one of 5000 faculty members has now received several hundred messages containing short little phrases like “sign me up!” later followed by “remove me from this list” and much later by “remove me from this goddamn list you fucking idiots!” (I saved that last one, and I keep rereading it because it makes me happy.)
Something like this happened once on a conference call; I wish I could recall the context, but there were literally hundreds of people involved, at least half of whom were not evidently aware of that fact. And so the first ten minutes were wasted as seemingly every other caller piped in and then announced his/her name and affiliation, to the cascading dismay of everyone else on the line. Eventually, all participants had to be muted so that the meeting could actually proceed.