on cluelessness and worrisomeness

CSI: Middle Ages; from Miss Cellania 

Nearly worth sending in to the News Quiz, not quite up to the giddy heights of Clue standards:

Audit of Current Levels of Civic Engagement

Hopefully, you recently received a request to submit your views and interests relating voluntary activity and engagement with the community through teaching and research. The information provided will help shape policy and priorities under Action 5.2 of the Strategic Plan to champion further initiatives in civic engagement and volunteering. My sincere thanks to those of you who have already submitted your views and if possible, please draw your the attention of your colleagues to this exercise also.

Unfortunately, it has emerged that in many cases the previous call for
participation was diverted into junk mail boxes of Outlook users. It is hoped that this renewed call will be received more widely. All opinions are welcome and it is hoped that the responses will be representative of [institution X’s] staff from a range of disciplines and departments.


Information relating to voluntary activity is being collected for the purpose of generating anonymous data and identifying trends which will help guide the civic engagement agenda in [X]. This information will be treated as confidential and shall not be used for any other purpose unless the respondent explicitly indicates that he/she would be prepared to share his/her voluntary experience with others in the [X] community.

Thank you for your support in this exercise,

[Person Who Shall Remain Nameless]
Civic Engagement Officer

Courtesy of one of my former institutions, who keep sending me such things, even though I no longer have a computing account with them (and thus, alas, am unable to express—sorry, “submit”—my views in the proper fashion). The  corporatese Newspeak language and style should give away at least some indication of provenance, maybe even appelation d’origine contrôlée. All that was missing was that most benighted of barbarisms, “kind regards.”

Bitching aside:

  • How many universities employ a “civic engagement officer”? OK, letting some cats out of bags, you should also know that we are in one of those disyllabic “first-world” Old-world north-of-the-equator countries that is currently in a state of economic (and other, socio-politico-moral) crisis. The sort of country that’s closing academic departments, firing staff (/faculty), has had hiring freezes for some time, and indeed has funding catastrophes in rather more important sectors like, let’s see, primary education and hospitals. Cuts and cuts and cuts in available beds and emergency services.
  • “Civic engagement officer”? I ask you.

But, bitching aside, back to the important and relevant issues.

  • How come “send to junk” doesn’t count as (a) a “response”, (b) an appropriate response, and (c) an “opinion”, those things that are supposedly “welcome”?
  • More worrying, how “anonymous” is data whose movement into email trash can be tracked?
  • Outlook??? The mind boggles. In this day and age.

Boggling led to wobbling, as is its wont in such situations. I’m not even going near “this information will be treated as confidential” in combination with the earlier “my sincere thanks to those of you who…”: except to say that hairs raised themselves of their own accord on the back of the neck, a very creepy thing indeed.

On which subject of things creepy, over and out from Obrienatrix, on the following happy and not unrelated note:

from News of the Restless: Confessions of a Bad German

Image credits:
Top: Miss Cellania
Bottom: News of the Restless: Confessions of a Bad German

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