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Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    It’s the Milgram Experiment, or (ironically enough) the Stanford Prison thing.  You talk to the people who actually did the horrible things, and it turns out that they’d abdicated their moral responsibility; just pass the buck up to the next level and blame everything on the boss.  “Did your boss actually say that you should shoot them with pepper spray right in the face?”  “Well, no, but the boss said I should use pepper spray on people if necessary to control the situation, and that was how I felt the situation could best be controlled.  I mean, presumably he’d thought about what pepper spray could do and concluded that it was okay for me to use it.  Really, I was just the mechanism by which he delievered pepper spray.”Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Something of that, to be sure.

      What’s really annoying is that in this case, the boss said, “Don’t use pepper spray”, and the guy said, “We’re going to be carrying pepper spray” and the boss said, “Don’t carry it” and the guy said, “We’re carrying it.” and they both walked out of that conversation thinking two different things happened.

      Now, this stuff happens.  There’s a whole library of books written on clear communication and how to get your point across and remove ambiguity and all that sort of thing.  And, generally, I find that people on the line don’t read those books or have training in that sort of thing and to an extent, this is somewhat normal because they’re not supposed to be decision-makers, they’re supposed to be decision-implementers.

      But the Legal department?  The Chancellor?  The Chief of the campus police?  These are supposed to be people who know what to get in writing and why.Report

    • Avatar Simon K says:

      Except the results of the actual Milgram experiment say that when the authority figure actually issues orders to use pepper spray on innocent people, the subjects refused to comply. Its only when people are allowed to “do the right thing” on their own initiative, that they do really unconscionable things.Report

  2. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    That’s a pretty stunning takedown.  I kept waiting for it to get a little better.  Until I got to the part about the military grade pepper spray that is illegal in CA for police to have or use.  Then I stopped waiting for it to get better.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      You must see incipient stuff like this all the time.

      “Oh, God, they’re going to explode if they don’t change this policy…”Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        There is a pretty good rule of thumb that generally works – though it will irritate League libertarians:

        The larger and more public an organization is, the less likely that these things will happen – even if they will be more visible.

        This certainly appears to be the exception that makes the rule.  We’ll never know, but I find myself wondering how much of the “I was sure I made it clear” was actually ever said.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Having been a part of several institutions of learning over the last 30 years, in various roles, I can say that it is not uncommon for nobody to make anything clear.

          If you make something clear, you’ve just put yourself out there in a way that you can be determined, in the future, to be wrong.  And since (typically) educational institutions don’t have profit/loss statements and layoffs are rare, the one way to get your ass handed to you is to say, “You will do *this* when *that* happens, and here it is in writing”… and what that happens, you get flamed in the face.

          Getting people to commit to anything in an accountable way is difficult.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          “The larger and more public an organization is, the less likely that these things will happen – even if they will be more visible.”

          Not sure why it should irritate libertarian; most are really big on transparency (particularly in actual public institutions)Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            I’m guessing that everything is assumed to irritate us libertarians, but especially any use of the word public.” 😉


            • Avatar Rtod says:

              Especially when tied to restrooms, outcries, offerings, and displays of affection.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              This is why libertarians never use public restrooms.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              I was discussing libraries with David Friedman once (on Usenet) and he objected to my calling them “public libraries”.. He preferred the term “government-run”, because the privately owned ones he would like to see would also be open to the public.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                To be fair, when anti-smoking people talk about banning it in “public places” they’re more-or-less using his logic as they are not referring to government-owned or government-run places.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                And the “public accommodations” described by the ADA and civil rights bills are also privately owned, as are most public restrooms (and in the UK, public schools and public houses.)Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      The comments on the post clarify the “illegal in CA” a bit.  It’s more appropriately described as “not on the approved equipment list for UC Davis campus police”.  You can still buy one and have it (you don’t even need to be involved with law enforcement, in fact.)

      Again, it’s not something that they were supposed to use (or have) on that day, but it’s not like they were committing an actual felony crime by having it.

      (And the instructions on it are pretty clear that it’s not supposed to be used on anything closer than six feet.)Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        Anything for which they are not explicitly trained in its use is illegal.
        What constitutes “training” is an entirely other matter.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Black bile rising…