A few weeks ago I received an e-mail asking me if I would accept a nomination to run for chair of a campus committee in the upcoming faculty elections (reinforcing my belief that being known on campus can be both good and bad). I have been on the committee for the past two years and I think it is an important job but I absolutely did not want to serve as chair. On some campuses, there might typically be competition for elected positions, but on my campus the average number of people running for open positions tends to be one. Because of this, I did not want to decline the nomination outright and leave nobody to run for the position.
My first attempt at avoiding the nomination was asking if the current chair was running again, since I didn’t want to run against him. Unfortunately, the current chair was not running and had nominated me. My second attempt involved e-mailing the current chair to see what sorts of duties the job involved. He confirmed by suspicions that the position was a lot of work and then said that he hoped I would run (hence, I suppose, the nomination).
Reluctantly, I accepted the nomination and headed to the most recent faculty meeting desperately hoping that somebody else would be running against me. When we reached that point in the agenda I was happy to see that not only was somebody running against me, the person running against me was infinitely more qualified than I was. The other nominee won in what I assume was a landslide (we do not reveal vote counts for elected faculty positions, only the winners).
In the end, this outcome was the best of all possible worlds; those who are in charge of things like tenure and promotion got to see that I was willing to run for an important campus position and losing means that I don’t have to actually hold an important campus position. Responsibility averted!