Arbitrary Rules

At work, we have signs in all of our student computer labs which clearly state that no food or drink is permitted. Additionally, no food or drink containers are permitted. The justification for this is that we're not going to get into arguments with students as to which kinds of containers are permitted. If we permit empty containers, we'll need to verify that each container is empty, which is not only a waste of our time, but also sometimes difficult to do (as in the case of a Thermos, or other opaque container). We also don't want to have to check our video surveillance system to confirm that the container was empty when the student entered the room. Most of the infractions to date have been from people who feel the rule doesn't apply to them: their container was empty, or they have no place to put their sandwhich, or whatever.

I sympathize with the students, even as I'm enforcing the policy. I know exactly how they feel.

The RPAC at OSU has an arbitrary policy that you're only allowed to forget your membership ID twice a year. I forget what the penalty is for forgetting your ID a third time. I didn't feel like finding out this morning as I realized I'd left my wallet at home for the third time in a year. Instead I turned around and went home without exercising.

The CharityChannel mailing list, on which I've participated for some time, has a completely arbitrary -- and in my opinion asinine -- "signature" requirement for participation:

If for some reason you prefer not to provide the name of your organization, or if you are not with an organization per se, you may provide the following information as your signature.

i. Name. Your first and last name.

ii. Location. City/State or City/Province (or equivalent).

This is the only list on which I participate that has any formal rules at all!

I consistently fail to place my last name when signing my messages to this list. As a result my messages get held for moderation, and the other day I received a rebuke from the list manager reminding me to sign my messages according to the rules. Just like the students I deal with I work, I feel like the rule doesn't apply to me, or that my efforts to comply have been "good enough".

I replied to the rebuke with the following:

I hope you'll agree with me when I say that providing my first and last name is completely redundant, given that the same data is available in the header of my email messages. I am not one of the people who uses an alias, or obfuscated FROM SMTP header. If any of your readers are unable to read the FROM header in my messages, that's surely their problem, and not mine.
I then encouraged the manager to unsubscribe me from the list, since it's unlikely that I'll ever comply.


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