I, on the other hand, took on only programs for which I was specifically needed (curriculum development for a core I teach) or would benefit me professionally (organizing a department brown-bag) and one that has a defined goal with set time (admissions committee).One tricky part of service is that middle kind. What if someone in your department organizes a brown-bag, or gives a lecture on campus, or gives a reading, or does a workshop? You are in the usual academic state of having way too much work to do as it is. Do you attend always? Sometimes? Never? How do you decide?
Let's assume that the most important thing here isn't learning something new (although it may be). Let's assume that the most important thing is supporting our colleagues. If we're there to support colleagues, there are at least three ways to think about this.
1. The nice way goes something like this: "Of course I'll go! I want to support my colleagues. So what if this is the third evening this week I've attended one of these?"
2. The cold way goes something like this: "My seat in the audience does not translate into a line on my vita. I have an article to write and a writing schedule to keep. See you later."
3. The middle ground goes something like this: "Quid pro quo, Clarice. Quid pro quo. (while mumbling something about fava beans and a nice Chianti)." In other words, you show up at my presentation, and I'll show up at yours. If you've been collegial in other ways, I'll show up, too, even if you haven't been to my presentation.
What about you? How do you decide?