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Live! - Opinion

This article is an opinion piece and should be taken as such. It is highly likely to be biased, but either the article itself or the ensuing discussion will probably be entertaining. Live! takes no editorial line on opinion pieces.

The Trouble with SAC

May 16 2002 09:30
Oliver Pell
We're all in danger of drowning in a sea of TLAs.
Will someone please SAC them...

Jargon, of course, is often cited as one of the biggest barriers towards people from different fields understanding each other – acronyms in particular. Electrical Engineers might be happy with their FETs and Computer Scientists with their DFAs but an English Professor from the University of Southampton isn’t going to have the faintest idea what they’re talking about. This is possibly okay, since a English Professor from Southampton probably doesn’t want to know what they’re talking about and in fact, given that the cited examples were an Electrical Engineering and a Computer Scientist, it could be argued that no sane person would ever have any reason to want to know what they’re talking about.

But that’s not the end of the story. Why is it that human beings can’t avoid the temptation to re-use acronyms and abbreviations within the same field. No, not only the same field but the same area of the same field! The ISE/Computing II Compiler course has a bit on Deterministic Finite Automata, but also includes Data Flow Analysis. So we’re supposed not to get them confused (which isn’t that difficult, but this is a rant, so let’s pretend that it is). Hmmmm.

Still, two uses of DFA in the field of Compilers could be put down to a one-off, a fluke – or, more importantly, something that no-one cares about. Let’s move on to what is surely Imperial College Union’s most popular acronym: S-A-C (pronounced, unsurprisingly, sack). In the space of about one year this particular acronym has sprung up all over the place. Gone is the old an unexciting Union Finance Committee in President Common’s constitutional fiddling last year, in comes the shiny (and equally boring) Student Activities Committee…SAC. But wait, there’s more.

A little while later some idiot decided to create a new staff position within ICU. A Student Activities Coordinator. To make things even better the Student Activities Coordinator sits on the Student Activities Committee as a permanent observer. Then, another group of idiots (I think they call themselves the Executive Committee) decided that the aptly named Clubs and Societies Resource Centre would be moved from the main Union offices into the basements. And renamed. So, now the Student Activities Coordinator can go to the Student Activities Committee held in the Student Activities Centre.

And to put the icing on the cake, C&GCU’s constitutional re-write in a vague attempt to fudge together some sort of Engineering FSA has produced plans for a Student Affairs Committee. Great.

So what’s the point of this rant? Well, not much actually, I just couldn’t face writing anything more on “spatial domain techniques for image watermarking”. Understandable really.

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Discussion about “The Trouble with SAC”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
May 16 2002 10:11

What is the TLA for the welfare and campaigns officer at ICU?

May 16 2002 10:46

They're either the WC officer, or they're just plain WACO. :o)

3. stef   
May 16 2002 10:51

so they are not the WAnC Officer then?

May 16 2002 11:34

When OpSoc changed their name to musical theatre soc they should have become the Imperial College Union Musical, Light Operatic and Theatrical Society - then they could have the acronym ICUMLOTS. Just a thought.

5. Tim   
May 16 2002 12:29

Can we call it the UG Affairs Committee?

6. aqeel   
May 16 2002 12:36

SLAG is still my favourite union acronym, closely followed by SCAB (but that's called A&E now isn't it?)

May 16 2002 12:42

Nah. The best is the committee Oliver is chairing next year - Clubs and Activities Committee (CAC!)

May 16 2002 12:53

Not as good as the sadly-missed ULU Constituency Officers, especially that responsible for medical schools.

Yes, I am proud to remember how ULU was served by its COC, Andy Heeps :)

9. stef   
May 16 2002 12:55

at Cardiff Uni Student's Union there is a SHAG. A very interesting society

May 16 2002 21:13

ICU H&S Committee has set up a Garages Advisory Group (GAG)...

11. Sam   
May 17 2002 01:26


proliferation of TLA's is something i can't say has ever bothered me.

If you view most of the committees as essentially pointless (which many of you seem to) does it really matter what they are called? It's not like you turn up to many of them anyway!

12. Adrian   
May 17 2002 03:35

OpSoc did well enough as it is, renaming themselves eMpTy Soc.

Last year Jason proposed setting up the Natural History Society, solely for the comedy initialism. I think he just wanted to be able to write "Chairman of the NHS" on his CV.

May 17 2002 12:28

How could you forget CHUG (Concert Hall Users Group) and CHUNDER (Concert Hall Users New Development And Expansion Review)? Members were incourage to throw ideas into the chairman's CHUNDER bucket....

Of course they aren't TLAs, but I always though TLA sttod for Tits, Legs, Arse.

(I await a letter from the union Equal Ops officer...)

May 19 2002 22:14

Funny really, I spent at most five minutes in my office dreaming up some sort of inoffensive name for UFC's successor, and came up with Student Activities Committee. Nice to see it's caught on so well.

May 20 2002 10:50

I doubt you even spent 5 minutes. The Guilds SAC (Student Affairs) existed long before UFC as part of your re-write of the C&G constitution.

As I seem to remember it was suggested from the floor during the constitutional-review UFC. I think Etienne was thinking of calling it Clubs and Societies Committee (CSC) which really would have made things confusing.

May 20 2002 13:20

hamish, mustafa,

you're both wrong - it was actually sam sharpe who thought up the acronym for SAC (at 3am, in our front room, after several pints of the black stuff).

17. Sam   
May 20 2002 21:24

I vehemently deny drinking Guinness

May 20 2002 21:30

No, you just inject it to get it into the bloodstream faster!

May 22 2002 16:17

Yeah, actually Mustafa has a point: I thought of the SAC acronym in 1998 for C&G. I don't recall Sam's gesture, but then I wouldn't, as I wasn't there. It sounds better than CSPC, CASC, or all the other crap suggestions I received.

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