Thermometers and The Problem of Objective Standards

A Policy Enforced By Thermometer
In a previous post about The Politics of the Open Shul Window, I recommended setting a policy based on using thermometers and creating a committee or a person to enforce a temperature based policy. A recent incident caused me to re-evaluate that suggestion.

A New Clock Arrives
My weekday Shul is in a small room that fits about 35 people and it can get quite warm when the window is closed, which it often is. It’s basically a grin and bear it situation. Recently, one of the Mispallim donated a big new atomic clock (it’s a Neitz (sunrise) minyan), with a digital thermometer visible to all. After davening, I looked at the thermometer and it was 78 degrees. I went to the Gabbai and mentioned that 78 degrees is warm by objective standards, and I asked if perhaps it can be remedied.

Returning to the Scene
I was away for a few days, and when I came back it was cooler in the room, because the window had been open, but the thermometer was changed to Celsius. When I noted the Celsius change to the Gabbai, he just smiled. He also mentioned that a local Rav had a thermometer to monitor the temperature, but subsequently removed it.

The Problem of Objective Standards
On the surface objective standards seem fine, because they’re measurable and fair. The problem comes because the objective standard makes everybody a potential enforcer of the policy and that’s usually unworkable. With an objective standard, any person can insist that one degree above the agreed upon temperature requires the window to be open. There usually needs to be some discretion in policy enforcement and the objective standard eliminates that.

What’s the solution? Assign someone to be responsible for the temperature and opening of the windows, but don’t state an objective standard that can be called to enforcement by any member.