Everyone thinks that they know what “Catch-22” means. This term is used in various contexts and it is good to remember its origins. “Catch-22” comes from a novel by Joseph Heller that bears the same name:

The story is set in Italy in World War II and describes a military bombardier, Yossarian, who keeps getting more and more dangerous bombing raids assigned to him. Catch-22 is a sinister air force rule that stipulates that one is suspected to be insane if he willingly continues to take part in perilous combat missions, however, if he makes a request to be removed from his bombing duties, he is proven to be sane, which means that he is ineligible to be relieved and must be able to cope with more assignments. This book is a masterpiece and I encourage you to read it, if you have not done so already. And no, I do not think there is any analogy whatsoever to how we treat graduate students with our never-ending lists of projects and requests…

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