Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Price Check: Faculty Meetings

Although faculty meetings can be hazardous to one's emotional well-being, they are nevertheless a seemingly necessary evil. Attendance is not mandatory, but it's best to go if you can. Sometimes, however, professional travel and other responsibilities conflict with faculty meetings, and it is not possible to attend. In these cases, you can typically give an opinion by email or leave a proxy vote if something of significance is being decided.

In some cases, it is possible to arrange your travel so that you don't miss a faculty meeting, but an itinerary that allows faculty meeting attendance might be more expensive than one that involves missing the meeting. A colleague and I were discussing this situation recently, and wondering what price we would put on attending a faculty meeting.

Assume that a meeting is not a momentous one at which a hiring or promotion decision is being made. Assume that one is a reasonably good department citizen and tries to attend faculty meetings if possible. Assume also that the various possible itineraries are basically the same other than their cost, but the cheaper one requires missing a meeting and the more expensive one allows attendance at a meeting. How much is a routine faculty meeting worth?

This is what we decided through the first round of intense discussion and bargaining at a local cafe: (the prices listed indicate the differential between the hypothetical itineraries)

$25: definitely pay the higher price and go to the meeting
$50: pay the higher price and go to the meeting
$100: think about it for a few minutes, but then pay the lower price and skip the meeting
> $100: don't even think about it, just pay the lower price and skip the meeting

So, it seems that my colleague and I would place the value of a routine faculty meeting somewhere between $50-100, though perhaps on the lower end of that range. I propose that routine faculty meetings are worth $57.25, but I would be willing to bargain.

19 comments:

Kayhan Gultekin said...

Maybe the chair should start paying faculty $57.75 for each meeting they attend.

Susan B. Anthony said...

I think we need a functional form for the price of a faculty meeting: it should be inversely proportional both to the length of the meeting and to the number of Professor Trolls who will be attending. Unfortunately, one normally doesn't know these things in advance.

Anonymous said...

$10

Female Science Professor said...

What if refreshments are served?

Anonymous said...

You get refreshments at faculty meetings? My University is way too cheap/broke. Or maybe they know we would end up throwing food at each other.

I bid $25.

In reality, the biggest constraint is to miss as few classes as possible. Faculty meetings rarely enter the picture.

Female Science Professor said...

We only get snacks at the last faculty meeting of each semester. These are the best attended meetings, and this fact makes me wonder if I should consider the added value of mixed nuts.

plam said...

Have you considered the different worth of research grant dollars and personal dollars?

Female Science Professor said...

Yes, I did think about that, but in the end decided not to mention it. I would be more reluctant to spend 'extra' money from a grant source than a personal source, but when considering sums in the range of $50, the source of the $ probably wouldn't matter a lot unless the meeting/travel conflict occurred often.

Anonymous said...

For cookies (if they were a good kind) I'd raise my bid from $10 to $30

EuropeanFemaleScienceProfessor said...

Just emerged from a faculty meeting where I tried (and failed) to defend a hiring decision from my committee. The committee wants her. Yes. They decided on a her.

But the faculty members are mad at me (did I mention I have a new job and am now vice dean?) because I try to get them to follow the rules. So they voted my hiring decision down. No reason given. No discussion. Just the vote. My Professor Troll voted no, and the rest of the we-don't-read-the-paperwork crowd abstained. So I had no majority.

I actually moved my flight to a conference (paying an extra 100 Euros) so I could attend this meeting. Right now I am so pissed, I vow never ever to spend even a cent to not skip a meeting. But okay, I'm being paid to attend this conference, so it's not my funding.

I need ideas for revenge....

On another note: how much does a faculty meeting cost? 3 stupefying hours with 13 people and a secretary. It it worth all that?

Mr. B. said...

Hmm..

This is pretty funny, because at my place, the chair(MAN) tries to avoid faculty meetings.

HE doesn't like embarrassing questions. We typically have NO faculty meetings during the Fall semester and only in the spring when they are unavoidable.

Ain't life grand?

Mr. B.

ExtraordinaryCollegeStudent said...

I love getting insights into the lives of professors. Your profession seems like such an awesome way to spent your life. :) I went with a friend today to double check which rooms our classes were going to be in, and we kept getting looks from professors, as if saying, "What are you doing here? This is our QUIET time".

John said...

Perhaps not coincidentally, $50 is roughly the cost of lost work time due to a faculty meeting. So for a department of 30, each meeting costs $1500.

A related question: How much would most profs pay to avoid missing a lecture? In my case this value function starts off quite low (i.e. I do not feel bad missing a class session or two) but then ramps up rapidly. For example in early Dec I went to just 1.5 days of a very enjoyable 3-day conference in order to avoid missing a total of 4 lectures (out of 28 or so). The monetary cost was only about $300 (half the registration fee) but the actual cost was higher since I got only half the benefit from my travel time and $$.

EarlyToBed said...

I have heard of a case where the department chair got so angry at the faculty meeting that he walked out! (of his own meeting...)

I've never seen that happen; nor have I seen anyone at our faculty meetings walk out. But ours are boring, and perhaps not as effective as they could be.

Anonymous said...

I'm a lowly librarian. I don't think I'd pay any more than about $10.00 to avoid missing a routine meeting. Maybe $25.00 if there were actually something important under discussion. Maybe that's a difference in the pay scale of the librarian and the scientist at a university!

Anonymous said...

My department is 70% trolls, so staying away as much as possible seems a form of good citizenship. Certainly, my attending never does any good, with perhaps a few foreseeable exceptions.

landsnark said...

My husband is a HS science teacher. He always says he teaches for free but they have to pay him to go to faculty meetings. At one meeting a week, 1-1.5 hours, that's...well, a lot of money per meeting. But then he's having to meet with other HS teachers. :)

Chic Scientist said...

We only have faculty meetings when everyone can attend. Needless to say, scheduling is a nightmare. For this reason (and probably others, like total lack of leadership skills) the former chairman organized very few meetings. As a female science professor, I think it is really bad not to have faculty meetings because the consequence is that everything gets decided by the good old boys club, of which most of us women are not card carrying members. Even when departments have meetings, I do, of course, realize that everything is usually decided ahead of time. Still, formal faculty meetings provide everyone with the opportunity to voice an opinion. I know they can be a waste of time, but I think they play a role in helping to combat the unconscious bias against women that so widely exists. The new chairman now schedules them for the entire semester spaced about a month apart on dates when it is convenient for everyone. Oh, and we get a full lunch, and it is usually good food.

Ancarett said...

When I was on the Women's Studies committee, they always served nice refreshments and we held the meeting in a comfortable lounge. That might have upped my valuation of the meetings a bit had our faculty meetings had even 1/10 the ambience (we have had refreshments on occasion, but a cold, plastic chair at a beaten classroom desk is still as unappealing as ever).