There is something extremely annoying about faculty meetings, and I have never fully explored exactly what it is about them that I so dislike.
I do not loathe my colleagues (with very few exceptions). In fact, I like quite a lot of them, and I am quite fond of my department chair. It should not be an unpleasant experience to spend a few hours in a room with these people discussing topics of mutual concern, if not interest.
We have much to discuss that is of great importance to the department and its denizens. The chair has things of importance to tell us about the budget, new policies and procedures, issues he discussed with the Dean at their last meeting. Learning these things in a meeting is a good forum for asking questions and expressing concerns.
Nevertheless, I do loathe these meetings. Here are my top 5 reasons. I am sure that I could come up with 10 reasons, but I am typing this in an airport and the Transportation Security Administration has placed an arbitrary limit on the number of items that can be included in a blog list typed in an airport.
These are in no particular order.
1. Time. I don't have time for these meetings. No one has time for these meetings except the deadwood faculty. Of course we make time (if we are not traveling or otherwise involved in an activity scheduled for the same time as the meeting), but it is hard to lose time that could be spent on other essential activities.
2. Efficiency or lack thereof. Faculty meeting time is typically time that is not well spent. I know that meetings involving any collection of people with disparate views and personalities is unlikely to be efficient, but I wish there were a bloviating quota. Those exceeding this quota will be ejected, preferably forcibly, from the meeting.
3. The Men. Sitting around a conference table with my department colleagues is a vivid reminder of how few women faculty there are in my department. On rare occasions when issues involving underrepresented groups arise, some of the older faculty say that we have no problem with underrepresentation of women because so many of our students are female. Some of the younger faculty agree that we don't have a problem with underrepresentation of women because.. well, I don't know why. The definition of underrepresented is not so difficult to understand, and our department fits this definition. What this means is that they don't think underrepresentation is a problem that needs fixing.
4. The Sports Analogies. In most cases I can figure out from context what is meant, but it kind of annoys me that we are all expected to understand these expressions, which are used extraordinarily often.
5. The insanity factor. Some of my colleagues are really strange. I am really strange, too, so it is hypocritical to list this factor, but thus far my strangeness manifests itself rather quietly. For some of my colleagues, their insanity seems to require them to repeat themselves over and over at every faculty meeting for a decade or more. The effort required for me to keep from rolling my eyes at these repeat tirades is painful and may cause me permanent physical and emotional damage.
No, I don't think we should be more corporate and make faculty meetings efficient in that way. I am willing to put up with some amount of random behavior to preserve our ability to be free-spirited (tenured) professors. And I don't think we should abolish faculty meetings. We faculty would be outraged if the department chair started making decisions without consulting us, even if many of us have nothing useful to say.
Hence faculty meetings..
Because I am a look-for-the-silver-lining kind of person, especially when I am in an airport, I will force myself to list relevant items that make me feel better about having to attend regular faculty meetings:
- faculty retreats are far far more painful
- my spouse hates faculty meetings far far more than I do
It seems to be a short list.
12 years ago