Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Little, Little Thing...

I was writing the agenda for the committee I chair's meeting this week (could I get more convoluted if I tried?), which involved emailing an admin assistant across campus to make sure this and that had been handled over there so that I could make sure that it got into our agenda appropriately as finished business (because our notes and such are public documents. Really, you could look at them if you knew what to look for; heck, you could come to our meetings. Fun times.). (In other words, we can note that so and such big committee passed our proposal for X, and then we've taken care of our end. Yes, this is on some level administrative BS, but if we do our job right, then it's done. And we've used it as well as we can on our committee, which may be useful in some real way, I hope.)

And then, lo and behold, I got an email from this admin assistant thanking me for doing a great job, and saying that she hoped I'd be the chair of this committee for a long time because I was so good at taking care of things.

We get little recognition for our service around here. Yes, maybe other places give more recognition, but here, competently chairing a committee goes by pretty much unnoticed.

In some ways, I think chairing a committee well involves a lot of behind the scenes work that gets things done, communicates, and then puts the real issues before the committee for real decisions. I try to do that, try to take care of things so I can give a full background if needed, can set the committee up to make NOT the decision I want, but the informed decision we want to make. I can live with informed decisions I disagree with. I do so all the time.

It's nice to get this note from the admin assistant. No one else knows (well, except you folks), but I know, that she knows, that I am doing a really good job at being well-organized and making sure this committee's work gets done well, and gets communicated well over to the big buildings. And I know that she has a pretty good sense, after reading stuff from a lot of folks across campus, that I'm a person who does a good job, even at this little thing.

The two of us, we have little enough power in the world, but I respect her, and cherish her willingness to answer my questions patiently and helpfully. And she, apparently, also respects me and my work.

That's a very little thing, but some days, it's what I hold onto very hard to make things bearable. A tiny bit of mutual respect, willingness to try to communicate.


  1. I like that you want to make sure the committee is well-informed, not because you want them to go your way, but because you want them to make an informed decision.

    I wish some of our committees at BNCC worked that way.... sigh.

  2. Anonymous4:27 AM

    I think you could get more convoluted. I have faith in you. :)

  3. What's particularly nice about that comment is that the sort of work that it takes to be a good committee chair, if it's well done, is nearly invisible. One peeve a lot of women on my campus have is that we do the sort of background work that makes things run well (and this isn't 100% gendered female, but it certainly leans in that direction). But work of that sort, if it's well done, is invisible, and therefore not valued. So kudos to the admin assistant for recognizing the work behind the scenes! And to you for doing it.

  4. Inside, Well, yeah, I can respect my colleague's disagreeing with me. I think that's important to my sanity.

    Anastasia, Thanks :) I tried to talk about the futility of assessment, but people said I was repeating myself...

    Pilgrim/Heretic, It's amazing when you realize how much effort goes into making a committee meeting work really well, and it helps that my colleague across campus gives me a pat on the back of sorts.