Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Brain Leaks Out

I just spent 45 minutes in a meeting.

It should have taken three minutes.  There were seven other faculty members there, and a deanling.

Every week, pretty much all year, we meet.  And often, as today, we are supposed to approve these forms filled out by departments.  We also approve other forms, and do some other stuff, but mostly, we approve these forms, call them form A.

In my memory (and this is my fourth year in this special hell), we have never not approved a form A.

Doesn't this lead you to wonder if we should really have seven or more faculty members spending a half an hour a week to approve forms which will be approved, period, no matter what?

It leads me to wonder that.  Why, if there's never a possibility that a form won't be approved, do we go through the approval process?  And why do we have seven faculty members taking that time.  Today it was 45 minutes.  Another time it might be more.  And that's just in the meeting.

Imagine, if it's half an hour.  That's three and a half hours of faculty time, or nearly half of a working day of faculty time in that one meeting.

Surely, we all have better things to do?

Except the deanling doesn't.  The deanling wants to talk about these forms because approving them is really important, and they have to be approved by faculty folks, though they've never not been approved (in my memory).

Let's see, imagine out of the 30 weeks of school, we have 22 meetings (spring tends to have some cancelled meetings).  And in each meeting, we waste half an hour of time.  And I've been on this committee three years already, and am in my fourth.  11 wasted hours per academic year (just in the meetings), times four years, is over a working week (well, a normal person's working week, anyway).

Times seven faculty members.  That's half a semester of wasted time over four years.  And that's me estimating conservatively (and that's the only conservative thing I'm going to do in this post, so there).

I think the deanling wants to believe hir job is important and actually matters, but it's all just paper pushing.

When I spent 5 years in a phud program, this isn't how I imagined wasting my life away.


  1. I HATE those meetings! One of the advantages of being nobody terribly important is that I no longer get invited to those meetings, which is not a bad thing.

  2. I suspect there'd be significant push back from the dean, but how about suggesting since the deanling's time and expertise is so valuable, that rather than bog the deanling down in these weekly meetings, that the forms be circulated and approved by email with the deanling organizing face-to-face meetings, as needed, should there be any substantial differences?

    Good luck. That would be maddening, I know.

  3. Like Janice, I was thinking that this seems to call out for some sort of online approval process. There could always we a monthly (or quarterly? or semesterly? or as-needed?) meeting to discuss any forms that actually require discussion (and a provision that any member of the committee, or any x members of the committee, or whatever, could place a form in the "needs discussion" category). But, yes, that probably wouldn't be the deanling's favorite solution, because deanlings, I believe, equate "productive" with "full calendar."

  4. "...deanlings, I believe, equate "productive" with "full calendar.""

    Right. Plus it's not like our time if valuable (not like their time!). What else do we have to do but go to meetings and watch them perform their productivity?

  5. I would go with Janice and CC, and suggest these be dealt with as consent items: people can raise objections, but if not, they are ok. (We approve minutes and agendas that way, also new course request forms.)

  6. Whew. the first commandment of having effective meetings is to ask: Do we need a meeting?