Posts Tagged ‘Faculty Meetings’

When faculty members arrive on a new campus, they are often told to keep their heads down and listen more than they speak. In most cases (i.e., when the place you find yourself in is not blatantly offensive), I think that this is good advice, since it makes sense to become familiar with the campus and departmental cultures before saying or doing things that might deviate from the norms of those cultures. Although I may never feel comfortable speaking at a faculty meeting (for those of you at large institutions, this is the monthly meeting of all faculty, along with various administrators, on campus), since I never did at my previous institution, I have found this semester that I am saying more at department meetings and feeling less apprehensive when I do. I don’t think I noticed that I had felt less comfortable last year until I started feeling more comfortable this year.

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-Longer days

-Warmer temperatures

-Decreased class attendance

-Increased difficulty of obtaining a quorum at faculty meetings

Signs of spring are apparently shared between my current and former institutions.

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A few weeks ago I received an e-mail asking me if I would accept a nomination to run for chair of a campus committee in the upcoming faculty elections (reinforcing my belief that being known on campus can be both good and bad). I have been on the committee for the past two years and I think it is an important job but I absolutely did not want to serve as chair. On some campuses, there might typically be competition for elected positions, but on my campus the average number of people running for open positions tends to be one. Because of this, I did not want to decline the nomination outright and leave nobody to run for the position.

My first attempt at avoiding the nomination was asking if the current chair was running again, since I didn’t want to run against him. Unfortunately, the current chair was not running and had nominated me. My second attempt involved e-mailing the current chair to see what sorts of duties the job involved. He confirmed by suspicions that the position was a lot of work and then said that he hoped I would run (hence, I suppose, the nomination).

Reluctantly, I accepted the nomination and headed to the most recent faculty meeting desperately hoping that somebody else would be running against me. When we reached that point in the agenda I was happy to see that not only was somebody running against me, the person running against me was infinitely more qualified than I was. The other nominee won in what I assume was a landslide (we do not reveal vote counts for elected faculty positions, only the winners).

In the end, this outcome was the best of all possible worlds; those who are in charge of things like tenure and promotion got to see that I was willing to run for an important campus position and losing means that I don’t have to actually hold an important campus position. Responsibility averted!

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I asked for it.

While shadowing a liberal arts professor as a graduate student, I attended a faculty meeting.  I don’t mean a departmental faculty meeting, I mean a meeting of the entire faculty.  At the time, the fact that these professors had a direct say in the organization of their school had a big impact on me.  Sure, faculty at big schools have a say in how their schools are run, but they don’t typically have this kind of direct influence.  This experience was one of the things that I talked about in interviews while on the job market, including the school at which I am now employed.

Now I’ve experienced a faculty meeting at my new institution and I don’t think I’d mind an indirect influence after all.  It doesn’t help that the first meeting of the semester dealt with proposed curriculum changes that a number of departments were not happy with.  Hopefully, this made the meeting more contentious than it would have otherwise been.

If there is a bright side to this experience (aside from having a direct say in the decisions that will affect my future) it is that the contentious nature of the meeting made some of the school’s stronger personalities evident, which will be helpful in future interactions.  On a small campus, it is hard to avoid these people even if they are in different departments.

I asked for it.

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