Thursday, August 14, 2008

Committee Meeting

I had my first official committee two days ago. It was officially a big waste of time. Both of my parents are in business, and the one thing they taught me (that is currently useful) was to share a meeting's agenda with the meeting's participants ahead of time. Corollary: Have an agenda. This concept seems to be lost on everyone in academia. That was the big/primary problem with this particular meeting.

The committee chair did come in with an official agenda, but he didn't tell any of us what it was. (side note: this was a planning meeting.) We are planning for an event which has happened in the past, so while I have no idea what we need to plan for, everyone else on the committee does. Additional complication, the chair and I are Asst. Profs. Everyone else: tenured.

So, as soon as everyone sat down, they began essentially commandeering control of the meeting - asking if X, Y or Z had been done, who was going to do X, Y or Z, what the budget was, etc. All of these were items on the agenda. But we hadn't seen the agenda. If we had seen the agenda, then we (I probably shouldn't say we, as I was pretty much silent during the meeting since I had never attended the event I was "trying" to plan) would probably have let him control/run the meeting. But we hadn't. So, the tenured Profs essentially turned the meeting into chaos - having numerous sidebar conversations, which went in circles. This went on for an hour.

The last 5 minutes were orderly. Tasks were assigned according to the agenda. If we had stuck to the agenda, the entire meeting could have been 5 minutes. In my mind, the entire meeting could have been done over email. But maybe I'm too much of a dictator. Or maybe I just don't have that much free time - after all, I don't currently have multi-million dollar NIH/DoD/NSF grants with fully functional labs. I don't have labs at all.

My assigned task - get one of the administrative assistants to print up award plaques. Is that really a task? Couldn't the chair just contact her directly? Why go through me? It seems like a lot of bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake. Especially when I have no idea what I'm doing. But, I'm sure she does. At least, I hope so.


Anonymous said...

Take your "assigned" tasks, like this whole "telling the sect what to do for a plaque" and keep track of them. Even though you are more like the middle person and the chair SHOULD have just gone straight to the sect, it still counts as an activity (the all important "SERRRRVICE"). Make a running list... you'll need more than 1 sheet of paper. And with tenure review, it will be key to show how invaluable you are to the men. Take these "easy" tasks and run with them... more are coming. lots. LOTS.

AsstFemaleProf said...

Yeah, I know. I was looking at one of the senior profs CV the other day (all 89 pages of it at 10pt font) and I was amazed. Not at all of his genius scientific accomplishments (I knew about those already), but at how he listed everything he had ever done. From his CV, I probably could have deduced where he was on nearly every day of his life (if I was really, really interested).

So, I'm going to have to get better at a) keeping my CV up to date and b) actually recording things that I think are just something that "you do as a decent member of society", but really are "something that you do but you draw attention to and take credit for".