Faculty meetings can be a fun-filled and joyful experience.  Sure, some people bring books, ipads, phones, food, and other distractions to these events, but your goal should be to figure out what the heck is going on.

For example, why is Professor Y so vehemently opposed to any proposal brought forth by Professor X?  Well, the answer could be ideological, pragmatic, or it might just be because Professor X was rude to Professor Y one fine day back in 1976.  Your job is to figure all of these things out, all the while having fun.

In addition to the interpersonal dynamics, you should also pay attention to the types of arguments being made and who is making them.  To that end, here is a brief non-exhaustive list of people you meet at faculty meetings:

  1. Echo.   After someone has made a compelling statement, Professor X might be inclined to say roughly the same thing.  This might be because Professor X didn’t hear the first statement, heard it but wanted to expand on the idea, is miffed that the first speaker stole his or her thunder and wants credit, or because Professor X didn’t like the foundational theme of the first speaker’s assertion and wishes to supplant it with his or her own.  Echoing causes longer meetings.
  2. Pleader.  The pleader is someone who is very passionate about the subject.  That person will beg the faculty present to do (or not do) what is being proposed.  It is typically an emotional plea.  Don’t do this.  You should never be emotionally involved in a faculty meeting.
  3. Houdini.  This masterful soul is the person who has asked his or her secretary to call him 15 minutes into the meeting, so that a prompt exit can be made.
  4. Charlie Brown.  “Maybe I’m stupid, but….” Says professor X.  Or “is it just me or….”.  This brilliant move is a feint designed to suggest that the deft attack is self-directed, when really it is targeted at a majority opinion in opposition to the point of view of the speaker.
  5. Santayana.   If what is being proposed was tried in the 1970s, this professor will remind you of that.  For example, a proposal to put Wi-fi throughout the building might draw this reply: “We tried that in 1970.  I was all for it, but it turned out to be a nightmare.  Turns out there was no such thing as Wi-fi!  Therefore, we shouldn’t do it now.”  Yes, even though much has happened since the 1970s, if it didn’t work once, it won’t work now.  I read a book about this once I looked up using a card catalog….
  6. Logical Fallacy Man!   This superhero of the faculty meeting will defend his or her point of view using every non-academic technique possible.  Call someone stupid?  Why not!  Appeal to authority?  Sure!   Or why not combine them to really provide an aromatic flavor?  “I have done this for 70 years, and I know I am right.  You’d be crazy not to agree.”   Appeal to authority (himself) coupled with ad hominem.
  7. Hamlet.   If you have a colleague prone to soliloquy, your faculty meeting may be prolonged.
  8. Cheerleader.  “Give me an A!  Give me an N!  Give me another N!  Give me an O!  Give me a Y!  Give me an I!  Give me an N!  Give me a G!   YAY!!!
  9. The Dean.   This person is the one who seals your fate.  It could be a long meeting or a short one.  The Captain could steer a tight course, or allow the boat to drift for a while.  A dean who can run a meeting well will know when discussion has run out and the meeting should end shortly thereafter.  A dean who can’t will in some ways make you feel like this.
  10. The Inspiring.  Ending on a high note, there are some people who don’t often speak at meetings.  When they do, they have the power to move mountains.  I’ve been around the block a few times, and still have been unable to master this gift which some of my colleagues possess.  These are the (often reluctant) speakers to which I listen.

Remember, your goal is to minimize the amount of time you spend in meetings so that you can write and teach.  Attending meetings by itself doesn’t count for service.

Under no circumstances should you read the literature about how non-diverse groups reach worse decisions.  It will only depress you.

You have a month or two to prepare. Good luck!