On Meetings

Let me begin by saying that this is a sincere inquiry.

Blogs by academics often contain expressed wishes that they didn't have to go to so many meetings. I didn't know what to expect when I started my job, but I wasn't worried about it; meetings generally don't bother me unless they go way off topic and deteriorate into unproductive chatting and joking around. [Note: This is especially the case when there's a specific project that the attendees are collaborating on; a few years ago I experienced such meetings.] At the close of my first semester as an assistant professor, I believe I've only been expected to attend about five or six meetings over the course of the semester: not bad at all. There are faculty meetings, and then there's a grant initiative program I'm participating in, for which I've had to attend one meeting. I'm in a writing group which meets once a week, but I don't really count that.

Granted, I'm not on any committees yet. But for years now when hearing professors talk about all the meetings they have to attend, I've wondered -- just how many meetings are we talking about, really? What's the big deal? I would say that something around four meetings per day for a period of a couple of weeks would be tiresome, especially if they're being held all over campus and you're having to be on the go constantly. Are most professors having to attend meetings on the order of ~15-20 per week? Or mostly just those with administrative posts?

I'm wondering, then, if you want to divulge: How many meetings have you attended this week? (Or last week, what have you. Break it down Monday through Friday.) Also, what counts as a meeting? Do class meetings count as meetings? Do meetings with students in your office count as meetings?

UPDATE: KulturFluff responds -- good stuff.

A response from Profgrrrrl as well.


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This Made Me Laugh

Clancy, I think you are experiencing the kind of first-year protection that a new asst prof gets. I had hardly any meetings year one. Last year, my third year here? I had about four a week for about half the weeks of the semester. Now, I was on a couple of major committees. This past week? I had three meetings. Next week I have three meetings. No, none of that is with students; I don't count that. And I'm only counting meetings at school that are university related. I'm not counting meetings related to my personal research (that's research) or community meetings (nonprofit volunteer work and whatnot). Next semester, I take an administrative position, so there will be more, but I get a course release, so they will be part of that time, mostly.

Also, you're at an R1 school, right? There may be more protection for asst prof time than I get at this teaching-centered liberal arts schools. Most R1 schools I know do not give major administrative positions to junior fac, and I'm getting one next semester, which would have started this semester if I hadn't won the major research grant I have for this year.

Ah, you remind me of the bliss of the first year, when no one asked me to do anything.

meetings, meetings all the time

Clancy, I think I felt lucky during my first year when I was invited to a meeting because it meant people knew who I was. Now, in my seventh year, meetings are a tedious time suck. I don't count meetings with students, which I generally enjoy. No, I'm talking meetings with committees, task forces, and administrative types.

In an average week, I'll attend 2-4 meetings. Last week I had a meeting for a governing council that I'm on; a meeting with a couple administrators about our strategic planning process (related to a committee I chair); and a committee meeting. The default meeting length at my institution in 1.5 hours. Part of my frustration with meetings is that if 1.5 hours are scheduled, whatever we need to discuss magically takes 1.5 hours. I can count on the fingers of two hands how many meetings I've been to in seven years that got out early (and I was facilitating most of the ones that let out early).

Another frustration I have is that it is SOP at my institution for meeting organizers to NOT send out an agenda ahead of time, which means they often haven't really thought through what needs to be accomplished or what the priority order for topics to be discussed is. (Being anti-meeting, I always have an agenda for meetings I'm facilitating.)

The other major frustration I have with meetings is that people at the meetings I attend don't always take good notes and seldom are minutes sent out, so often, at a subsequent meeting, decisions that were made at a previous meeting are rehashed because no one remembers exactly what the decision was or what it was based on. This absolutely drives me nuts. I almost always take detailed notes at meetings I go to so I can try to cut these "what did we decide last time?" discussions short, but if I'm not the meeting facilitator, it can look pretty obnoxious when I do that, so I've found it's not the most popular thing I do. :)

So, bottom line, I spend 4.5-6 hours a week in meetings that often have no clear purpose and no clear outcome. Frustrating.



2 Board Alley

I consider meetings to be any kind of formalized getting together on the part of the faculty (except for parties, that is).

Here's my committee breakdown:
1. Basic Writing: 2 x per semester, 2 hours
2. Collegewide English Steering Committee:2 x per semester, 2 hours
3. Campus Appeals committee: 2x per month, 2 hours
4. Department Meeting: every month, 2 hours
5. Statewide k-16 English Committee: 2x per semester, 4 hours (two are commuting hours.)
6. WID committee: only via email since I can never make the meeting.
7. Evaluation Committee--meets once a semester and then if needed.

Other Meetings:
1. Meeting with my adjunct "buddy" as well as my new, fulltime "buddy"--2 hours this semester, though emails are exchanged.
2. Evaluation Conferences: 5 adjuncts x 45 minutes; 1 full time x 45 minutes
3. Biomedical Scholars Faculty: we meet via email, and I never keep track of time.

Hope this helps.

Okay, this helps.

Your comments about the minutes and the rehashing especially, Liz, sound highly frustrating. Evaluation conferences, too (Joanna), would be exhausting to me.

I commented on this over at

I commented on this over at profgrrrrl's, but yeah, I'm in the jr. faculty position of being semi-protected, partly b/c my institution doesn't let jr. faculty sit on most of the college-wide committees. I'm on one committee that requires a lot of time for about two weeks of the semester (8-10 hours), but almost nothing the rest of the time; my dept. meets once a month; and the faculty meets once every other month. Oh, and Women's Studies meets 2-3 times a semester. But it's clear that the tenured people are spending a lot more time in meetings than I am.

I completely sympatize with Liz about the lack of minutes and its effect on meetings - my previous department NEVER took minutes and it was AGONIZING (and it's pretty much the same here in a department with which I'm associated, though not my home department). As others have suggested, I'm much happier attending a meeting if it feels like it's accomplishing something. (Or that my input is welcomed, which is not always the case - now, I don't mind putting work into a meeting, but if you're not going to pay attention to anything that comes out of my mouth, why make me attend??)

Enjoy it while you can!

I blogged my response over at
Dr. B.'s Blog :-)


At my institution, tenure=double the meetings, at least. And frequently these meetings (tenure meetings, grad studies committee meetings, scholarship and fellowship doling meetings) require a lot of preparation if one wants to participate properly. Either that or lots of work gets meted out at the meetings. The sole exception is faculty meetings, where lots of anxiety circulates but nothing ever happens except for lots of phone calls afterwards trying to figure out what, exactly, just happened. All of this comes at a cost! Next week I have five meetings on my calendar, but that is on the high side for what's typical because it's finals week.

And like most people in the comments here, I think about this in terms of hours spent, and a week when I spend more hours in meetings than say in the classroom (which is actually not atypical) is a distressing week. So that Nel's account above suggests his meeting time regularly rivals his teaching time, and that seems like a lot. I had one colleague at one institution who refused to do anything that made what she called her "hourly wage" go down, and so I never once saw her at a meeting. (I think this is extreme of course--even unfair, but part of me admired it a little, especially since there were no discernible consequences except for low level resentment.)

But at the same time I am also fortunate to belong to a campus culture where people make a conscious effort to make meetings quick and purposive. The grad directors are particularly practiced at this.

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