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Managing by Meeting

Academics manage by meetings. Half of the day in the life of a department chair is spent in formal meetings (average length: 50 minutes), and another 22 percent in informal meetings. Thus, department chairs find themselves in meetings 70 percent of their day. For deans, the number of meetings exponentially rises, and I am afraid provosts live by meetings alone. Some universities proliferate so many committees that they have established a “committee on committees.” Faculty volunteer for or are assigned to a collection of committees and list them in their annual review as service. This pathology of listing misses the critical role faculty can play in governing campus policy and practices. As a dean I frequently found myself confounded and confused as to who governed and who appointed members to the dozens of faculty, department, college, university, and community committees. A comedian quipped, “A committee is a group that keeps minutes but loses hours.” My professional library still shelves self-help books such as Death by Meetings and Meetings, Bloody Meetings.

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