Fidgety

Whenever I attend a faculty meeting, it goes something like this:

  1. I tell myself I won’t open my mouth at all and will be a quiet, composed, respectable member of the faculty.
  2. I open my mouth. Words come out.
  3. I keep opening my mouth. More words come out. Some of them are funny and/or snarky.  Who am I kidding? Even when I discuss serious stuff, what I say is often (always?) funny/snarky. Unless it’s a metaphor.
  4. Faculty meeting ends. I count how many people just sat there and never said a word. I remember the old adage, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” I feel remorseful that I had opened my mouth, and vow not to do it next time.

After a 3-hour ordeal we had yesterday, I realized why that is. Faculty meetings are really slow and boring (also, water is wet). It is sheer torture to keep sitting there, hashing things out for 10x longer than seems necessary. My behavior is that of a bored middle schooler — I cause trouble because I am forced to sit still and waste time, without adequate intellectual stimulation.

Faculty meetings, oh how I hate thee.

Dear readers, what are your coping strategies for staying quiet in boring faculty meetings, without pulling your hair out or sticking needles into the voodoo dolls of your colleagues who cannot get to the &!#$!%!  point? 

19 comments

  1. My coping strategy is to be an adjunct professor and never have to go to meetings, but I realize that may not work for everyone. 😛 I’m not sure the lack of pay makes up for the lack of meetings, but no meetings is definitely a perk!

  2. I have the opposite problem (?). After the last faculty meeting, my department chair came to talk me and said, “I noticed you were very quiet at the faculty meeting. Is there anything you want to say?” Which I think was kind of him but all I wanted to say is that the meeting should have ended an hour earlier than it did…

  3. Not exactly polite or good meeting etiquette, and nothing revolutionary, but things colleagues frequently do at ours:

    – If laptops are commonly used: sit in a strategic place at the back of the room and discretely read something on screen (e.g. work – papers etc, or just switch off and catch up on the news, blogs etc.). Some sit and answer emails. This is more obvious and not appreciated but it doesn’t stop them doing it.

    – Have a notepad to hand and make to do lists or plans (I have planned chapters in dull seminar papers, I have to admit; more common “what I need to do this week”). I know someone who does detailed plans for email responses they have to write, and then type them up quite quickly after.

    – A couple of people genuinely go in, sit at the back and mark papers or read a printed out article. I find this extraordinary: if anyone else notices, no one seems to mind.

  4. I have the exact same feeling in every faculty meeting. I tell myself, keep your mouth shut, you are a junior faculty, who wants to hear from you anyways, no one asked for your opinion…
    but it doesn’t go that way. I say things, offer my opinion, disagree with people or agree…and then after the meeting beat myself up for hours for talking and saying anything. I wonder if any of the male faculty have the same feeling. You are a full blown professor, I think that you should express your opinion and engage in the discussions. Most faculties in our meetings remain silent during the meeting and afterward in the hallway have little timid discussions among themselves, which pisses me off. I think the facilities that speak up care about the department’s success and those that remain quiet are more concerned about their image and interrelation with the chair or other faculties rather than the department.

  5. Raise eyebrows, try not to smirk, and make meaningful eye contact with sympathetic colleagues

  6. Also it’s often at lunch time. So I am usually trying to eat quietly which also provides some diversion.

  7. I crochet (I have a colleague who objects strenuously to knitting, he says he can hear the needles clicking (even when I’m not actually knitting), but that’s impossible with crochet). Also I talk too much and say snarky things, but I do ti LESS when I have handwork – it occupies the most fidgetty 10% of my inner kid… also I like to thinik to myself that I’m being paid to craft in the middle of the work day.

  8. I bring material to read (e.g. students’ papers or articles I have to read for proposal writing) and only really listen to the parts that affect me. Some colleagues knit. Others bring laptops or tablets and read stuff or answer email.

  9. Not faculty, but still frequently forced into boring meetings. I proudly catch up on email or find some work that affords interruption. If people force me to attend a meeting that does not require my 100% involvement (lets be honest, most of them don’t) noone should be offended that I use the time where my mental presence is not required to do something useful. I feel the same about talks. If they’re boring or irrelevant I should be allowed to whip out my computer (with certain moderations for politeness, of course). I also use the number of whipped out laptops to evaluate my own boring-ness at talks. I think it’s a good system.

  10. Our faculty meetings are one hour at lunch time. I bring my box of raw vegetables to the table and eat lunch. (One year we took turns buying lunch for the faculty. Attendance was better that year.)

    We have a small department and everyone (especially junior faculty) are encouraged to participate. The meetings are rarely dull, though one could regret the necessity of having to talk about what clever workarounds we can do about lack of space, lack of faculty slots, the department being spread in almost as many buildings as faculty members, … .

    Years ago, when I was a brand new assistant professor, I decided to speak up as if I had tenure already. If doing so caused me not to get tenure, I’d go off to a different career in industry. Thirty-one years later, I’m still a professor. In my first year at UCSC, the two junior faculty in the department complained to the two senior faculty (it was a new department) that they didn’t like the curriculum. We were told, “OK, write it yourselves”. So we did, and the changes were all accepted. Of course, one downside of that was that I insisted that students had to be taught technical writing, so I ended up having to create the course and teach it 14 times.

  11. I always speak up. If I’m in the room then that meeting gets my attention and I will work until I retire to change boring useless get-togethers for the better (this may be my relative youthful spirit talking which I must admit still has a few years to go before it dies). I never understand why people go if they are not committed to listening/participating anyways (the same holds for professors who type away at the front row at a conference – I realize this is the only time we can get any work done, but then stay in your room for crying out loud).

  12. I usually start off listening intently and asking​ questions…

    ..Until inevitably we get to one of the Neverending Deadend Topics. That is when all the old faculty spout off on long, passionate monologues and I start answering email on my phone/laptop.

  13. I get fidgety too, especially when I think that meeting is badly run and a waste of time.
    I take a huge tea with me and will take a sip every time anything gets on my nerves. Talking and swallowing do not go together, so it works really well as long as you have enough to drink and do not gulp it down in frustation 🙂

  14. Bring work! Geez. Are you new at this? Nobody goes to faculty meetings without bringing something to do, unless they are the ones preparing to torture everyone by discussing some minor issue to death.

    I used to think it rude to bring a laptop or papers to read, but that changed when I found myself with two small children, several incompetent grad students and a looming tenure review. I just could not waste several hours on complete nonsense, after routinely having to skip showering and lunch and staying up late to get things done.

    Now I find faculty meetings perfect for reviewing manuscripts. One hour to read and check references if needed, one hour to write the review, edit, spellcheck and I am done. In an unlikely case that something important/interesting/entertaining happens, I can always look up and briefly pay attention.

  15. Do other departments really have 3-hour faculty meetings? We used to have one long one like that a year (30 years ago), but now no one has the time. We’re lucky if we can get over 50% of the faculty in town without other obligations for a one-hour meeting. We have frequent (every 1 to 2 weeks) short meetings (to fit within the 95-minute TTh class block, usually one hour).

  16. Ours are “only” 2 hours, but there’s something every week [either executive cte (tenured folks only) or all-faculty meetings]. This 3-hour thing was an extra event, a retreat of sorts. Way too long, probably twice as long as necessary.

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