Thursday, April 17, 2008

Damn those meetings!

I have alway felt that meetings everywhere and always are unproductive and a bore. If meetings are held at all, the time spent on these should be minimal. I was happy to see these views echoed in an FT article:

Does anyone ever walk into a meeting fired up with enthusiasm? Or do they groan in anticipation of the politicking, the bureaucracy and the office bore taking up what little oxygen remains in the room? And, in any case, all the decisions have probably already been taken, haven’t they?

Jim Buckmaster, the unconventional chief executive of Craigslist, the internet classified advertising company, is no fan of meetings. “I’ve always found them to be at best unproductive and boring, and at worst toxic and destructive,” he says. “The people who want to show off do, the brown-nosers brown nose, everyone else wastes their time. I also think the larger the meeting, the worse it is.”


Krishnan said...

Ah yes ... and no one group is better at it that university professors. What is really sad that, in situations when professors SHOULD speak up and express their opinions, they do not. They always, it seems to me, play it safe - and seem only interested in stroking their egos (or having it stroked somehow!).

Universities and search committees are notorious for making it look as if the search process is open to ideas when all they want is for people to shut up and listen to what the committee wants to say. On our campus, we had a search for a new president and one day, we get an email that the two finalists will show up at this time in this auditorium and their names will be released at that time. I had visions of the candidates standing behind some curtain while answering questions.

So, I wondered - Why have a meeting at all? If the decision has been made, tell us and get it over with. Why make a pretense of showing that the committee is interested in our opinions? "Sanction of the victim" (the principle that seems to drive many decisions).

I wrote a letter to the search committee telling them that I knew more about the dictator of North Korea than who our next President may be. The next day, the local newspaper got a hold of the names and released them. And then ofcourse the public meeting in a LARGE auditorium. Introductions of how wonderful the candidate is, how he will change everything and so on and so forth.

Time for questions. And people start lobbing questions and I wondered "Does not anyone want to know how this person can think? What he stands for?" I did not hear any such - so I asked the candidate to define an Intellectual Property Index that can be used to track a university that is better than US News and World report or some such. The candidate seemed to be taken off-guard and stammered something. Later, I got several comments from my colleagues and friends who seemed mildly amused by my question. My response was - Well, he is running for president of our campus, I wanted to see if can think on his feet on what I considered an important issue. In my mind, the candidate did not answer appropriately (fortunately, he was not the one who made it).

Most seem content to sit and be quiet when they should not, and yell/scream when it makes no difference whatsoever!

If they abolish Faculty Senate meetings - or atleast restrict the time to say 15 minutes every other month, more can happen on campuses.

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