How to Have Better Faculty Meetings

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Over at Slate, Gretchen Rubin describes her “Fourteen Tips for Running a Better Meeting” (here).  One of her tips is, “If some people hesitate to jump in, find a way to draw them out.”  I must admit that I immediately thought of the Mars-Venus spin: “Hey, guys!  If you close your mouths, women will participate.”

I recently attended a “brown bag” faculty discussion where the topic was a complex and potentially controversial curricular proposal that had been announced recently. Instead of the usual raise-your-hand or keep-a-cue methods of participation, the moderator deployed one of those “let’s go around the room” strategies.  It had a groovier vibe than most faculty meetings, which isn’t to everyone’s taste, but the technique did elicit participation from faculty members who don’t otherwise participate in battles for air-time.  Are those faculty members always women, whether at my school or at other schools?  Of course not, but I am interested in the possibility that women — even highly-educated, well-trained lawyers — might participate more actively if we used a modified version of this technique for other faculty discussions.

-Bridget Crawford

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1 Response to How to Have Better Faculty Meetings

  1. jmilles says:

    I’ve always wished we could adopt some of the method of a Quaker meeting for business:

    we observe silence between individuals’ contributions. These silences are crucial, not only for the period of reflection they provide; but also because they enable a meeting to proceed as a gathered body. They act as a brake against one or more individuals seizing control of the meeting through rhetorical display, appeal to emotions or other means….
    we normally speak once only on a subject unless responding to a direct question or giving factual information. (We may speak on another subject if we want, however.) We speak plainly. We do not speechify, hector or attempt to filibuster. It is appropriate to speak with conviction or with passion, but not with prejudice….
    we may express contradictory views, but do not argue with one another in meeting. We state what we want to say frankly and briefly without belittling each others’ points. The meeting thus should never become a debating club; nor should the situation ever arise where we try to interrupt or shout down another’s contribution. Having spoken once to the issue, we must trust that if further valid points occur to us, others will raise them.

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