III.10. Faculty Meetings and Committees

Communicating regularly with faculty and staff is essential to the smooth management of an academic department. Because it is rare that the full department membership is together on campus at any particular time, department chairs may be tempted to use regular faculty meetings as communication venues. This practice, however, can waste valuable time and energy in the absence of genuine department business to be addressed. At the same time, an efficient and organized meeting can both encourage faculty input on important issues and provide an opportunity to nurture the department’s collective identity. This happy outcome will depend on several components. The faculty meeting needs to be scheduled with sufficient advance notice for all involved. There needs to be a clear agenda to keep the meeting moving forward; and in the event that the business at hand requires background material or discussion, an agenda is most effective when distributed a day or two before the meeting. Announcements or information that can be handled via email need to be kept to a minimum, with the majority of the meeting focused on discussion, brainstorming, and/or collective decision-making that cannot be accomplished in any other venue.

When faculty meetings are “working meetings,” faculty members have the opportunity to share in department governance as stakeholders; and they are less likely to regard meetings as administrative trivia. Even in working meetings, however, the chair-facilitator is responsible for starting the meeting promptly, giving everyone a chance to contribute, preventing tangents on hot-button topics, and knowing when to adjourn, even if this means postponing some agenda items. The most effective meetings will also have one or more identified goals that can be met within the allotted time frame.

Each department also develops its standing committee structure and provisions for any ad hoc committees that it deems are appropriate to effectively doing the work of the department. Although not formally defined by the Constitution and Bylaws, these committees, at a minimum, must reflect the principles of faculty governance at the department level in the areas of personnel, curriculum, admission to the undergraduate and graduate programs, and any policies related to academic standards. In addition to its standing and ad hoc committees, each department has an elected Personnel Committee. The responsibilities and the composition of the Personnel Committee vary by department and college; however, all department personnel procedures, including the election of the Personnel Committee, must conform to the appropriate college bylaws. It is part of the chair's responsibility to initiate the committee nomination and election processes.