Time is often the most valuable resource for many faculty and staff.
My post-administrator calendar is filling up already with unnecessary regular meetings that will mostly be information transfer and are way too big for decision making (>25; I do not include my department meetings in this group- I feel those are pretty necessary). These meetings seem to all be on the only day I am not teaching. Going to these meetings just means less time engaging with undergrads, grads, class prep and research, and a 1.5 hour with 15 minutes travel to and from means I leave campus at 9:30-10:30 PM during the Fall Semester as opposed to 7:30-8:30, because I will not trade off meeting time by reducing effort on class prep, engagement with students, or working on deliverables for research grants. So, the luxury of being a tenured full professor allows me to be really annoyed and say that to meeting organizers.
Should I ever have any authority again, I would issue the following executive order even if nobody listens..
Executive Order on Meeting Rules: 1) don't have them unless necessary for decisions or for collective group work with clear goals- information can be transferred in other less time consuming ways; 2) calculate cost in people's time in meetings (it may shock you) & track, and think about paying overtime; 3) Add 30 minutes in R/T travel time costs to in-person meetings where attendees need to leave their buildings. 4) start on-time, end early; 5) Do not have in-person meetings to create community, many people do not value the social aspect; 6) Ban hyperbole & obfuscation in meetings.
With respect to #5 above, , please remember that a sizeable number of faculty and staff have neurodiverse traits. I am a high-functioning Aspy. The before meeting in-person and post meeting chit-chat is extraordinarily stressful and emotionally exhausting for me (and many others).
Zoom meetings were a great innovation for me. No travel time (if I have two in-person meetings in another building, the travel time is an hour of my day- ridiculously unnecessary). No chit-chat. Starts right on time, more likely to end early. I can do other things when discussion is not relevant to me.
My university wants to go back to "normal" with lots of in-person meetings. Why?
On a related note, I had this epiphany recently which made me feel guilty.
To make a long story short, as VPR, dean and provost, when I had in-person meetings, they were scheduled most of the time in my office or in my building, making attendees leave their work space to come to my space. I protested some times because of wanting to show people respect by going to their space and getting to see the campus but my executive assistants controlled my life.
My epiphany today was-- and it hurt me-- by asking people to come to my space for the vast majority of meetings, I was making a very loud proclamation (if one is tuned to the right frequency) that my time was far more valuable than the attendees. This epiphany hurt me because that is 180 degree different from my values. And, it is just one straw on the Camel's back, I think, of why faculty are disengaging, at least where I work. Actions of senior administrators often indicate that faculty time is not valued as a resource.
Having grown up as an administrator in a soft money research institute, I learned that time=money. As I lived in universities as a senior admin, I gradually became immune to the fact that universities view faculty and staff time as infinite. This complete general lack of respect for faculty/staff time hit me like an asteroid falling on my head on returning to the faculty.
To me, one of the positive things of COVID is it taught us that we can be productive with remote work and remote meetings.
All I have heard from senior higher ed leaders since I became one 25 years ago is "we must change!" COVID showed ways we could truly be more efficient with the use of people's time and show respect for their time. I am baffled why my institution wants return to "normal" with meetings.
The major resources needed to make any university run are money, space and time. In every university. Yet, every university I have worked acted as if time is an infinite resource for faculty and staff and only money and space mattered I had always tried to argue that time is often the most valuable resource for employees that have a salary and have workspace, and I did some things as provost to get rid of practices that were time consuming with no ROI. Yet, it is easy for senior administrators to set faculty and staff in Brownian motion in a perceived "crisis", or assign new, additional responsibilities, to faculty and professional staff (non-hourly) every time an unprioritized idea is implemented.
As a faculty member, time is by far my most limiting variable right now. So, I was in shock and dumbfounded, really, when our chancellor said in a meeting that the time crunch that faculty say they have is because they won't prioritize their time and won't let go of things they don't need to do. I am still scratching my head on that one.
My epiphany made me feel really guilty for unintentionally making loud statements by my actions as provost and dean that could lead to someone inferring my time was more valuable than theirs and/or everyone else's. But, at least I tried hard not to put faculty in Brownian motion to do something new because of my anxiety.
Universities allocate way more per capita dollars to senior administrator salaries; we allocate way more working space (not including labs) to senior administrators, and we send out strong messages that time is an infinite resource for faculty and staff. Even administrators that see their own time as a limiting resource, send out messages through their actions implying that faculty and staff time is an infinite resources, and don't hesitate to claim faculty don't work hard enough in executive meetings, when they have no idea.