Friday, January 14, 2011

Committees... sheesh

We are required to have annual committee meetings, which I think is a good idea to keep the committee up to date on progress and changes. In December I sent out an email to schedule a meeting for January, and finally got responses from the slow folks in early January. I scheduled the meeting, and then it turned out that 2 of my 5 committee members (one of which is Herb, my advisor and committee chair) couldn't make it on that date. Herb said go ahead anyways, so I met with him and Melody separately.
This morning I woke up and had an email from Leo saying, "I hope you don't mind if I miss your committee meeting this morning. I have a lot of deadlines and need the time to work on them, and I think I already gave you all of the useful feedback I can." I wrote him back asking if he could come if we went to him at the museum, and he said ok to that but then I had to talk to Sam and Chip about it. In the end, we couldn't go to the museum because Chip didn't get to school until 1 minute before my meeting was scheduled to start, and Sam had to leave promptly after an hour.
My meeting (with only 2 of my 5 committee members) went well. It was really mostly just a meeting with Chip, since Sam and I have talked numerous times about everything that I presented (and he's sick and spent part of the meeting with his feet on a chair and his eyes closed- body language clearly indicating "I don't need to pay attention to this"). Chip had some great insights and useful suggestions so it was a useful meeting (and Chip is notoriously overcommitted and hard to pin down). Even though the meeting was fine, I am frustrated with Leo. I don't think he wants to be on my committee anymore. As I've written before, my projects have gotten further and further from his area of expertise. Last year he said, "If you're going to have committee meetings without me, maybe I shouldn't be on your committee." I like Leo and he's my main tie to the museum right now but it seems like he's not getting much out of the relationship and maybe I'm not either. I don't know who to put on the committee instead. I need to talk to Herb about all of this and decide what to do.


jaxzwolf said...

It's unfortunate that Leo has stepped away from his duties as a member on your committee simply because your project has strayed from his area of interest. Every perspective can be valuable, regardless of how closely his area of expertise aligns with your own.

If you do decide to look for another member, I really hope he steps back gracefully. There's nothing worse than doing the right things for the right reasons and ending up with someone bitter and feeling as if you're burning bridges.

gigirose said...

man, i find this very frustrating on your behalf. serving on dissertation committees is an important part of the job of faculty, not just something to be given short shrift and be annoyed about. you should not have to beg them to attend, and they should take it seriously once they commit to a meeting time & place. Of course things happen and sometimes someone can't come at the last minute, but you shouldn't end up feeling like they are doing you a favor by showing up (and it is just rude & unprofessional to give off i-don't-want-to-be-here body language).
how do you schedule your meetings? i have started sending out doodle polls so each person can vote on times that work for them, and I narrow it down to one or two time slots that everyone has said will work.

Karina said...

Thanks for the comments jax and gigirose. I talked with Herb about it and he said that I should ask Leo directly if he still wants to be on the committee, and make it clear that I still want him and think he is useful.

gigirose, I sent out a doodle poll and only one person actually filled it out appropriately without me reminding them. Herb asked me to fill it out for him after he told me his availability, Sam didn't see half the timeslots, I had to remind Leo (the timing was admittedly bad with the first email for him), and Chip never filled it out. Melody was the only person who did it, and then by the time I got everyone else's schedules together, her availability had changed. Seriously frustrating. I thought doodle would make it so easy!

African Fieldworker said...

That is unfortunate, as it seems to me part of the reason to have a commitee meeting is to have everyone there. Having them all there lets them interact, which can result in better ideas for you. I kind of wish we had this at my university (we really have no system for this or any guidelines about how often we meet with committee members or even advisors).

I would talk to Herb, and come up with a potential replacement. Then talk to Leo, even if you're not replacing him. If you really want him to stay, tell him you know your project has shifted from his area of expertise, but you still value his opinions and find that outside perspective helpful. If he bows out, you're stuck, but it's his idea and he hould have no reason to hold it against you. You could also just outright ask him if he prefers to no longer be on your committee; make it his choice and be clear you would prefer him to be a (active) member of your committee and hopefully you won't have hard feelings if you end up replacing him.