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Author Topic: For search committee members, what do you do with a very close vote?  (Read 12876 times)
kron3007
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« Reply #30 on: March 09, 2012, 9:53:28 AM »

IMO this is one of the crippling unique and valuable aspects of academia, everything has to be a round table discussion amongst a group of people who predominantly think they are always right understand that to reach important decisions you need to bring all relevant arguments to the table.  Things would be much better much more like politics, which we know works so well if it were structured, people voted, and the results were sent forth without the need for endless debate.    
There, fixed that for you.

The way faculty handle this kind of decision hasn't changed much over the centuries.  For example, Charles Dodgson wrote about faculty meetings at Christchurch College in the 1850s to discuss such issues as building design and proposed changes to the College from the Royal Commission; these meetings sound very much like their modern counterpart.  Measured analysis and lively debate - even if the debaters are opinionated dinornithiformic closed-minded fuddy-duddies (as older faculty are often portrayed by younger ones) - is a tradition that has kept great universities great for centuries, while lesser organizations (with apparently-more-efficient decision structures) wax and wane. - DvF

Thanks, but I have to disagree.  I have sat in many departmental meetings.  In one instance we spent the better part of an hour debating how our department's business cards should read and how much latitude should be given on this format.  So, in total we spent about 20 person-hours (at faculty rates) debating something that dosnt really matter and could have been decided in 2 minutes with a simple vote or decision from the chair.  Instead, we had two or three professors who felt that this was important and they had to be heard rambling on and on wasting everyones time.

I'm not saying that there shouldn't be room for discussion, but when you have a room full of mostly type A personalities, an open-ended round table discussion ends up wasting everyones time and ends up going round and round in circles.  Perhaps our chair was too weak to reign in the debate, but from my limited experience this approach is inefficient and wastes everyone's time for the sake of the more vocal minority.  Discussion is good, but without structure it is chaos.

  
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 9:54:10 AM by kron3007 » Logged
ruralguy
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« Reply #31 on: March 09, 2012, 10:50:56 AM »

For trivial matters, the chair should probably just say  "well, I think we've talked about this for a while, so lets try to reach a decision".
If there are only a few people in the room, some sort of consesus should be reached on something like business cards. With many people,
the Chair could just take a quick straw poll, as in "OK, how many people want blue cards?" or "How many people think the fonts should be New Times Roman?"  Based on this sort of thing, I think  a quicker decision can be reached, but it takes some leadership. Some folks think good leadership means that you let everyone say everything on their mind, but in my view, letting them say some basic summary once is fine, and then just move on. One of the best things an academic leader can do is not waste people's time, but you also sometimes have to sacrifice a bit of time to let people have a say in what is going on in their dept. or school.
 
For complex matters such as searches, I actually think straight voting should be avoided unless the number of people make consesus untenable.
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westcoastgirl
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« Reply #32 on: March 09, 2012, 10:57:20 AM »

The best department meetings I've been to were run by men. They went through the agenda methodically and determinedly. We moved from point to point in a time-efficient, no nonsense manner. On the contrary, I've been to department meetings run by and populated by mostly women where we spent 3 hours hearing classroom sob stories/people's ideas for just about everything, etc. It felt like show and tell over and over again. Everyone wanted so badly to share on every point.
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txgalprof
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« Reply #33 on: March 09, 2012, 11:06:04 AM »

The best department meetings I've been to were run by men. They went through the agenda methodically and determinedly. We moved from point to point in a time-efficient, no nonsense manner. On the contrary, I've been to department meetings run by and populated by mostly women where we spent 3 hours hearing classroom sob stories/people's ideas for just about everything, etc. It felt like show and tell over and over again. Everyone wanted so badly to share on every point.

<put on sarcastic hat>
Yes, let's just continue gender stereotyping... that's what academia needs.
<take off hat>

Ok, I'm done.
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sagit
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« Reply #34 on: March 09, 2012, 11:23:35 AM »

The best department meetings I've been to were run by men. They went through the agenda methodically and determinedly. We moved from point to point in a time-efficient, no nonsense manner. On the contrary, I've been to department meetings run by and populated by mostly women where we spent 3 hours hearing classroom sob stories/people's ideas for just about everything, etc. It felt like show and tell over and over again. Everyone wanted so badly to share on every point.

Wow.  Seriously, did you just suggest that men are better at running department meetings than women?  What century are you living in?  Not cool.  I have seen the exact same scenarios that you described except the time-efficient meetings were run by a woman and the extended-let's-hear-from-everyone meetings were run by men.  But given the small sample size I would not think to draw conclusions like that.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #35 on: March 09, 2012, 11:24:34 AM »

I think the best 3 words a Chair needs to learn are: "Moving right along..." Especially when people start spending a bit too long on personal stories, private theories about why so-and-so isn't getting grants anymore,national politics,  or whatever.
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janewales
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« Reply #36 on: March 09, 2012, 12:33:57 PM »

The best department meetings I've been to were run by men. They went through the agenda methodically and determinedly. We moved from point to point in a time-efficient, no nonsense manner. On the contrary, I've been to department meetings run by and populated by mostly women where we spent 3 hours hearing classroom sob stories/people's ideas for just about everything, etc. It felt like show and tell over and over again. Everyone wanted so badly to share on every point.

Oh for heaven's sake, westcoastgirl. Like many of your readers here, I'm a senior woman with a significant amount of administrative experience. I can assure you that I run a mean meeting, and that I have seen inept (and wonderful) chairs of both genders. If you actually intend the lazy generalization that is implied by this post, then you are being profoundly silly.
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tinyzombie
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« Reply #37 on: March 09, 2012, 12:40:52 PM »

The best department meetings I've been to were run by men. They went through the agenda methodically and determinedly. We moved from point to point in a time-efficient, no nonsense manner. On the contrary, I've been to department meetings run by and populated by mostly women where we spent 3 hours hearing classroom sob stories/people's ideas for just about everything, etc. It felt like show and tell over and over again. Everyone wanted so badly to share on every point.

Unbelievable.

And this from the queen of the sob story threads.
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timurid
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« Reply #38 on: March 09, 2012, 12:56:13 PM »

This thread is now going to Cuba...
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scion
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« Reply #39 on: March 09, 2012, 1:10:04 PM »

The best department meetings I've been to were run by men. They went through the agenda methodically and determinedly. We moved from point to point in a time-efficient, no nonsense manner. On the contrary, I've been to department meetings run by and populated by mostly women where we spent 3 hours hearing classroom sob stories/people's ideas for just about everything, etc. It felt like show and tell over and over again. Everyone wanted so badly to share on every point.

Kudos to WCG! A post that does not refer to her husband.
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daniel_von_flanagan
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« Reply #40 on: March 09, 2012, 1:29:38 PM »

Thanks, but I have to disagree.  I have sat in many departmental meetings.  In one instance we spent the better part of an hour debating how our department's business cards should read and how much latitude should be given on this format.
You are disagreeing with the historical fact that department meetings are much as they have been for centuries, or with the long success of institutions like Oxford?  Or are you just ignoring the argument and disagreeing with the conclusion?

As for the protracted meetings over what you think are picayune matters, you should think of them as practice for the meetings where something important is discussed.  In a department that hashes stuff out a lot, when making a big decision about hiring or workload or chalkboard color, you will know who likes to argue for the sake of arguing, what kind of arguments work against different colleagues, etc., and when it is over you will not mistake generic argument heat for acrimony. - DvF
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proftowanda
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« Reply #41 on: March 09, 2012, 4:09:03 PM »

I think that how it happened is something to let go of now.  It has to be one or the other.  You know how in Quaker meetings they achieve consensus by hearing out the minority, and then the minority graciously cedes?

At the risk of thread jacking, this opens a can of worms as to which religious comparison works best for different departments. Certainly there are those whose inner workings are more similar to the Spanish Inquisition than Quaker meetings. Most are probably closer to how the Presbytery works for Presbyterians.

Well put.  But don't forget the Pagans, a subcult that can be counted upon to enliven discussion.
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larryc
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« Reply #42 on: March 09, 2012, 4:17:31 PM »

The best department meetings I've been to were run by men. They went through the agenda methodically and determinedly. We moved from point to point in a time-efficient, no nonsense manner. On the contrary, I've been to department meetings run by and populated by mostly women where we spent 3 hours hearing classroom sob stories/people's ideas for just about everything, etc. It felt like show and tell over and over again. Everyone wanted so badly to share on every point.

WCG, game over here. It is my compassionate recommendation that you permanently abandon this user ID. Establish a new CHE account, lurk a while, and try to adopt a new voice in your future posts. Because the above post will forever be tied around your neck otherwise and will shape how other folks here react to everything you do here.
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msparticularity
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« Reply #43 on: March 09, 2012, 4:24:35 PM »

The best department meetings I've been to were run by men. They went through the agenda methodically and determinedly. We moved from point to point in a time-efficient, no nonsense manner. On the contrary, I've been to department meetings run by and populated by mostly women where we spent 3 hours hearing classroom sob stories/people's ideas for just about everything, etc. It felt like show and tell over and over again. Everyone wanted so badly to share on every point.

WCG, game over here. It is my compassionate recommendation that you permanently abandon this user ID. Establish a new CHE account, lurk a while, and try to adopt a new voice in your future posts. Because the above post will forever be tied around your neck otherwise and will shape how other folks here react to everything you do here.

+1

And remember, I have generally been fairly sympathetic to you.
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kron3007
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« Reply #44 on: March 09, 2012, 5:11:12 PM »


You are disagreeing with the historical fact that department meetings are much as they have been for centuries, or with the long success of institutions like Oxford?  Or are you just ignoring the argument and disagreeing with the conclusion?

I wouldn't say I'm ignoring the arguments, I just dont think they hold water.  

Just because things have been done a certain way for centuries does not make them the most efficient or the best.  In a similar vein, just because successful institutions such as Oxford have/do employ such an approach does not validate the method.

For a topical example, Oxford only started admitting women in 1920 and ran successfully for hundreds of years, about 90% of its existence, with an exclusively male student body (and I assume faculty).  I think we can all agree that while Oxford successfully operated in this manner for the majority of its history that does not mean that it is/was the best way to operate.

Likewise, many great civilizations have been governed by dictators, theocracies, and monarchs, but you would not suggest that these are the ideal systems right?

Back to the matter at hand, the fact that a round table approach is the status quo in academia and is practiced by many illustrious institutions has very little bearing on its efficiency.  Perhaps I have been in disfunctional departments, or observed weak chairs, but the amount of time I have seen wasted squabbling on insignificant matters in this round table format is ridiculous.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2012, 5:14:13 PM by kron3007 » Logged
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