Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Service: who participates?

This entry continues the topic of Committees/Service work in the university.

After talking to several colleagues, I realized that I carry a very heavy service load compared to others in my cohort, triple some of the others. I've been appointed to a LOT of committees by my Dean or other administrators at work and have found them to be a great way to accomplish a few key issues for new/junior faculty members:
1. I was able to learn a lot about the inner workings of my institution
2. I met many people quickly (and they were able to know/recognize me much earlier than my counterparts without committee loads)
3. My voice mattered in shaping the direction of the university which fostered a deeper connection to the university my first couple of years
4. I began to recognize political undercurrents and was better prepared to navigate them
5. My image on campus seemed to be crafted as one willing to work
But there have been drawbacks as well:
1. Time--I have at least 3 committee meetings each week and some weeks there are as many as 6. This might not sound like a lot to some, I have no real point of comparison, but when it is a work-heavy committee there are a lot of demands on time. Add a full (and overloaded, some semesters) teaching load this is the chief issue with heavy service requirements
2. Rewards--There seems to be minimal institutional rewards built in for committee service. It is a much smaller part of the tenure/annual review process
3. Energy--At times, I find myself depleted of any energy when facing endless meetings and tasks on quick deadlines

This made me ponder WHY faculty are appointed to committees and to wonder if other tenure-track faculty members find themselves feeling unable to say "no" when appointed by Deans or higher administrators as I have felt in the past couple years. I must say, I've begun employing "no" more often and feel partially responsible that I didn't start out more assertively in setting the tone on committee work. I assumed if appointed one should sit on that committee.

There seems to be a trend, though. A lot of the committees seem to involve a core group of the same folks. We appear heavily female in most committees, as well. So, I've posted a research article to examine this element of faculty life (Porter) regarding participation on committees. Porter noted that females and minority faculty perform more service than their male, majority counterparts and claims that excess committee participation may harm career prospects (since it takes time away from grants, research, and publications).

Armed with new literature to read, safely tucked in a file folder next to my upcoming two committee folders, I plan to dip further into the research and explore this issue to better inform my own career trajectory.

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