I spent about half of last week at a Board meeting for Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely hate meetings of any kind. As much as I love the organization, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to a four-year term as the Southern Regent.
The meeting went as many academic meetings went. People talked a lot longer than they should, especially when it was clear that everyone agreed with whatever had been suggested. Parts of the meeting (though really only one part) was contentious, as it has been for years and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The meeting could have ended hours before it did, but, as with all academic meetings, it seems, it expanded to fit the time. We thought we would end by lunch on the final day, but, when that didn’t happen, I was the loudest voice to simply press on without a lunch break, hoping that people would move the meeting along if they were hungry. Though we went longer than most of us would have liked, we definitely ended earlier than we would have if we would have taken a lunch break. That gave me time to visit a museum and see the oldest basilica in the U.S.
It sounds like it was a miserable few days for me, and, honestly, sitting in the meeting largely was. However, there is one thing that makes it bearable for me (the people make the trip bearable, as I like getting to see them a couple of times a year). There were a few decisions we made that will make current and future students’ lives clearly better. We raised the amount we give in scholarships and awards, and we created new ones. We raised the amount we give to chapters to encourage them to vote at the Board meeting. We put in additional staff to help the organization run better, which will definitely help the students. That’s the real joy that comes out of such meetings.
It’s easy to forget students when we’re doing committee work or having department/faculty meetings or sitting in windowless hotel conference rooms where it’s so cold I’m having to wear a hoodie over a sweatshirt. We shouldn’t, though. In fact, the question of how what we’re doing benefits students should be the one that undergirds every decision we make, even when the connection isn’t clear. We need to verbalize those benefits to remind us of why we do what we do outside of the classroom to keep colleges and universities (and honor societies) running.
Most of us do not enjoy meetings (I was going to say that none of us enjoy meetings, but I know people who keep calling them, so I must be wrong about that). However, most of us do enjoy helping students. If we keep that as our primary goal, perhaps that will make them at least bearable. One hopes.