Faculty Schedule Dominance as a Peeing Contest

Most people who know me in real life know that I really don’t like going to meetings unless we are going to get something done. Most meetings do not accomplish that goal, thus your time is better spent not in meetings.

But the WORST part of meetings in an academic context is the time waste of trying to schedule on top of the time waste of the meeting itself.

My project manager and I are in the process of scheduling a practice run with one of the students for interviews we are going to conduct. He thought about when the student and he meet normally, and he emailed me with a proposed time. That time wasn’t great, but I had a close time slot, and I replied with alternate.

Inconsiderate people expect you to chase them. Now, don’t get me wrong. Faculty are insanely busy. Insanely. But for some, the scheduling dance becomes a way to reinforce their importance instead of just getting the damn meeting scheduled–or called off–because it’s not such a priority that they are willing to seriously consider the schedule. Here’s how these types of email chains go:

Me: How about M, T, W?

Them: Can’t M T. I can do F.

Me: Can’t do F. I’m gone working that day. What about W PM?

Them: No, can’t do that. F is best.

Me: I need to work on projects that day. What about W am?

Them: No, can’t do that.

Me; What about next week?

Them: Maybe on F that week.

By now, we’re 10 emails in because what they really want is for you to give up and change your schedule to suit them. Instead of having the guts to say that, they just make it impossible to schedule any other time but the time they KNOW is most vulnerable in your schedule—the time you have set aside for writing–if that’s their preferred meeting time. This works if you need them for something–like a defense–so their bad behavior gets rewarded.

BTW, I do know all about Doodle and Outlook calendars. I love Doodle, but half the time when you try to use it, people will game it by being the last person to enter times and they will go “Oh my! There’s no time that suits moi!” to make everybody reset the poll to their preferences. (or there really is no time that works). With Outlook, people don’t update so that if you do propose a time according to their availability, it’s still a crap shoot whether you will get them.

In the recent exchange with high maintenance gamer above, I just said “it looks like now is not the right time” walked away. The meeting wasn’t important enough to her to respond with times alternate to my work-period and it wasn’t important enough to me to throw my writing time under the scheduling bus.