Attribution: By Edvard Munch – National Gallery of Norway, Public Domain,
I’m a worrier. Always have been. Drives my wife, kids, (and I bet my colleagues), crazy.
I’m actually not worried about the future of higher ed. The vast majority of colleges and universities are, I suspect, more adaptable and resilient than we give them credit.
This is not to say that a depressing number of small and tuition-dependent schools will not close or merge during the next few years. They will. The demographic and financial headwinds are just too intense for some number of colleges (maybe in the hundreds) to resist.
But overall, I think that the higher ed ecosystem will remain vibrant and grow stronger in the decades ahead.
Nor do I worry too much about my academic career. In my experience, career setbacks are often the result of exogenous forces that we can’t predict or much control, and we are better off worrying about what is in front of us. It is not that I think career challenges can’t or won’t occur. It is just that I think that worrying about these possible setbacks isn’t of much use.
So when it comes to higher ed, what do I worry about?
Not all meetings. Just the meetings that I convene.
The bigger the meeting, the more I worry. The further people have come to meet, the more I worry.
Here are the meetings things that stress me out:
Worry #1 – Nobody Shows Up:
Every time I host a meeting, workshop, seminar, talk or anything else where colleagues need to be together at one place and time – I worry that nobody will show up.
I have this mental image of waiting in the room where the meeting is set to take place, and then waiting and waiting and waiting. The people who RSVP’d that they would attend choose not to do so. The meeting room is in a place that nobody can find.
This has actually never happened. At least a couple of people usually wander into meetings that I’ve arranged. But each time that it doesn’t happen I’m surprised.
Worry #2 – People Show Up, But Then Wish They Had Not:
What is worse? Hosting a meeting where nobody comes or hosting a meeting that everyone hates?
The reality is that nobody likes going to meetings. The more people at a meeting, the less useful that meeting probably will be.
There is so little give and slack in modern academic life. The opportunity costs seem to get higher every year. We could all use every minute we can get to get our actual work done. The bar for what constitutes a useful meeting gets higher and higher.
If I’m the one one who has convened and planned the meeting, then I’m the one responsible for its quality. There seem to be more ways that a meeting can go wrong than it can go right. People have diverse needs and goals. Meetings can have weird social dynamics.
How many meetings have you attended recently that you wish you had not?
Worry #3 – Logistics:
The sheer logistics of meetings all feel somewhat risky.
Will the travel go smoothly for those traveling to the meeting?
Will people find parking?
Will the food show up – and will there be enough options for everyone?
Will the room technology work with the presenter’s laptop?
Does everyone worry about the meetings that they host?
What else should anyone hosting a campus meeting be worried about?
Do you have any meeting hosting horror stories that you can share with us?