Scheduling a Committee Meeting  

Students beware, getting faculty together is one of those impossible things that must be done if you want to graduate.

In my department, in order to graduate, I have to have an oral defense with my committee. A committee is made up of at least three professors, usually two who reside within the department, who meet to discuss your work. While this function is in their job description, many faculty look at it as “something extra” they have to do. What this means for a student trying to get them into the same room, is that they are only going to give you their time if it is convenient to them.

Convenient for them does not mean convenient for you. Add this to the fact that you have at least three committee members and you have yourself the kind of fun lamented by graduate students everywhere. This process is jokingly impossible, but it can be done without too much fuss.

The solution: Doodle. Get a doodle to them as quickly as possible and give lots and lots of options/times. If you are lucky, they will find a common time with the first go. If you are unlucky, try, try again. Other methods involve going to faculties’ office hours (if they tell you their office hours) and if that fails, you wait outside their classes (this is a last resort, of course).

I am giving you an example of the worst case scenario, but the big take away is that scheduling faculty meetings is its own assignment. Some will ask you to write your own exam questions, sign their signature, pass your e-mails to someone else, or even bring them an actual calendar. Whatever pitfalls you find yourself in, remember, you are not alone. Many students have had the same challenges you have.

Finally, if all else fails and you have put in as many man-hours as you are willing to give, contact your departmental secretary. They are usually skilled in diplomatically reminding faulty of their duties. Remember, however, this is a passive aggressive strategy and once a bridge is burned you have to rebuild it.

These have been my experiences and they are not shared by everyone, but during my time in academia, I have found diplomacy and bureaucracy to be very good friends. Treat people like people first, but some tact can go a long way.