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2007-02-17 - 3:10 p.m.

...lessons on how to write meeting notes...

Part of being a faculty member's job is 'service to the community.' This usually comes in the form of committees. And when you are new, you tend to get put on the committees that no one else really wants to be on. That would be me, I am your friendly local safety officer.

Thursday I was forced to attend an all-day meeting on how to be a safety committee member. ?? The meeting was NOT about safety. The meeting was about how to be a MEMBER of a committee. I thought that I was going to kill myself.

The meeting started with our discussing why it is we have worker's compensation in Canada. Then, it went into the history of how said compensation was established. We then read through the various government acts, and learned how they were structured. We were asked questions about the acts and resulting regulations, and where we would go to find answers to particular questions about safety regulation, and then were forced to pile through the three books documenting the safety act, in order to find the answers.

They were not questions like, "what do you do if someone in your area breaks a limb?" They were questions like, "under what conditions is an employer legally required to have a safety committee? How many members are on said committee? And how are the chairs of the committee elected?"

At this point if someone had offered me the choice of continuing the meeting or shaving my head with a cheese grater, I think I might have considered the latter.

I'd say that the meeting hit rock bottom, however, when we were taught how to take proper meeting notes. We were divided into multiple groups, and handed examples of meeting notes. We were then asked to come up with three 'good' things, and three 'bad' things about the notes. oy. Please give me tin foil to chew on. It would be less painful.

The meeting then continued by stating our "rights" as committee members. For example, I am personally entitled to 8 hours per year away from my work, so that I can attend helpful meetings like this. I held back a scream.

I am amazed that an administrative office at a uni has no recognition that an 8-hour meeting on Thursday means that I, as a faculty member, will now have to spend 8 hours on Sunday making up what I missed. This is what happens when industry regulation is applied to academia. Sometimes it just doesn't work.

It was so very clear that this meeting, with its stock power point presentation, was intended to approach the lowest common denominator. And let me tell you, there was not a single person in the room who approached that lowest common denominator. Amazingly the rest sat through this quietly and politely...I couldn't believe it. I was the only prof in the room, but that doesn't for a moment give me the monopoly on intelligence. They were clearly smart people, and they had to be thinking the same thing as I was. I only had one inkling of this when the bookstore lady gave me a knowing look during the lunch break. But we didn't dare say what we were thinking...Maybe because we were both afraid of exploding into a thousand pieces if we gave voice to the obvious.

I think you would have been proud of me. I kept my mouth shut the whole time, while my insides fermented into a nice ripe wine. I kept myself awake by taking pages and pages and PAGES of notes. ten pages of notes on how much money the forestry industry pays per $100 payroll into BC worker's comp. (yes, I know this useful little factoid, and cannot wait to share it at my next faculty function.)

But these notes indeed came in handy for the FINAL EXAM. Yes, I took an exam on how to be a committee member. Multiple choice. What else. We were allocated 1 hour. It took us all about ten minutes, and here's where our collective attitude started to come through, albeit in such a polite and amiable manner. This being a government test, it had not been updated to account for the changes in the acts. So we all had several points taken away, because we answered the questions correctly. oh well.

As a German, K was entirely empathetic. He has also sat through meetings where one wants to bite down on the edge of the table or run through the halls screaming. As a result, there was a lovely bottle of wine and dinner on the table when I got home - and two ears ready to laugh at the whole experience. His comment was, "aha, if you were asked the question, would I rather attend this meeting or have my life shortened by one'd have to really think about it."

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