To meet or not to meet: still a question

Robert Valentine Senior lecturer in advertising

A Motion to Adjourn is always in order.

In our last installment in this space, we outlined the greatest fear of civilized students everywhere: meetings.

As a rule, people deplore meetings unless it is the only chance you have to sit next to that hunky guy from English class who, according to your roommate’s text, might have told her boyfriend that he sort of thought you were, y’know, like cute or whatever.

Otherwise, people consider meetings to be a waste of time, a painful social obligation and a source of constant irritation and alienation. Good points, all.

But some meetings can make all the difference in the world. The Constitutional Convention certainly had a generally positive impact, despite the fact that Supreme Courts and presidents seem always keen to make minor adjustments, even after reading part of the bill.

A wedding is a form of meeting, and is almost always a joyous affair for the attendees, even without an open bar. Likewise, classes are meetings where we can see our friends, practice making up creative excuses and catch up on lost sleep.

Still, from Residential College Council meetings to chapter meetings, from Student Government Association seminars about sexually transmitted diseases to attempts to start a new chapter of the Student Society for the Prevention of Cats, meetings can be useful, relatively painless and profitable for all — even enjoyable.

Here are the rules for successful meetings:

1. Provide an agenda. If you’re calling the meeting, think about what’s supposed to happen. Let everyone know, so they can be prepared to comment AFTER having thought about it. If you don’t know what’s going to happen at the meeting, why are you calling it? If you are “called,” feel free to ask for an agenda. If there isn’t one, fake an illness.

2. Set a time limit. Anything that can’t be accomplished in 45 minutes needs to be referred to a new meeting. If you start on time and end on time, people will stop avoiding your overly long, pointless meetings. Anyone can “do time,” as the felons say, if they know when they will be released. It gives hope to the hopeless.

3. No texting. I know: you’re expecting a vital, emergency message, even though there has never been a vital, emergency text in your lifetime. While you’re checking, however, you feel compelled to respond to Rachel’s question about who’s driving to the mixer this Friday. In the meantime, you’re a huge distraction to the adults sitting near you. They want to text, too, but they are not as rude as you. Grow up.

4. Focus on what’s happening! If you’re in the meeting you could be affected by what happens. Pay attention! (This seldom applies to faculty meetings unless committees are being formed.)

5. Chairpersons: don’t be afraid to say, “That’s out of order,” or to use the more prosaic expression: “Nobody cares about that; it’s irrelevant and stupid. Go text someone.” Somebody has to take charge, and you’ve got the wooden hammer.

6. Remember Robert’s Rules of Order: a Motion to Adjourn is always in order.

We are tribal beings, us humans. So, we have to get together sometimes to share information, to establish group understanding or to find out who is going to contribute in which way. There’s no way around it and, like classes, sometimes the outcome can be rewarding.

So, there will be meetings. There will also be wars, famine, pestilence and Congress, but we can’t control those things. We can control meetings. Let’s do that, shall we?

I move to adjourn.

Editor’s note: This column was part two in a two-part series.


Column by Robert Valentine, Senior lecturer of Advertising