It’s a cliche, but like all cliches, it’s rooted in truth. “Decisions are made by those who show up.”
In my line of work, we are constantly being asked to serve on committees, on task forces, in project groups. A faculty member’s duties include teaching, research, and service, and it’s challenging to balance the three. Teaching is a time-and-place sort of thing: you prep for class, you teach the class, you do the grading. Research requires a degree of self-discipline, creating and adhering to a schedule of one’s own devising.
Then there’s the service.
Service obligations often get pushed to third place in the great trifecta (and, one could argue, rightly so, as service often “counts” the least in promotion and tenure decisions). And all those meetings take precious hours from our already-tight schedules. It’s tempting to say no, even with the prospect of free coffee and pastries in the morning.
When someone calls to recruit you for a committee, the pitch is always the same: We NEED you. You know so much about this issue. You are so talented. You’re so good with people. You have expertise that nobody else does.
I try to say yes when I can. I listen to people complain, people who didn’t come to the meetings and sit on the committees, and I sometimes bristle at their dismissive attitudes toward decisions that were time-consuming and carefully made. No solution is ideal, but we are often invited to take part. That’s the time to make our voices heard.
I am heartened by the rising activism I see among young people. And I would say to all of us: if you’re fed up with living under the restrictions that others have imposed, make sure you are taking advantage of opportunities to be heard. Many times we’re invited to the table, and find reasons not to show up.
Let’s renew our commitment to showing up as much as possible.