The reward and demographics of Service


To briefly update, I want to thank folks for all of the great e-mailed comments on the blog! Please feel free to add your comments to the blog itself for all to read. I’m including a few comments that were sent my way via email:

– The reward for solid committee work is “more committee work” AND another comment received, “once you are seen as productive on committees you’re getting ‘rewarded’ by being on more committees” {seems like a common consensus!}

– Several readers commented on the demographics of committees and one noted an interest in national and cultural backgrounds of the committee members as an interesting avenue to explore. I agree! In fact, there is some research in this area–

It has been noted that those “unique” from the dominant culture or background of the institution disproportionately serve on committees in higher education [see Aguirre, A. (2000). Women and minority faculty in the academic workplace. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, 27(6). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass OR/AND Kelly Ward’s 2003 article. Often, these unique faculty members are called on to represent his or her sex or ethnicity in organizational affairs, according to Ward (2003). One could see this as highly negative tokenism, or as an opportunity (standpoint theory) for those with less power to become more enmeshed in the dominant culture’s world (and therefore gain more power, have a greater voice, etc.). It is intriguing.

Such research also showed rank relates to committee/service load. Those with tenure or with longer administrative time appear to feel more confident saying “no” or self-ascribing roles in various campus committees. Those further along in their careers, with higher rank, serve on notably less committees. So, it is quite common for those new to the professoriate, like myself, to end up struggling with committee loads simply based on rank. Adding other demographic contributing factors may compound the service load.

This hidden curriculum to faculty life is one I do not shoulder with distaste, however. I value most of the committees and the solid work tackled by busy people for positive change in our institution. It does seem though that this facet of faculty life could lead to problems with work/life balance as one proceeds along the tenure track.

Thanks again for the thoughts!

Author of article – Lora Helvie-Mason


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