No one told me that I would have to spend so much time in committee work! This is a frequent comment made by novice teachers of nursing. Experienced teachers lament the time they have to spend on faculty committees, preferring to save their time for what they regard as more productive scholarly activities. Whether it is true or not, nursing faculty often believe that they are more involved in managing the affairs of their school or department than other faculty members at their institution. Yet these same faculty would be the first to complain were they not involved in making decisions important to them, their students, and their institution. How can faculty be involved, yet not spend as much of their precious time in committee work?
Faculty can engage in participatory management without spending an inordinate amount of time in committee work. A quick review of the three major types of academic committees - policy-making, administrative, and technical - will help in understanding the role of each. Policymaking committees should be charged by the faculty to develop regulations and criteria for academic activities. Responsibilities include, for example, student admission and graduation requirements and standards, scholarship and loan recommendations, faculty performance and workload, allocation of space for teaching and research activities, and accepted professional conduct in clinical agencies. The policies developed must be discussed and accepted by the faculty according to the faculty's governance regulations.
Policy-making committees can facilitate the working of the faculty toward the goal of acceptance by providing thoughtful reports to the faculty with recommendations based on the alternatives the committee has considered, and the reasons for the committee's recommendations.
Accepted policies become the guidelines for administrative committees to base their decisions. Examples of the work of these committees include review of student applications, recruitment of students and faculty, monitoring the curriculum, arranging symposia or distinguished lectureships, and assigning space. Technical committees provide technical advice to faculty and administrators, for example, the acquisition of equipment for teaching and research, or developing a new facility in the building. Because of their nature, they are frequently ad hoc work groups that disband when they have completed their assigned task.
Much of the work of the faculty can and should be handled by its committees. The key is having agreed on guidelines that are understood by the entire faculty. When accepted policies exist, it is easier to place confidence on the work of committees and to rely on them to act appropriately for the faculty. Then more time and energy can be saved for other activities without reducing faculty's responsibilities in the management of academic affairs.