I would like the propose the First Fundamental Theorem of Life at Georgetown: one cannot avoiding meetings while on the Hilltop.
We at Georgetown have a weird obsession with meetings. We say to each other, “Sorry, I just can’t hang out with you (to be understood as: we can be acquaintances, just not, you know, friends that spend quality time with each other) because I’m in meetings from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow.” And to be fair, I’m totally being a hypocrite here. I just sent an email earlier today requesting to have a meeting with three other people in the Healey Family Student Center tomorrow evening. Instead of thinking what I’m supposed to be doing at that meeting, I’m writing this inflammatory article that you’re reading here.
The thing is, we aren’t very good at hosting productive meetings. The first meeting of every club committee of each semester is usually not productive. We sit in a circle and do the typical Georgetown-style introduction (name? school? year? freshman dorm? favorite breed of strawberry? Wait, I’ve totally watched Parks and Rec too!!). By the time it’s my turn, I’ve forgotten everyone’s name and I have to prod the person to my left for their name again. If you’ve been in a meeting with me and are wondering why I’ve never talked to you, chances are, it’s because I don’t remember your name and I’m too embarrassed to ask.
Since clubs here (mostly) like to pick and choose their eager newbies through applications and interviews rather than just throwing their doors open to people who actually want to join, the second, third, and so on meetings of the semester aren’t all that productive either. Of course, it’s great if you applied to join some club’s board or committee and fall in love with their work, but that’s not guaranteed. There have been meetings where all I do is stare at the clock, wondering why I’m spending the expensive time of my Georgetown education yapping about things I no longer care about.
What is going on in our minds when we suggest to each other that we should meet in Lau 2 for the class project that we have to submit tomorrow at 11:30 p.m? Do you want me to sleep at all? I do not want to walk through that barely controlled pandemonium at the height of midterm season, through the swarms of people scattered across the tables and couches procrastinating on Buzzfeed, trying to look for a human needle in a human haystack. It’s even worse when I don’t even know the person that I’m meeting with and I can’t even directly talk to them if I don’t have their number or a connection with them through Facebook.
Alas, a sin even worse is to suggest that we should hold a meeting in, and I quote from an email I received the other day, “ICC.” No, not ICC 115, or ICC 209-B, or even the hallway outside the Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies. Just “ICC.” Yes, the responsibility lies on you to guess where exactly in the underground fluorescent wonderland you should go.
And I have to ask: why? I get that not everyone and not every club can book a classroom at Georgetown, but we have to get more creative. Why not meet outside on the lawn if it’s a sunny and warm day? Or in Hoya Court, where it’s usually deserted on the weekends? Or in the depths of Car Barn at night, where it’s warm and toasty during the winter? (I realize that these are still horrible suggestions, and I concede: this is probably the fault of the poor architectural choices of our campus. But still. Lau 2? And when the only way we can communicate is through email?)
Enough complaining; meetings at Georgetown aren’t going away any time soon. Meetings, despite my previous sentiments, are not always too bad. Sometimes, meetings come with free food, which is the reason why I decide to show up anyway. But I suggest a solution to remedy the personal hell of sitting through meetings, because there are only so many excuses that I can make for missing my weekly meeting before the GroupMe texts reminding everyone about the said meeting start passive-aggressively hinting towards me.
Just bring a laptop to the meeting, and participate for the whole hour (or two) by staring at your laptop throughout. See if you can get through while making eye contact only at your screen. Of course, your mouth will need to go through the motions of participation. You’ll need to say, at 15-minute intervals, “Yeah, sure.” or “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. But you can do amazing things with the time that is otherwise a deadweight loss in your life. Delete your old emails. Reserve a book at the library. Write a blog post for your class. Schedule a date with your partner. The possibilities are endless.
But that’s like putting a bandage on a bleeding wound. The point is, we can all get by with a few more coherent meetings, structured agendas, fewer participants, fewer silly icebreakers, and a limit to when they end. We shouldn’t be afraid to cancel meetings when we really don’t need them. Because in this busy world, one of the best ways to respect one another is to respect each other’s time.