I know this is a radical idea so just go with me for a moment. I only intend it is a thought experiment or hypo if you will.
Over the years, I've experienced faculty meetings that have been mercifully short and faculty meetings that have been disproportionately long given the subject matter under discussion. I've been at faculty meetings where important subjects were discussed and where important subjects were tabled due to lack of time. But as the years have gone on, and more and more people (even those who were slower on the uptake 10-15 years ago) have started airing views about important issues via email, it seems that faculty meetings are sometimes just icing on the cake for an issue that has already been discussed in detail via email.
So I started wondering if faculty meetings are actually worth the candle anymore, at least the once-a-month obligatory scheduled meetings that are typically the case for most faculties. While I don't necessarily like the idea of doing business over email rather than face-to-face, it does seem that a lot of issues are discussed in more detail and with more time/thought devoted to them over email than in person. And email at least theoretically can accommodate more voices than a time-limited faculty meeting where some folks might be reticent to speak up. While it's easy to hit 'delete' and ignore email discussions (which may be an argument in favor of face-to-face meetings), it's also easy to tune people out during a meeting or to not show up to a meeting if uninterested in the subject matter. Also, it's often the case that a faculty member will miss a faculty meeting due to another commitment, but can still use email to express his or her views fully prior to the meeting.
There has been some sociological research suggesting that folks are less civil over email than they would be face-to-face, and we've probably all seen some examples of that in real life. But is that so terrible? At least people get to express their views fully. And if people are uncivil on email, their thoughts are likely to be discounted anyway so it may end up hurting their own position. Further, if email exchanges become worryingly uncivil (eg bordering on defamatory), the administration can always impose a code of conduct. I'm sure more than one dean has warned faculty members about the kinds of things that shouldn't appear in emails either for legal reasons or with respect to expectations of collegiality.
I know that the idea of stopping or scaling back monthly faculty meetings might seem wrong on an intuitive level, but it's hard for me to come up with reasons why there should be scheduled monthly faculty meetings. There are some issues faculties will need to vote on, but promotions and appointments cases are often done through special faculty meetings, rather than at standard monthly meetings. And other issues requiring a faculty vote could be consolidated and voted on whenever the need arises - or perhaps could be voted on via email?
I don't feel entirely comfortable about raising this issue, but I don't know why given that we do so much over email these days anyway and there seems to be less need for monthly meetings other than to ensure some proportion of the faculty comes together face-to-face to exchange ideas. Is this a good enough reason, particularly given increasing competing demands on faculty time?
OK - so everyone let me have it now! It really is just a thought experiment and I'm interested in what people think.