It is easy to think of a seminary professor as an ivory tower intellectual with nothing to do but contemplate existence and give the occasional lecture. We do get brief moments of pensive repose, but it is a reality that seminaries and universities require faculty to commit to institutional “service.” Little did I know as an aspiring professor just how many meetings and committees there are. Currently, I serve on several permanent committees such as the library committee and the diversity committee. Then there are departmental meetings that happen monthly or more often. And bi-annual all-faculty workshops. On top of that, there are ad hoc situations like a faculty or staff search committee, or a curriculum revision committee. And a small group of faculty serves on faculty senate or the personnel committee.
Some faculty feel called to make major contributions through institutional service, so their time can easily get filled with the meetings or the work of the group. As for myself, it depends on the year and the opportunities or needs before me. Probably I spend 3-5 hours per week in meetings or in committee work. There are some “light” weeks where I don’t do much at all. There have been occasions where my whole week is almost completely filled up with meetings.
Wait—there’s more! I have just been describing internal committees and meetings. There are also many opportunities to serve in the wider guild. One might serve on an accreditation board, a regional or national society board, chair of a program steering committee, etc. This work is usually unpaid, but it tends not to be a weekly investment, but more something that happens in bursts – i.e., close to the time of a conference or major meeting.
Truth be told, there are usually two things that professors complain about: grading and meetings. But it is not always a drag. It can be exciting to serve on a search committee and make a major impact on hiring. Or to be a formative part of re-shaping curriculum. And sometimes you establish friendships with committee members, and sometimes you get to travel to interesting new places. We see “service” as a sensible obligation: time and energy that simply needs to be put in to keep everything running smoothly. (How much we celebrate, though, when a meeting is canceled!)