Saturday, March 29, 2008
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I am not thinking here about a top 10 or 15 school but a School ranked lower, let’s say 50th with little hope of moving to the 30s and unlikely to drop to the 60s. What does a School like that want from a new or old dean? For example, do the faculty want the dean to move the School to a higher ranking? Probably yes if it means doing so by increasing placement rates and entering GPAs or LSATs. Probably no if it means raising bar passage rates by revising the curriculum or increasing national prestige through increased scholarship. What’s the difference? That’s easy. What 50 wants is 39 while making 50 effort.
The dean could hire more productive people. That might work but, unless there is a huge number of retirements or resignations, the dean cannot hire enough at the margin to push 50 to 39. The dean could pay more to more productive people. But, when you think about it, deans do not have much money to play with and it takes more than a few more productive people to move a faculty up. Plus, if they are productive enough to make a difference, they are likely to be targets of other schools. What’s worse is that the group the dean really has to worry about is the 75-90% who are not leaving, ever. Those are the people who must be kept happy if the dean is to keep his or her job. Push too hard and the dean may be looking for another deanship. Thus, to avoid trouble the dean is well advised not to make too many distinctions.
Back to a version of the original question: How do you determine whether the dean at 50 has been successful or not? It cannot possibly be by keeping faculty 50 happy. That’s like telling the Devil Rays manager not to worry about a losing record as long as the players are happy. Moving the school’s ranking up by somehow making the faculty more productive is not in the cards. If that could happen, they would already be more productive. Perhaps it is to move the ranking up with smoke and mirrors. This means all kind of decanal glossies and advertising five-page articles as “meaningful” scholarship. Maybe that is the answer: The dean of 50 keeps his or her job by being a magician who attempts to make everyone, including the faculty at 50, appear to be something it is not. Poof!
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Here is an example of the different perspectives. Two professors have offers to leave for other schools. One, the professional, says to the administration. “What package can you offer me to get me to stay?” “Me” is the operative word here. The other professor says “I’d like to stay but I would like the School to be a better place. Please tell me what it will be like here in the future.”
Here is another one. A huge meeting is called to discuss modernizing the curriculum. The discussion is about what the School might do if resources were available. See the division here? Now professors take on the worker mentality and the focus is on what could be done if management did its job. No one notes that every proposal is possible without additional funding if faculty would agree to work a bit harder and give up some activities that may have run their course in terms of effectiveness. In this context, faculty have no ownership in the operation; they are hired hands.
On the other hand, when an administration begins to take the lead and actually treat professors like workers, their role shifts. For example, an administration, after careful study, designs a fall schedule that includes all appropriate courses and places them in slots that minimize overlaps. Professors are notified with due consideration of their teaching specialties. The Administration quickly learns that this is unacceptable. Professor X says, “But it is my turn to teach Advanced Rigatoni.” And Professor Y, “I told you I do not want to teach in the first year.” And Professor Z, “I only teach two days a week.” In unison “We were not consulted!”
The problem is not that professors wear three hats. That seems unavoidable. The problem is how quickly so many switch hats when it suits them. Those less privileged have only one hat -- two at the most.