Monday, May 19, 2014

Term Limits for Deans?

I was thinking about the fact that UF law will have an interim dean for a year or two and considering what difference in makes if  one is interim or permanent. How would these situations change decision making? I starting out thinking the permanent dean would be the way to go but ended up favoring the interim dean. But then I realized I was really thinking about  deanships with a term limit and one without. It seems to me that the term limited dean is the way to go. So, just thinking out loud although I know you cannot hear me unless you have Super Man hearing, I think the ideal is the 5 year term limit deanship.

Lets compare the two. If someone accepts a deanship with an unlimited term they do not want it to end prematurely because that means he or she has displeased a significant segment of the faculty.  If you have stumbled into this blog perhaps looking for something something astute about Lawrence Ferlinghetti, I am sorry and here is a link but this statement may surprise you. Isn't the Dean the boss, you might ask? The answer would be and  is "yes" but only as long as he does the work (sometimes the dirty work) of most of the faculty. If you, misguided reader of beat poetry, think they are like politicians, you have it right and they are constantly up for reelection. In fact, the best advice for the non term limited dean is to do nothing. Actually I was told this by a ex dean who was told it by a long tern dean. Sure a dean who does nothing is one at whom everyone is a little irritated  but also one who has not really rocked the boat even if rocking the boat is what a law school needs. For the non term limited dean the first priority is the keep one's job by keeping the faculty at bay. So, you do not stop useless programs that a small number people may have bought into. You reward those who could make trouble and those who always agree. Your expressed values have a weather vane like quality and your first question on everything  is "what does this mean for moi?"

They term limit dean has freedom.  Everyone knows he or she is gone in five years so there is rarely a failed deanship. It's like teflon. No matter what anyone says you were scheduled to leave in five years anyway. Do you need to keep your finger in the air to assess where you stand? Maybe a bit but since everyone knows you are gone in five years what's the point in trying to get you tossed out. And, since you know you will be gone in five years, why not put yourself aside and do the right thing. When Ms. Big Cheese comes to your office and demands something and threatens to leave you can say "ta ta" because her approval is not something you need.  In fact, you can do the right thing and if the faculty do not like it, resign (in 5 years).On the other hand, if the limited term dean lacks the balls to confront the most arrogant sob on the faculty or caves into the whiners who claim the word "no" is punitive,  the good news is that he or she is gone in 5 years.

I am all in for the limited term dean but I cannot tell you what Lawrence Ferlinghetti thinks.

But while I am on Mr. Ferlinghetti, I recall as a student, going to a reading at which he recited or read or a happening. The Happening was entitled "fuck clock." It was about two people who were hands of a clock and when the clock got to midnight they were intimate but only for a second I guess. I can find no trace of this on the internet.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the solution is to rotate tenured faculty through the position. Their tenure could protect them from the results of unpopular decisions. And you could add a rule that they cannot take part in any foreign exchange programs while they are filling this important role.

I see the interim dean did his undergraduate work at Princeton, received his JD from the University of Chicago and is the director of the summer program at the University of Montpelier France. After reading your blog one may say he would appear to fit right in.

Anhinga said...

I think you are on to something. I have spent the last twenty years in municipal police work. I have noticed that the best police chiefs and city managers seem to stay 3-5 years then move on to somewhere else before the results of their political transgressions get them fired. Those who don't play the game at all don't last but the worst are the ones who just play politics to keep their jobs. They refuse to make decisions and linger forever, destroying the organization slowly.