Thursday, January 15, 2015

Plums and Deans

Last year my Law School went searching for a dean or maybe it was a certain person or maybe it was not a search at all. But that is not a good start to this post because actually the Law School did no searching.  Instead it was conducted by a 80K firm and a committee the majority of which were not tenure track law faculty or law faculty at all.   I bitched about the process because it seemed likely to find a DOA dean.  After all, no matter how much one says the Dean works for the President and the Provost, the faculty can fire the dean too.  In fact, in the last search it fired one before he became Dean. The President then fired the other two candidates, which the faculty had endorsed, before either of them became Dean. From the standpoint of a faculty member it was like going to a restaurant that had  only 3 items on the menu and the restaurant was out of two of them and you were allergic to the one they had or at least thought you were.

So less than a year later and another $100K search (evidently my offer to do it for a large pizza was declined) here  we go again. And as Jack Keroac wrote, ". . . and nobody, nobody knows what's going to happen to anyone beside thee forlorn rags of growing old.. . " BUT, this time it looks like there will not be DOA candidates or at least none that the faculty will fire before they arrive. Not only is there a search committee with a law faculty majority  but another faculty committee to communicate faculty concerns to the President directly. And a faculty member is co-chair of the search committee. After last year's bizarre hush-hush, faculty should not be seen nor heard, everything is on a need to know basis, I ain't say'n noth'n till I see my lawyer search I am very surprised.   I am not keen on the 100K but, this year at least, it is unlikely to be pissed away on a process that  is doomed from the outset.

But Florida's Central Administration has created an interesting situation. Last year the argument could be made that the failed search was on them. This year, if the Law School does not stick in its thumb and pull out a plum, the faculty needs to examine itself.


Martin Snyder said...

Search firms perform an important role in mediating what otherwise could be free-for-all poaching wars - by maintaining asymmetric information on everything from compensation to who is up and who is down across various organizations, they serve as market-makers for talent, just as investment bankers make markets for capital allocation. It appears wasteful and irrational, but it certainly is not....

Jeffrey Harrison said...

Martin, no beef about search firms when there is work to be done. In the law dean world hiring a search firm is like hiring one to find pizza for sale. It is a very small world and virtually any group of law professors could identify all the possible candidates. In Florida's case it is possible the 100k is spent to avoid having to do what state law requires -- transparency.