Friday, January 16, 2015

The Best of Deans and the Worst of Deans

If I have counted correctly and all goes well, the 8th dean will enter my career this fall. That tells me two things. First, it may be time for me to find something else to do; eight is enough of most things including law school deans. Second, I just may be in position to create from my 7 dean experience  the best and worst composite deans. These are composites because even my least  favorite dean had some good characteristics and my most favorite had some bad ones. So let's put some Lego pieces together and build two deans that never existed. Ten characteristics for each one.

The Best;

1. Has no interest in preserving the job unless that is consistent with honesty and transparency and making hard decisions.
2. Skin thicker than that on a rhino which means never doing anything vindictive.
3. Reads and attempts to understand the scholarship of others. Participates in scholarly matters like a faculty member.
4. Does not rationalize why what ever exists is "fair" but has an honest sense of what is fair and does everything possible to work toward that end.
5. Does not avoid unpopular decisions that must be made by assigning them to the faculty to decide.
6. Raises money with dignity.
7. Requires faculty to justify expenditures.
8. Keeps faculty meetings on track by controlling over talkers and those off on tangents.
9.  Does not act as social director by asking everyone to come on over and have  beer or by announcing every  birth, death, graduation, marriage,divorce, of every faculty member and his or her cousins.
10. Does not encourage self promotion by congratulating someone for making the same talk the 20th time or being quoted in the newspaper.

The Worst

1. Puts keeping the job over all else because the only successful dean is one who lasts a long time.
2. Responsive to complaints based on how embarrassing it would be if the news got out regardless of the validity of the complaint.
3. Appoints committees likely to silence views he or his  confidants do not want to hear.
4. Never ever misses a photo op and makes sure he is in the middle.
5. Adopts a defensive posture and hunkers down whenever a difficult issue arises
6. Is uninterested in scholarship.
7. Never does anything because it is the "right" thing to do.
8. Appoints associate deans based nothing indicating the person is qualified but on the basis of the likelihood it will preserve his/her deanship.
9, Is vindictive in decisions about raises, teaching assignments, etc. And rewards those who "play ball.'
10. Responds to tantrums, threats to leave, or sue.
11. (There have to be more that 10 for "worst" because there are more a"bads" than "goods" among most.)  Too interested in the private life of faculty.
12. Master of the "not quite a lie"
13. Makes side deals with faculty on teaching loads, summer compensation, all based on unknown and unknowable standards
14. Claims that when problems arise it is the first he has heard of it even though 5 people have already raised the issue.

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