Saturday, June 13, 2015
If all goes as planned, on July 1, the ninth dean of my law school teaching career will start her tenure. I don't think it is right to talk about people behind their backs so here are the names of those former deans:
1. Champagne Man
2. Smooth Operator
4. Graham Cracker Lindsay
5. Little Ricky
6. Publicity Hound
7. The Can Kicker
(Number 9's name at this point is Hope.)
Only two of them were God awful. One handed out semesters off on the basis of standards that were never clear. Another was the king of side deals so much so that if you had only one side deal you were being screwed. Those two had in common a dislike for transparency and straight talk. I suspect that there were issues of transparency with respect to all of them but the lack of transparency was so complete that you could not even see the smoke screens. I would love to see all but the last one in the ring for an all out Texas Grudge Match.
Starting with Pippy they were mostly a jumpy lot and good examples of the Peter principle. By jumpy, I mean a really big consideration was "but what will the faculty think." That is an important consideration but at least 4 of them would have asked that before rescuing a drowning puppy.
The odd thing is that I cannot think of one of them, even the awful ones, who did not seem like a decent person. Outside of the law school environment I shared some laughs with almost all of them. Thus, I wonder if there is something inherently corrupting about being a law school dean. A good friend of mine believes that is the case. At some point even the best intentions with respect to fairness and transparency seem to fade. Put differently and more harshly, they sell out. If they had the best intentions with respect to fairness and transparency they cave in. They usually cave in to faculty demands some of the most outrageous of which will be the subject of my next blog.
Since I have only taught at two schools I do not want to generalize but maybe, rather than being flawed, deans mirror their faculties. Take the same deans, make him or her dean at a law school, if there is one, in which the crowd (to use a term another colleague used to describe the one at Uf) is not as "rough" and most of those former deans might have "different" deans.
This is a fairly tenuous theory but could it be that deans, whoever they are, are ultimately faculty mirrors. In the case of my law school, the nature of the deans changed at a point when the faculty took a turn to the nasty side. It's pretty clear that no law school can become better if the dean is simply a mirror of the faculty.
The kicker is this. If deans begin to mirror their faculties and the deans fall out of favor, isn't it really an exercise in faculty self-hatred.
Here's hoping our new dean does not become the faculty, that side deals are over, transparency restored, and that those who object move out.