Friday, April 24, 2015


Sorry but I do not know who the new Dean will be at Florida. All the finalists seemed fine to me except for wanting to be dean. That would not be so bad unless it means a deanship devoted to just continuing to be dean. That is not to say others do not know which leads to time to discuss NEW DEAN RITUALS.

Some of these predate the actual appointment of the Dean.

1. Information is power. Anyone in law teaching knows that people like to seem to be connected, in the know, or whatever. They drop little pieces of information here and there like the bread crumbs in the story of Hansel and Gretel to let you know.  In the context of new deans it means knowing who the new dean will be but not saying. It is important to let people know you know but not to say because once word is out your power is gone. After all, knowing makes your important.

2. The stampede. Get to the dean first with your version of things like 1) what the law school should be doing, 2) how important you are. 3) how you have been wronged, 4) why you should be associate dean. 5) why your pet program which the old dean had put on the chopping block should be retained 6)  how tight you are with the Central Administration, 7)why you need extra travel money, 8)what foreign program you want to start, and (9) how you like your eggs.

3. Fall out shelter: This is actually a corollary to number 2. Do not have an office between the new Dean's office and other faculty offices unless you like to be caught in the stampede.

4. Understanding. Convince the new Dean that you are a trusted friend she  never met. This means not being in the first wave of the stampede but holding back and starting with light chit-chat and later moving into items like those in number 2. This is a form of salesmanship like when you go into a store and the salesperson treats you like his or her new best friend for 5 minutes before making the pitch.

5. Be a good Boy or Girl, Most people are on their very best behavior when the new dean comes on board. Appear to be a loving, mindful, kind, and altruistic person. You just want to "help" the new Dean understand the Law School from the only person who truly understands it -- YOU.

6. Act like you are representative and trusted and, thus, a faculty leader.  When talking to the new dean always use terms like "several of us" which actually mean you and maybe one other person you saw at the Greyhound bus station.

My bet:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The "L" Word and the "C" Word

Running across this book review of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn't made made me realize how dangerous the "C" word and the "L" word are. The C word is, of course, collegiality and the L word is leadership.

Let's start with leadership and recall some effective leaders in history -- Hitler, David Korash, George Wallace, Stalin, ---- you get my drift. People spout the word leadership as though it is unequivocally a desired and admirable trait. It is, however, something to be encouraged or feared depending on the ends sought. Please, enough with the leadership worship without first telling me where the leader is leading.

Far more dangerous is the "C" word -- collegiality. My goodness, don't you think the collegiality level was high among those in the George Wallace administration or in David Duke's entourage? Paramilitary groups probably are also way up there on the collegiality scale. Underachieving faculties are likely to be collegial as well. In fact, collegiality is most likely to be valued when people are not sure that what they are doing could stand public scrutiny. Like Leadership, collegiality is a concept or characteristic that is to be valued after only after knowing the ends to be sought.

In recent years, "uncollegial"is used as a rallying cry signalling that the actual issue raised cannot be discussed. Can't rely on reason to get your way? Play the uncollegial card! At bottom charges of being uncollegial are actually name calling as the review referred to above unintentionally illustrates. As often as not, it reflects the discomfort the target has created among those adhering to group norms whether those norms are finding a cure for a dreaded disease or barring entry to a country club.

Leadership and collegiality are dangerous words because they have instant appeal without regard for the ends they advance.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The $1.98 Faculty Meeting

At law school faculty meetings many important issues are raised: should we reduce class size, should we offer more skills courses, should we have higher or lower tenure standards, what should we name the law school cat, do we need a mascot,  should we reduce the size of the faculty? Actually that one is never, ever discussed.

What is amazing is how the issues change but the essence of the commentary does not. It is almost always from the perspective of self-interest, So here is the idea. I stole it from somewhere but I cannot remember.

Each faculty member has a life size photo made. This are all kept in the dean's office but they could also be in the supply room. That is for each faculty to vote on and I am sure they would insist on doing just that. I'd go with the supply room but I will vote with the committee on this.

The faculty meeting is called and faculty stay in their offices writing very important articles, making their next set of reservations to take an important group of people to South America to hear 5 minute talks, napping, playing online chess, or anything else equally productive.

The dean's right hand person goes to the meeting room and arranges the life size photos. The dean arrives and calls the meeting to order and moves to the first item on the  agenda. Let's say it's "should we raise the mean GPA from 3.88 to 3.89."  In their photos, each person has his or hand up and the dean recognizes them in turn. But, and here is the revolutionary move. After calling their names he or she just moves to the next person, They do not talk because they are cardboard. BUT the dean (more likely the dean's assistant)  knows exactly what each person will say because they are like a sentences on infinite loops -- same thing every single time:

Person 1: Shouldn't we check to see what the highly ranked schools are doing because we definitely want to move up the ladder, not down because I actually think it is our job to move up in the rankings. (And, by the way, I getting pretty pissed off if anyone disagrees.)

Person 2: I just want to know if this will hurt the students' feelings because my feelings were hurt once and it does not feel good.

Person 3: Is there some way we could turn this into some money because I really like money.

Person 4: At (my, daughter's, friend's) school they have a 4.00 average and, therefore, we should too because I have no original ideas.

Person 5; (Flipping her hair and acting all flustered): I really think we should do something and I am just wondering [don't you love the passive-aggressive "just wondering move?] if it is really a good idea to give all the students the same grade but I am just wondering so please don't mind me because the most important thing is that you not realize this is a part time job for me.

Person 6: I actually have nothing to say but I always use up about ten minutes saying nothing it so here is what I think and that is many schools do one thing and some do another and I . . . . . because I like hearing myself sound important because if I hear myself sounding important it makes me think I am important or at least you will think I am here more than the 4 hours a week I actually am on campus"

Person 7: I am concerned this will mean less work and less work means less work for me personally and since I am on a year to year contract, I am always searching for something I can do.

Person 8: I am on both sides because I want to be Dean someday.

Person 9: What will this do for diversity because diversity is important and, since this occurred to me when I was 45, I have a lot to make up for and I plan to demonstrate my new found sensitivity by raising it every day and wearing my Che t-shirt.

Person 10: When I grade I take all the papers and weigh them. They I have them blessed by my priest. I read the first one and then the second one than have a beer. The first and second papers are then reread. . . . .  Now what was the question again?

These comments use  up about 10 seconds if the dean is a fast talker and no more than an minute if he is not, The dean flips a coin, Meeting adjourned!