Friday, August 21, 2020

The Life of Deans and Side Deals: A Theory

 Trump: The Art of the Deal

In my teaching career I have been through 9 law school deans. One thing I think is true is that there is an inverse relationship between the number of side deals a dean makes and how long they last. Lets see in order, 5 years, 8 years,  5 years, 5 years, 3 years, 4 years, 11 years, 1 year, 6 years. Now, in fairness, one was done in by an extramarital affair, one was an acting dean, and one is still running but is showing signs of being on the ropes.

 Side deals are those that are made with individual faculty which could not be offered generally. Things like remote teaching during a pandemic but not because of an illness. Or, a one or two day teaching schedule because you live too far away to commute. Or, a special leave that could not be available to everyone or the doors would close. Or, a job because the University wants to hire your spouse. Some side deals are implicit. Like you can teach in our overseas program and I expect your loyalty Or you can have a program in Poland but that's because we are buds, right.

Before condemning deans for their side deals there are many things to keep in mind at least as a general matter.  First, deans serve as long as a faculty lets them. In fact, some stop being effective deans well before they realize they are finished. Second, deans are generally people who have lost their taste for simply teaching and writing but have no market value as practitioners. Third, no dean I have known has had any training for or experience in a management position. In sum, they need the job. They got into one job and just did not like it. Deaning was the logical move. MOST important and certainly more important than any of these  is that the work force they "manage" (or who manage them) possess the greatest sense of entitlement of any work force with the possible exception of the Trump family. I am talking generally now. There are some good ones and you can spot them -- they are the ones with footprints on their backs.

So what happens? The problem is that people without management training seem to have no concept of  the long term. Sure, when young, vivacious, and perky Daisy asks to teach remotely from Kalamazoo because it would make her life less complicated you say yes. Then grumpy old Victor shows up and wants to teach from Rome because he has heard there are smoking hot chicks there you say no.  Then people decide they really would like to teach remotely too because they do not want to risk dying. How do you say no? You can lie, admit you fucked up, or start putting your books in boxes. I do not mean to imply being caught once would do it. It's the accumulation of favors that cannot be generalized. When you give out favors that cannot be generalized it almost always comes back to bite you in the ass. Deans think that by making side deals, they are buying time but, in fact, they are sowing the seeds of the end of their deanships.  Bye bye.