Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another port in a storm?

As I have mentioned in the past, our college is in a structural upheaval. The current economy pushed the Board of Governors to re-examine the efficiency of Employment U and word came down from on high to eliminate all majors that graduate under a certain number of students in a year. That trickled down to the provost who has developed a metric to assess whether or not we meet these standards. Our dean, to his credit, decided that being the first college to deal with the mandate gave us an advantage of leading the way, rather than being forced to follow the path forged by others. Accordingly, he has led the college-wide effort to dramatically change the structure of our programs. Details aside, many faculty members have worked many hours to hammer out the beginnings of a new plan to approach the structure of our undergrad programs, our grad programs and a new administrative structure to deal with all of the changes. This has been met with various reaction from different faculty, ranging from applause to fear or anger. It has not been an easy process and countless hours of effort have gone into putting a proposal on the table for us to vote on this Friday, which will just be the start of the new structure. All of this has been done under the encouragement of the dean, who has been making promises of resources along the way to allay the largest of faculty fears.

That's why it was a shock last week when rumors circulated that the dean is in final negotiations with another university to become their provost. Just as our collective wagon was getting up to speed, the wheels have fallen off. Despite all of the work and good ideas of the faculty committees, the nay-sayers are screaming that we should all vote down the plan because we won't have a leader. Of course, these people would vote to send their parents to prison camps if it meant avoiding any sort of change, but they are a vocal lot and like to play the fear card adored by the Republican right. "Sure everything points to the fact that we can't keep doing things like we are, but progressive change is bad.... because it's change!" So, the vote that we were all charging to on Friday is now being held with an uncertain future and with a deflated purpose that has given hope to the fear-mongering asshats. The worst possible outcome will be to send the committees back to the drawing board with a revised mandate of "less change", given the circumstances. That will quash any forward progress we have made, especially as we head into the summer.

As much as I would like to be pissed at the dean for pulling this vanishing act at the worst possible juncture, the University has screwed him over recently. He has been a very good dean for the college for almost a decade and is generally respected (which cannot be said for most deans). In the past 18 months he has applied for two positions at the university which would be higher profile gigs, and despite being qualified, he did not make the short list for either. Maybe the administration doesn't like him or it's a case of the grass being greener in another pasture, but I think he got the loud and clear picture that if he wants to move up it'll have to be somewhere else. Yeah, the timing sucks, but if I were him would I take the opportunity to take a better job somewhere else while simultaneously leaving a vacuum behind me that lets the university know just how important I was to my college? I can't say that I wouldn't. He hasn't been one of these folks that changes universities every two years, climbing the ladder as fast as possible. Instead, he stuck it out here and put in the time in the hopes of moving up with his hard work - you know, like most people do. Instead of being promoted internally, he was hung out to dry by the university so why wouldn't he want to squat in the corner on his way out? You won't catch me lauding administrators very often, but in this case I can't take issue with the dean's decision despite it's ramifications for the process in which we are currently embroiled.


  1. You and I are both in the same boat with administrative upheavals. Interesting times ahead.

  2. Boy, sounds like it's going to be an unsettling time. How reliable are the rumors that the dean is leaving? Because various and sundry bigwigs in my department have been "rumored" to be leaving throughout the years and they are still here.

    Not to defend the fear-mongering asshats, but I'm guessing in these negotiations, some faculty had to give something up in return for assurances from the dean that they would get something else in return. If this is true, I can sort of see why they'd be skittish about holding up their end of the bargain when there may be no one holding up the other end.

  3. MH - The rumors are a near certainty, given the source. I can't see how the dean might leverage this offer into something else, which is the only way I could see him staying.

    As far as the Chiken Littles of the college, their angst about the re-organization is not about assurances from the dean, it's simply about a change in the status quo. Many of the more senior profs have gotten along quite well for a while even though their contributions have not been much. Shuffling the structure of the college will likely lead to a re-evaluation of everyone's role, which I think is their real fear. Therefore, any change to them is a bad thing.

  4. Damn can I relate. In the last four years, every person from the Chair up to the President has been replaced. Associate Deans, Deans, Associate Provosts, Provost, President. All new. Its been hectic, especially with the associated "strategic planning."

  5. Everyone wants to put their stamp on something. It can make for a lot of stamping of the faculty and not much else.