A head of department’s job

by Chris Bertram on October 26, 2003

I’ve recently taken on the job of department head for a couple of years. I’ve done it before, but my successor’s early retirement has meant that I’ve had to step in again. Dennis Baron in the Chronicle of Higher Education “published a heads-up”:http://chronicle.com/jobs/2003/10/2003102401c.htm on what the job _really_ involves (allegedly). (Link via “Michael Froomkin”:http://www.discourse.net/ )



Munch 10.26.03 at 12:08 pm

“One of the things you realize almost immediately as a new department head is that you are going to learn a lot more about your colleagues than you really want to know. ”

How very true.

When I was hired in my department about ten years ago I was the most junior faculty member by about 12 years. Since then almost all of the original members have been replaced (demographics of 1960’s and 70’s hires being what they are). I “volunteered” to be Chair since it was clearly my turn; everyone else more senior than I having had the position recently.

In the past 18 months I’ve seen it all. No need for the details, but the unexpected flood of information was a revelation to me. The very faculty member who was strongly in opposition to my tennure application was now confiding to me aspects of his private and professional life that I wasn’t really sure I wanted to know.

Interestingly, my experience with the senior administration, the University Senate, etc. has revealed that the university actually runs on the hard work of very few people. Others do just enough to add or interfere in any venture so that their name is on the record.

I am still learning.


E Young 10.26.03 at 1:56 pm

And these are the adults that are supposed to be passing the flame onto the next generation.

It sounds as though these faculties are no more than grandiose ‘day care’ centres, with a shortage of ‘care-takers’…

That these folk are considered to be an elite, and presume to tell the rest of us how we should behave, is to say the least, presumptious and arrogant.

And to think that teachers, educators, or whatever they like to call themselves, used to be pillars of the community.


Miriam 10.26.03 at 9:59 pm

‘Twas ever thus, as a reading of, say, the classicist F. M. Cornford’s satire Microcosmographia Academica suggests.

Speaking of classicists, Sir Kenneth Dover’s memoir Marginal Comment features one of the most…er…interesting discussions I’ve yet seen of the “difficult colleague” problem.

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