Saturday, May 12, 2007

Apparently, I get cranky in the midst of moving....

Am in the process of changing from Houston to Las Vegas (which is why I haven't had a chance to post much recently), but a couple of things I've read have caused me to need to post. (Who knew that blogging would be such an addiction?)

Here's my reaction to some very interesting MoneyLaw posts about tenure, including one by my buddy Jeff Harrison. See my Of tenure, post-tenure review, and the "don't trust anyone over 30" phenomenon post.

I've also been musing about what makes deans popular with their constituencies: is it really necessary for a dean to give in to all requests in order to stay popular? Is such a willingness even sustainable? What happens when the desires of one constituency conflict with those of another? Provosts have the ability to terminate deans (no other constituency does, although some of the others can make life miserable for the dean), so does that mean that deans must placate provosts first above all other constituencies? What about founders or major donors? Regents? Faculties? Students?

One of the things I loved about being a dean was that it reminded me a lot of being a chapter 11 bankruptcy lawyer: lots of competing needs and constituencies and not enough "stuff" to go around meant that the dean had to think very hard about her choices and their likely outcomes. (By the way, I still don't ever plan to be a dean again. I liked being a Camp Fire Girl, too, but I'm not going to repeat that experience, either.)

These issues are extremely topical at U of H and UNLV right now, with the one facing the issue of doing a dean search during a presidential search and the other facing the ramifications of a recent dean-firing. Life continues to be very interesting at both universities.


Jeff Harrison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Harrison said...

I wonder how many deans are popular. Law professors tend to like the ones that give them what they want and not like those who do not. I rarely hear a professor say. "The dean turned down my request and I understand why and think he/she is still a good dean"

Recently I spoke to a number of people who loved a particular dean at one law school. The dean went to another law school. There the impressions were very negative. It was hard to believe they were discribing the same person.

So what makes them "popular." Who know but I'd prefer to ask what makes them effective.

Richard Peck said...

Nancy --

Unlike a dean, a Chapter 11 lawyer has the luxury of not caring whether anyone likes the end result. There's not enough money to go around, and the distribution is what it is, for the most part. "If you don't like it, tough. I'm out of here."

Deans aren't so lucky. Upset creditors go away mad, but they go away. Upset faculty members don't go away until they are good and ready. There's no incentive to perform for the current dean if they don't want to, because the reality is the Profscam professor will survive several deans. In fact, they not only don't have to do their parts as members of the whole, they can damage the whole if they are so inclined, and do so largely with impunity.

My uneducated opinion is that deans who have resources to spread around are popular, and those who don't, aren't.

Anonymous said...

"My uneducated opinion is that deans who have resources to spread around are popular, and those who don't, aren't."

Isn't that exactly what differentiates deans in today's environment? The ability to expand the pie by raising money from donors is one of the most central characteristics of a successful dean today. A lot of the grumblings about deans among law faculty ignores the reality that this is only a small part of the modern dean's job. Indeed, many schools now have deputy deans, vice deans, and associate deans who would be better described as internal deans to be contrasted with the external dean.