Sunday, June 14, 2015
The Dean Solves It For You
Today's "problem" comes to us from a reader in Quakerberg. Some of the details of his situation seem vaguely familiar, which suggests that it's a common enough complaint that my response would be of broad applicability to you, my readers. Let's see what we can solve today.
Dear Dean Sprocket,
My colleagues and I are quite stressed. Our enrolment has doubled over the last decade, but faculty has not increased; in fact, we're down one and about to restart a search (more on that later). Our salaries have gone up by only the cost-of-living; some years, we didn't even get that because of claims of financial exigency. Because we have so many more students, our office hours have had to increase, and our time spent in committees devoted to student academic and disciplinary matters has actually more than doubled, therefore our research output has greatly suffered. Which brings us back to the search: the last one failed when all the qualified candidates took positions for more pay at other institutions, or simply stopped responding to our emails and calls (one of them at least said "you need more help than I can give" before hanging up). So my first question is, do you have any ideas as to how we might attract and retain a candidate who has actually trained in our field? And the second question is, do you have any tips as to how we might convince our administration to hire two new faculty instead of just one?
- Hogee Pep.
Dear Doctor Pep,
Thank you for your questions. My faculty say they have the same problems at my institution, and I can certainly sympathize. So I begin with some good news! You won't have to do that search till at least the next faculty retirement, death, or other exodus. No doubt both you and your colleagues are quite relieved for that to be off your plates for a while. But when that search does commence, I suggest you broaden your criteria to include candidates trained in other fields. Specialization is highly over-rated, as someone who understands research enough to get a Ph.D. in one field can easily do research in any field. Furthermore, as for the teaching aspect, the new classroom paradigm is for instructors to facilitate students in teaching each other and themselves, i.e. to be the guide on the side and not the sage on the stage. So again, faculty don't require expertise in any particular subject.
Now, I must be stern with you: your attitude is not helping you. You need to step outside your situation to see it from another perspective, and look at other people's problems instead of just your own to understand that things are tougher elsewhere, so you've got nothing to complain about. You have no idea how difficult it is to attain higher productivity from a fixed number of faculty in the face of increasing enrolment. Our scheduling burden was multiplied by 200%, and that's a big number! I had to create two new chief officer-level positions to help arrange all the pieces on the board.
But the key to feeling less stressed on the job is delegation. Just as I delegated hiring their five admins and assistants each to the new CO's themselves, you can delegate your duties. Delegate your committee work to the newest faculty; it's a great way for them to become connected to the university and learn "how the sausage is made". Research and scholarly activity -- that's like looking stuff up and rewriting it, right? That can be delegated to any of the several office assistants you no doubt have in the suite just outside your office door. If you're in a STEM field that requires lab work, just get some work-study students to do the experiments, and to write up what they did and what they observed. You might have to edit all this writing you'll get from these others, but you can acknowledge them in a footnote. Also, it's always good to get a post-doc or two to run things for you -- just put up an ad and you'll get all kinds of applications, but make sure they have their own grant support.
See how easy that is? It's surprising that you didn't think of it, but then again, you're not The Dean, and solving your problems is why they give me the big bucks.
[+] Thank you, moderators, for the graphic.