Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Bad Dean" by Old Fart Prof (next installment of a potentially infinite series)

Bad Deans come in all disciplines.  This tale from the early 70’s features a Philosopher from the Ivy League brought in to provide “adult supervision” to an experimental urban college within a state R1.  Founding Dean had left after five years to go start another experimental urban college within a different state R1.

Bad Dean had several issues from the start: he was authoritarian, a micro-manager, and had spent ten Cold War years at a Pentagon-funded think tank.  Founding Dean was the polar opposite, and the faculty and students had gotten used to a high degree of self-governance and an atmosphere of liberal political activism.

Bad Dean immediately took charge by reallocating lines between departments, forcing departments to accept Chairs of his choosing, eliminating student control of campus organizations, and tightening
courses offered to only those he approved.  All of these actions were in fact within his legal power, but such powers had not been exercised directly by Founding Dean. Within months, faculty were petitioning for his ouster, and Bad Dean’s office had been occupied by students, who he then had arrested.

By the end of a year, Bad Dean was meeting with university administration and questioning the college’s future viability. Faculty were leaving, either to take better jobs or because they were denied tenure by
university administration. The atmosphere on campus had been poisoned; applications went way down as the college’s troubles become public knowledge.

After three years Bad Dean was given a senior professorship in a graduate program on another campus, with a hefty travel and research budget and minimal teaching load. An original Founding Faculty member became Dean, and presided over the college’s eventual dissolution.  Within four years, the college became merely a group of dorms and academic buildings with the same name as before but no faculty, curriculum, or degrees.

To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.”

-- Old Fart Prof


  1. Bad Dean reminds of things that happened at my alma mater.

    One former president was brought in from another institution simply to be an axe-man. He eventually became greatly loathed by students and faculty and was even booed in public. He left a year before his term was up with the university claiming he "accomplished his goals" or some such thing. Personally, it sounded like he was bought out of his contract as a damage control measure.

    Unfortunately, though, he opened the door for what was to follow. Two succeeding presidents turned what was a great institution into a glossy and shiny hack school which I no longer recognize.

    Then there was a dean in my original faculty. He, too, was greatly unloved and was so to the point that the committee set up for renewing his contract walked out and refused to do anything for him. He eventually found a position in the institution's senior administration.

    Mind you, that dean wasn't all that bad. In the department where I did my Ph. D., the head rubbed many faculty members the wrong way. The situation was such that the dean requested that the head not continue in that position after his term expired. Unfortunately, I heard bad stories about his successor.

    Maybe being a smeghead is a requirement to become an administrator at that university.

  2. So how is it that bad administrators lurk and lurk and find good jobs with no repercussions of their poor decisions? So frustrating.