Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bad Dean (Fourth installment of a potentially infinite series)

This Bad Dean was just a pompous asshole.  He was a pompous asshole way before he became a dean, probably since childhood. I first knew him as a newly hired assistant professor, complete with a shiny Ph.D. from Robber Baron University. He was certainly a pompous asshole by then.

He got tenure at the flagship of our second-level state university by a combination of upwards ass-kissing, prolific and non-selective publication, and avoiding service obligations as much as possible. He convinced the Big Committee of Administrators that he was on the make as a National Star.

He targeted his teaching only to the most literate students.  He kept his classes small by scaring off the unwashed masses with arcane readings, difficult assignments, tough grading, and, of course, his overbearing personality. When minority students complained to the dean that he treated them with contempt, his successful defense was that was how he treated all students.

One year after he got tenure, he became Department Chair. The rest of the senior faculty thought it was time he did some service work and thought being Chair would be a good way to even the score. Five years later he was still Chair, and was turned down for promotion to full professor because his colleagues didn’t support him; they argued his research and publications had stalled. 

After unsuccessfully trying to manage a transfer to a different department, he took a job across the country as Founding Dean of a School at a commuter college with big plans.  He lasted two years before the faculty forced the administration to fire him.  I wasn’t there, so I can only assume his personality won him no friends.

He wound up as a named professor (named for a local used car mogul) at a minor campus of a third-level state university system in the South. He’s been there for nearly 30 years. He’s essentially his own department, and publishes occasionally on topics related to the key interest of the used car mogul: The Civil War of Northern Aggression.

- Old Fart Prof


  1. Sounds like a successful academic career to me. I mean, not bad for a pompous asshole. He'll retire and tutor the car dealer's grandspawn.

  2. This is an interesting catch-22. Certain service functions take enough time that your research and publications will likely take a beating, which impacts promotion. The flipside is that if your colleagues like you and you do a good job with the service, you'll have no shortage of those willing to argue that you should be forgiven for the slowdown in R&P, and/or that you're worth promoting on the basis of service and teaching alone. Unless you are Bad Colleague, in which case you're SOL.