Ask the Chair

Departments of language and literature are full of fascinating people and exciting opportunities. But they can also contain difficult people and trying circumstances. Fortunately, Ask the Chair is here to help you with your stickiest quandaries, from perennial problems to unique dilemmas. The ADE and ADFL Executive Committees invite questions, discussion, and requests for advice about department life at ade@mla.org or adfl@mla.org. Published letters will be anonymous; feel free to come up with a pseudonym.

The Spirit of Compromise

Compromise is working when no one gets exactly what they want, no one feels screwed over, and everyone respects the process. I’d be clear to the faculty that everyone has to take one for the team every now and then, to make class scheduling equitable for everyone.

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What Is Reasonable Accommodation?

I’m running into a problem with our disabilities services office, which on our campus reviews and manages student requests for accommodations such as extra time, alternative exam formats, and the like. In the opinion of some of our faculty, this office regularly moves from its management role to a more charged advocacy role that at times has become almost adversarial, especially in terms of pushing what might the boundaries of a “reasonable accommodation.” As chair I’m caught in the middle of this. I occasionally get informed by the office that some faculty are not being especially helpful, with the implication that I should intervene or pressure them. Similarly, faculty seek my support for the limits they believe they need to put on the office’s requests, which can include telling the office to respect the faculty member’s decisions. I’m sympathetic with both parties–how do I manage these sort of situations effectively?

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Party Poopers and Piscos

At present I find myself sufficiently consumed by the demands of chairing that I don’t necessarily have the energy or desire to plan social events. That’s especially the case when I add in my own family care responsibilities, community activities, and primary friendships with others that aren’t in my department. To what extent is this sort of thing also my responsibility, on top of everything else?

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A Departmental Culture of Responsibility

While I appreciate the need for separation, research time, and even just rest, the business of the department and university doesn’t stop between June and August. I get a one-month summer bump, but that doesn’t cover the whole summer, and I’m still working. Why can’t my faculty?

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NTT Salary Compression

I’m regularly faced with a dilemma—recognizing that like most places we pay our instructors too little, I could raise the initial salary for new hires, but that would leave them making close to what our long-term instructors make. There will be—rightfully—resentment there, but I’m also uncomfortable continuing in perpetuity a bad compensation model. What to do?

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Faculty members in my department traditionally have had the opportunity to teach one graduate seminar each year as part of their 2/2 teaching load. However, a consistent decline in the numbers of students admitted…

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Bearing Bad News

I’m writing with an issue that wouldn’t garner me sympathy from many of my faculty but nonetheless is a dilemma for me and, I suspect, many chairs. Like most universities,…

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Nickeled and Dimed

I need advice about a particularly “asky” colleague. From funding field trips and end-of-semester receptions for students, to course scheduling, to early (or extra) course releases, she’s quick to email…

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