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 or Published letters will be anonymous; feel free to come up with a pseudonym.

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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Inequity and the “Very Important Professor”

A couple of Very Important Faculty Members in my Department hold Endowed Chairs and Named Professorships, publish a lot, and have been doing things their own way for years because they are Very Important and Very Busy. No one likes petty paperwork or attending meetings but we all have to do it. What are some best practices for handling their small, but relentless, refusals to capitulate to bureaucratic norms?

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