Crisis Management: Between the Faculty and Upper Administration

Like many (all?) chairs nationwide, I’ve been facing a host of pressures regarding COVID matters, ranging from institutional demands for hybrid and F2F teaching to faculty feeling pressures about their scholarship, service obligations, and work-life balance. All of these are magnifying a question I’ve long struggled with as chair—how do I faithfully discharge my obligations to both my college administration and my departmental faculty, and how do I balance what seem to be their increasingly competing interests (if not demands) and do so without losing my integrity? Our faculty and campus are certainly not as divided as some I’ve read about, but that’s in part because we generally trust each other’s basic decency and intentions. Like so many other things, that trust is starting to come under some strain, which only seems to intensify the importance of my managing the chair’s intermediary role. But how do I do that without being seen—by either side—as two-faced or insufficiently understanding and supportive?

Hiring in a Time of Covid-19

How does a department go forward with the interview process when an on-campus visit is impossible because of COVID-19?

Talking to Contingent Faculty in a Moment of Crisis

Be transparent with your contingent faculty about what you would like to be the case, what you’re concerned will happen, and how you think it will affect the department.  Try and gather as much information as you can from your dean or provost about the kinds of cuts that might be coming down the pike. Then meet with your NTT faculty to share what you know and listen to their concerns and fears. Be clear that these potential cuts are out of your hands but that you support your contingent colleagues and will advocate for them as much as you can. Ideally, you will have established clear channels of communication with your NTT faculty, and there’s a level of trust and confidence in your leadership. But even if that’s not the case, now is the time to make it clear both that you’re on their side and that you are subject to the financial needs of the institution.

Handling a Break-Up

I’m the chair of a small department, and have just been informed that two of my department members, who have been married to each other for the last 15 years (one was a spousal hire, in fact, at the time of recruitment), are separating. It appears this is an acrimonious split, and to make matters worse, they research and teach in related areas. The implications for the work and/or the climate of the department are significant. Can you offer advice about how I might handle this while still respecting their privacy?  Help!

Sink or Swim

I am a chair at an institution in distress; we are experiencing line terminations of junior faculty and other budgetary cuts. The line cuts have been particularly challenging for many reasons, not least the hope that was dangled in the announcement that the lines could be restored if other cuts seem sufficient, which has made it very hard to organize. The junior faculty, extremely creative, amazing teachers with excellent publication records, feel unsupported by senior faculty, even shunned to a certain degree, and also sometimes feel cut out of decisions. Senior faculty feel like they are uncertain what to do: they are unsure how to fight back, and are uncomfortable doing planning for next year that may likely involve planning to not have the junior faculty present. Some are themselves in fight/flight/freeze mode. The sense of “business as normal” can be excruciating when business is not, in fact, normal. How ought a chair best navigate these challenging waters?

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.

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?