the chair's budget paradox
trying to put some budget numbers into perspective for monday's faculty meeting, i came across an inside higher ed piece on the transition from faculty member to dean. here's the depressing bit:
What interests and activities do deans give up when they leave the faculty ranks? The top answers: scholarship and research, hobbies, teaching, and exercise and healthy eating.
In place of those activities, the new administrators report more interest in higher education generally, the curriculum, strategic planning and accreditation.
A life in which scholarship and exercise are replaced by accreditation and strategic planning.... “To an outside observer,” quipped Breese, “this sounds like a fun-loving group of people.”
yeesh. with one foot in faculty life and the other in administration, department chairs experience similar tradeoffs. chatting with a (fun-loving) group of chairs and deans last week, i found that we'd all made the same resolutions over winter break: (1) to stay cool and strong while managing under current economic pressures; (2) to preserve what's left of our personal health (the diet and exercise bit); and, (3) to carve out just a little time for our own research -- but, regrettably, not until summer.
it is good fun to chair a department flush with money, of course, but sane and effective administration is doubly important in a financial crisis. in light of the minnversity's budget problems, i was impressed that no chairs were talking about quitting or stepping down. some of us are actually engaged by the challenge, thinking: i am gonna find a way to get us through this thing without compromising our core values or our intellectual standards.
for chairs, deans, and other managers, this sort of sentiment helps trace a thin silver lining around the budget clouds: our work today has greater meaning, purpose, and importance than it did last year or the year before. while only fools would sacrifice their research time and personal health for the privilege of pushing paper, good scholars are only too eager to defend and nurture their intellectual communities in times of trouble -- even when that necessitates the occasional vending machine supper.