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Administration by the Professoriate

As I have noted in a post last year (See: Academic Leadership), our university faculty will be strengthened by an environment that permits Assistant and Associate Professors to fully establish their international reputations as academic scholars. This assists them in jumping the promotion hurdles in front of them.

While all faculty have a role in the management and shared governance responsibilities of the university, some roles entail unusual administrative and leadership burdens. Chief among these is the role of department chair, unit head, or program director. These roles coordinate the work of full professors, other faculty, and research and administrative staff. They lead tenure and promotion reviews and oversee the construction of dossiers on those candidates. They interact directly with the dean’s and provost’s offices on behalf of the department. They represent the department to external bodies seeking contact to collaborate with the program. For these reasons, it is much preferred that full professors assume these roles.

While some service duties are appropriate for all faculty, particularly those who seek to contribute as leaders at the university, some limits to the burdens of service are appropriate to set for those faculty who still face promotion reviews.

On Friday, the Provost’s Office will discuss with the Main Campus Executive Faculty a new policy regarding such administrative duties: Starting with appointments that begin in the academic year 2014-2015, unless prior approval has been obtained from both the offices of the provost and the relevant dean, tenure-line faculty appointments that require 50% or more administrative duties will be restricted to full professors.

Policies like this need explicit exceptions. First, there are currently some faculty who are not full professors serving in roles with large administrative duties. They should be able to complete their terms without application of the new policy. Second, at Georgetown there are some small departments and programs that do not have any full professors. Third, extraordinary circumstances may require the appointment of an associate professor for administrative duties. In these cases, the dean’s office must assist the department in finding a leadership strategy that is tailored to its needs and discuss this with the provost prior to the appointment.

I look forward to faculty input on the ideas above.

5 thoughts on “Administration by the Professoriate

  1. I think this is a good move to call the senior professors to the responsibilities they have. To take charge of the university at a moment when change is rapid and when it needs to be governed by those who are closest to the mission of the institution.

    Given this, there are some potential pressures that need to be made explicit so people are aware of them. Such a charge would increase the pressure to consolidate small departments into larger units and potentially even make significant changes to academic governance.

    From another perspective, one could ask what makes senior/full professors more knowledgeable about academic administration? This seems to equate senior status in academic realm with senior status in administrative realm and that is NOT the same. In fact, this is one of the more difficult issue in higher education and it is NOT addressed by this policy. So how are we to address this issue? Anybody?

  2. There is also the issue of those who direct programs that are academic in nature but not traditional departments/programs. There is no reason to have full professors direct these. So if there is a policy, it needs to be specified who is covered.

  3. In those instances where department chairs are associate professors, they should not oversee the process of a faculty member applying for promotion to full professor. A full professor from the department should be selected to assemble the dossier, to conduct the meeting of full professors and to compose the letter reporting on that meeting. Even if they do not vote for promotion to full professors, associate professors should not be involved in the process at all. The opportunities for corrupting the process are too great. and this undermines the confidence of faculty applying for promotion to full professor.

  4. Might it be possible for us to get an up-to-date breakdown of the demographic profile of the full professoriate here at GU?

  5. In my department and some others, the chair’s responsibilities are calculated as 40% of his or her work load (the chair teaches 1:1, and we calculate merit at 40% research: 40% service: and 20% teaching); so the 50% barometer would be irrelevant in our context (and a greater reduction in teaching would be devastating to our curriculum). Some of the people who serve as chair as associate professor are among the most dedicated, thoughtful, and ambitious scholars on campus. I can understand removing incentives that make service as chair more appealing than taking time to do the scholarship that will lead to promotion, and obviously the role of the chair in promotion cases is an important issue. But off the top of my head, I can think of numerous units (not all small) in which exceptions would have to be (or at least should be) made, and in that sense I wonder if as a *formal* policy this makes sense in the *current* Georgetown context. We are, admittedly, associate-professor heavy, but in a way that is part of the problem with the policy: the available choices are not always numerous. This leaves to the side the issue of the role of the faculty in choosing their own leadership.

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