Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What makes a good Community College Dean?

This is my 6th year at BNCC -- and my 7th overall in the BN state community college system. I've had three deans. I've worked closely with two of them as department chair.

This morning, my current dean summed up what I want a good dean to do.

We've had a short e-mail exchange about summer classes. Our department told her what we thought should happen. We made some suggestions and told her what we were willing to do.

She just sent us an e-mail saying, in essence, that she'll look at the data, take our ideas into consideration and get back to us soon with a decision. That's what I want a dean to do -- look at the available information, consult with faculty and make a decision.

I don't want a dean to tell us to work it out for ourselves. I don't want a dean to try to get us to do what she's decided we should do -- but doesn't tell us directly, instead we are supposed to guess. I don't want a dean who makes decisions without consulting available data. I don't want a dean who makes decisions without consulting faculty. I don't want a dean who tells me (as department chair) that I'm supposed to "work with" a faculty member to enforce the dean's decisions -- even if those decisions aren't what I think should be done -- because I don't have the authority to make those decisions.

Really -- isn't it a dean's job to gather information, consult the impacted people and make a decision? It seems to me that's why the dean makes more money than I do -- they're my boss. Sometimes being the boss means making the decisions and telling folks what you've decided. Faculty may not like the decision. They may not want to do what you're telling them they need to do. The decision may not turn out to be a good idea. Those are the things you risk when taking the dean's job -- and, if you can't manage those things, you ought not take the job.

Yep --- I'm happy that this dean will be our dean for another year.


Bardiac said...


I might add that I want the dean to be able to explain decisions so that even if I disagree, I can respect the decision.

Basic fairness and not being a sexist or racist (or worse, both) would be nice, too.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I agree -- being able to communicate the reasons for the decision helps!!

I suppose the sexist thing is important, but I've always had female deans... not that females can't be sexist. The current dean is also a minority -- so I didn't think of either of those things.