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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Going from 'Us' to 'Them'

A few years ago, Nancy Rappaport published a short essay in the University of Toledo Law Review, called "Going from 'Us' to 'Them' in 60 Seconds," in which she described her appointment, relatively early in her career, to an associate-dean post:

Scarcely a half-hour after the official announcement had been made concerning my appointment, I was at the faculty copy machine, and one of my colleagues walked in. He (mostly in jest, I think) told two other colleagues, who were standing nearby, “Hey, don't talk about that in front of Nancy. She's a ‘them’ now.” And thus it began: the transition from being an “us” to being a “them” in the blink of an eye.

I had a similar experience, a few days ago, after it was announced that I am going to take on some associate-dean work at Notre Dame:  a colleague said (jokingly, I hope!) something like, "so, you decided to give up on being part of the solution and decided to become part of the problem, eh?"  (Ouch!).  I hope not!  Dean Rappaport writes, "Going from an 'us' to a 'them' also means that, unless your friends on the faculty are very special people, your relationships with them will change."  Again, I hope not.

Posted by Rick Garnett on June 30, 2009 at 11:48 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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In my experience, once I became associate dean it was hard to maintain my relationships with my colleagues exactly as they were, for the simple reason that I had gotten the authority to make decisions on issues that affected their professional lives. I agree with Nancy: it does take a special person to not let that fact affect her relationship with a colleague. I really came to appreciate my colleagues who were able to resist that impulse.

Posted by: Bill Araiza | Jul 2, 2009 10:08:23 AM

Whatever happened to "first among equals?"

Deans, and presumably associate deans, used to the foremen/NCOs of the academic world with a foot firmly in each camp (I once had a payroll title of associate dean myself, although this was the product of an inadequate payroll system rather than any actual administrative responsibilities). The theory used to go that the real administration line actually began with the Provost or various under-Provosts (if any).

Posted by: ohwilleke | Jul 1, 2009 1:31:04 AM

Good point!

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Jun 30, 2009 1:03:10 PM

Rick -

She said "unless your friends on the faculty are very special people." Need I say more? :)

Posted by: Mark McKenna | Jun 30, 2009 12:32:52 PM

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