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Friday, May 21, 2010

Earned credits with deans

For the last three years, I've served a term as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at my law school. It's fascinating work.  I'm not a newcomer to the school, but I saw a lot of new things as dean that I never saw as a faculty member:  "Wow, I've been here for years and I never knew that we ... !" There's plenty of room for creativity in the work when there are surprises waiting around every corner. 

Next month, I happily return to the full-time faculty, now that my three-year term is ending.  As a gesture of bloggy public service, I plan to offer a few tips to full-time faculty members about how to get what you want more often from deans. These tips will appear in a series of blog posts. 

There will be an overarching theme to my tips. In general, law faculty put too much stock in arguments:  "If I develop enough strong reasons to decide a question in the way I favor, the dean couldn't possibly say No."  But deans do say No, sometimes in the face of reasoned arguments to the contrary.  

What faculty don't fully appreciate, in my opinion, is that deans don't treat most faculty requests as a one-time adjudication, responding to the arguments of a litigant in a reasoned judgment. They treat the requests instead as the next episode in a professional biography.  Each request gets processed in light of the faculty member's previous history. Faculty members who have earned past credits with deans in the past are more likely to get a favorable answer in the present. Deans are also more likely to presume good faith and to predict positive results from proposals when they come from faculty members whose accounts are in the black, rather than in the red. So the question -- one that I'll address over my next few blog entries over the next week or so -- is how to earn those credits most efficiently.   

Posted by Ronald Wright on May 21, 2010 at 02:15 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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