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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Faculty Modesty Doesn't Help the Dean

This is the third installment in a series, asking how faculty can understand their deans better. Today's topic: faculty modesty. In most settings, modesty is truly a virtue. But a dean's job is to strengthen the law school, which means giving the students the resources to learn and giving the faculty the resources to teach and produce knowledge.  Those things can only happen if the dean knows what the faculty are doing -- faculty who remain modest (and silent) about their achievements make it harder for their dean. 

I can suggest two immodest practices.  First, your school probably has some annual reporting system. Perhaps this takes the form of a memo to the dean during the salary-setting period of the year.  Perhaps it takes the form of an online reporting system, like this one that some universities now use.  Whatever the format of your regular report to the dean, complete it with gusto.  Don't treat this like a nettlesome IRS form. Instead, imagine the audiences that your dean will address during the year: current students, alumni, legislators, university administrators. What raw materials would help the dean demonstrate to each of these audiences the great work happening at the school? Include everything, but prioritize it. Flag for the dean the achievements that rise above the routine, the items that could be featured in a speech or a conversation.  

Second, don't wait for the end of the year. If there are particular teaching innovations, scholarly breakthroughs, or public service events that could play especially well in a dean's presentation, send a quick message to the dean describing your achievement.  You need to be selective here; don't report every little thing.  But deans need specific examples of faculty activities when they talk to the friends of the law school. You might focus on items that fit within larger themes or priorities for the dean. If you put some thought and discretion into this, you can keep your dean supplied with anecdotes without becoming overbearing or self-important. 

Posted by Ronald Wright on June 1, 2010 at 01:50 PM | Permalink


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