Shitty Department Chairs

Department chairs have tough jobs. Scheduling a hundred classes every semester. Student complaints. Budgets. Recruitment. Promotion. Tenure reviews. Hiring new faculty. Not killing people. You get the idea.

How do I know all this? I help run a department. Yeah, I’m more than just a pretty face on campus. I also know that department chairs make almost twice as much as their faculty at some places. And they teach half as many courses. Not a bad trade off, I’d say.

That’s why it sucks so much when your department chair doesn’t do his job. That’s what I’m dealing with now. He’s not the first lackluster chair, though. I’ve been an assistant admin person for a while now, even as a grad student. So here’s a list of shit I’ve seen or heard about:

  1. One department chair spent a third of our budget on new carpet and furniture for his office. “It’s going to look like the president’s suite,” he said. “People will finally take me…I mean…us…seriously.”
  2. Another department chair I know of got fired after 3 weeks on the job. He made a special arrangement to live on campus over the summer. And instead of going to work, he stayed in the dorm and drank. He refused. The dean had to call campus safety to escort him out.
  3. And yet another one told me and about 20 other graduate students that we were expendable, replaceable labor. Then she cackled. Not kidding. Nasty woman.
  4. My very first year of grad school, my funding got slashed by 25 percent. My department also got its number of graduate stipends slashed by a third. Our chair came to a grad student barbecue and gave us a pep talk. “The good news,” he said, “is that accepting fewer applicants makes us look way more competitive.” Nice try, bud. Oh, side note on this guy: He completely forgot that he was sitting on several thousand dollars of surplus funds that could’ve restored our stipends. Instead, it just sat there and collected dust.

Anyway, my current chair has put all his eggs into promotion and recruitment. He’s designing posters and fliers, making plans for radio spots and TV commercials. The problem? He sort of forgot to make the fall schedule. It took me three weeks to convince him to actually look at our courses. Finally, he saw the mess.

It doesn’t help that our department secretary spends half the day watching YouTube videos and talking and Skype chatting with her friends.

It’s not his first mistake. A few weeks ago, I blogged about our department stalker. I warned our chair about him for weeks. Each time, he laughed it off. “Well, let’s just hope he doesn’t come here and shoot us all. I mean, I’m pretty sure he owns guns. He talks about guns all the time.” That’s why I wound up calling the campus police and student affairs myself. Fuck me.



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