At my School we have yearly meetings with our dean. For the most part they are pleasant exchanges. He is a nice guy and seems actually to be interest in a variety of scholarship issues. In preparation for my meeting I composed a list of things I wish were handled differently at the Law School. I think I came up with 20 in all. The items ranged from minor things like not having a system to avoid scheduling make up classes at the same time for the same group of students to bigger issues like grossly uneven teaching loads and a lack of accountability when it comes to our very generous summer research grants.
Reviewing my list and thinking about Sam’s post asking how much credit should deans get, it occurred to me that except for 3 of my 20 items, these were things a Dean should never have to address. They were general issues of faculty advantage-taking, irresponsibility, externality production, or lack of professionalism. My sense was that in a law firm these behaviors would occur less frequently and would be less likely to be tolerated by peers. Isn't log rolling less likely to pay off and aren't peers quicker to “correct” a fellow worker? If everyone were professional and substantively collegial, most of my list would disappear without a dean saying a word.
This lead to a series of questions. What are a dean’s duties when faculty fail to perform, capture a law school to advance their own ends, and are substantively uncollegial? In these cases, should a dean be expected to act as “the parent” of the faculty? This is an odd role when the children are professionals. Conversely, should deans only be expected to operate as though they are simply working along side of , albeit in a different role, professionals who are focused on the same goal? More directly, how and why should a dean’s job be defined as babysitting?