Dealing With Dysfunctional Academic Departments


C.K. Gunsalus, Richard P. Wheeler and Ruth Watkins

FROM INSIDE HIGHER ED -- The faculty in the math department of a major university has a history of expertise in theory, but the faculty of its much smaller empirical group has become completely estranged from it. Each faction has very powerful personalities who dislike and mistrust one another, the head of the department and the dean. Hiring and promotion have become divisive and contentious, and email wars involving colleagues on and off the campus are escalating.

In contrast, the faculty members in the sociology department are quiet. But the dean and provost are worried because a recent external review process highlighted issues that have been a concern for some time but not serious enough to be on the front burner. Scholarly productivity is well beneath campus norms; the quality of hires and promotions put forward barely meets minimum campus expectations; core courses have not kept up with progress in the larger field; undergraduate majors and total enrollments are dwindling, and the qualifications of graduate applicants are decreasing.

Those two scenarios, while hypothetical, reflect real and common trends in academe. Read more....