Red tape

One of the main items at today’s department meeting was an unpleasant discussion about the Department Head, which is a new bureaucratic position dreamed up by Komplexify U’s administration, who apparently believe that the best way to deal with the inefficiencies and conflicts caused by having (essentially) three different deans is to abolish them and instead step up nineteen independent department heads.

These would be permanent executive positions tied very closely to the administration.   No one in our department wants the job, which despite being a 12-month contracted position (as opposed to the faculty’s usual 9-month contracts) almost exclusively centers around external recruitment, advertising, retention and assessment, areas in which none of my colleagues have any specific training.   (Hell, we’re mathematicians and computer scientists… to us, being extroverted means looking at someone else’s shoes when we speak.)

Unfortunately, the only other option is to essentially set up a job search to hire what amounts to a department czar, and no one here is comfortable granting some outsider carte blanche authority to completely overhaul our department however he or she sees fit.   Indeed, several of my colleagues actually fled to Komplexify U from their previous universities when their department life became unbearable under the increasingly Napoleonic rule of their Department Heads.

Hence, it was decided that someone needed to bite the bullet.   As a department, we batted abount the idea of simply nominating someone for the post, but this ran into problems as anyone who was nominated graciously — but quickly and infallibly — refused the nomination.   We momentarily toyed with the idea of nominating our new CS hire who, being not actually present at the meeting, couldn’t refuse.   Unfortunately, that idea was quickly abandoned once we tried to figure out how we’d break the news to him..

Well, we’ve got good news and bad news for you!   The good news is you’ve got summer support! …

Eventually our department chair, being the team player that he is, offered to continue on as a temporary “Interim Department Head” until such time as a more permanent solution could be devised.   To make it official, Professor Z motioned his nomination, which was quickly seconded and thirded and n-ed by those relieved to be off the hot seat.

The Chair sighed, but otherwise nodded in assent.

Sensing his utter lack of overwhelming excitement, Professor Z spoke up again.   “Look at it this way… it’s like an opportunity we’re offering you…”

“Oh, it’s like we’re offering him, all right,” replied Professor Y.   “It’s like we’re offering him to a volcano.”

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