Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Mature Response

I am seeking advice from all yall. Put yourself in my shoes: you are a junior faculty in your second year, and you find that your department is potentially being eliminated. You are already teaming up with senior faculty to draft a group response and alternative plan. But individually you have your own opinions. You want to express them in a mature and professional way that doesn't damage your career. Do you:

1. Write a letter to junior faculty to be read at the Dean+junior faculty meeting (to which you are unable to attend)? The letter would outline why you think it is a bad idea from the junior faculty point of view.

2. Write a letter to send to the Dean? The Dean has a reputation for being close minded, and a letter may have little impact.

3. Do you keep your mouth shut, and work behind the scenes with the senior faculty?

4. Do you jump ship?

5. Any other ideas?

7 comments:

Dr. O said...

I guess it depends on how far off your opinion/plan is from that of the senior faculty. It could be that your point of view could help sway the dean when presented alongside the senior faculty argument. So maybe option 1, but try to get more junior faculty on board, while also supporting the senior faculty in their endeavors. Keeping the senior faculty on your side will be beneficial if things there (unfortunately) don't work out where you are now. Good luck!

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I've never been in your shoes -- (knock on wood), but -- it seems to be pretty risky to counter the senior faculty.

Is it possible for your concerns to be met within the senior faculty plan?
One coherent proposal is more likely to be successful...

On the other hand, if it really isn't good for you, then you probably shouldn't support it.

Genomic Repairman said...

Confer with other folks about your letter but maybe have it read at the meeting with the dean. If you just send it to the dean it may just be read by them and tossed in the trash. Having it read aloud and copies handed out gives notice to all and puts the ball in the dean's court. And in the mean time, start looking for other places to jump ship to.

MommyProf said...

Absolutely #4. Should your dept survive, you will need the Sr. faculty to get tenure. Should it not, you will need them for references.

Kate said...

Honestly, I have no idea. It depends on the rest of the folks in your department. Have you all been trying to rally the forces from affiliated or similar departments? I would probably go with a combination of the letter to be read and jumping ship if I really disagreed with what was happening.

And I agree with Dr. O that you need more junior folks on your side, probably BEFORE having a letter read. Can you all grab lunch ASAP, or can you have them over to your house/apt?

Anonymous said...

I'm also an assistant professor in a department that nearly got closed, albeit it a different type of school. I thought that my senior colleagues were missing the boat when responding to some criticisms of the department. If their responses were examined from a certain angle, they would actually be arguments for closing our department rather than keeping it open. I tried to offer constructive feedback on the documents that we sent to the Dean, but I did not make my own appeal to the Dean.

Ms.PhD said...

It really depends on the personalities of the people and how well you know them.

Having one (or more) sympathetic senior person in your corner, to act as your eyes, ears and mouth, would help a lot. That might be the Dean or senior faculty member(s).

If you aren't sure, then you don't know them well enough. Don't trust any of them to have your best interests in mind. Times of famine tend to bring out the worst in (almost) everyone. They will be concerned about their own priorities. That list includes themselves, and it does not include you.

And keep in mind, if they are desperate enough, they will lie to you and/or make promises out of guilt - and then let you down.

You could definitely write a letter, especially if you have a plan for how to fix all the reasons why the department is going away. But that will only help if you have others in the department who already agree with your plan and are willing to sign on and speak up.

So I would try to get some allies first, otherwise plan to get out. You won't be able to effect change as a junior person working alone, no matter how articulate or well-supported your arguments. No one will care what you think if you're the only one saying it.