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Dean #1

Maricela Guzman: Case #3

Characterization of Institution

Research II

Characterization of Department

B.A. granted in English
M.A. granted in English. (With this degree, it is possible to have a concentration in rhetoric and composition.)

How would this case turn out in your department?  At your university/college?

In my department, there would have been a “Statement of Chair’s Expectations” written and signed by the chair and Guzman at the time she was hired. This would have spelled out the teaching and administrative duties Guzman would be expected to perform. It would also have named the area(s) in which research publications were expected.

When it was time for third-year review, this statement would have been used as a kind of measuring stick to gauge whether she had measured up to expectations. Presuming that the research publications were in the areas expected, she would have fared all right there–except for maybe the CD-ROM on Mars. I think it would be difficult for my department and the committees evaluating her file to see how this work on Mars was pertinent to the work of an English Department (the scenario as you have written it just doesn’t seem to give enough information).

Considering that she has not been a very hands-on administrator in the Writing Center, I think she would be cautioned that she was hired to do that work and that evidence of a more active role would be expected by sixth-year review. At my institution, teaching evaluations from students and peers would also have to be favorable (and this scenario says nothing about her teaching). If they weren’t, Guzman would be warned to bring those up before sixth year review.

The basic problem I see in this scenario is that a writing center director was needed, but somebody (it’s not clear who–the university administration?) wanted a culture and technology program, which Guzman was capable of creating. So she was hired into the available position but given the freedom to create the new program. She must have been led to believe she could safely neglect the writing center to focus on her other interests. And she has done that very well indeed. But now some colleagues who thought she was a writing center director all along are not happy that she has focused on things that are not thought of as “typically” English. She sounds like she is bright and capable enough to be at a better university, and with her great reputation, she really ought to start looking for a better job so that the place where she currently works can find what they really want–a writing center director. Or she ought to negotiate to be let out of the WPA role and become just a professor who focuses on culture and technology.

What are the Department Chair’s responsibilities toward Guzman?  Which did she/he fulfill?  Fail?

I can’t really tell from the information in the scenario. I presume the chair knew that Guzman was being hired in the WPA position with the understanding that she was supposed to be a figurehead WPA while working on the culture and technology program. I don’t think the chair can change the way some faculty feel about Guzman. If she feels that Guzman has done what she was hired to do, she should support her case. Maybe the chair failed to inform Guzman of the political realities she would have to face, e.g., that some faculty would find her work irrelevant to English and that the administration, after getting the program up and running, would want her to become more of a WPA.

What are the Personnel Committee’s responsibilities toward Guzman?  Which did they fulfill?  Fail?

I can’t see from this information what the responsibilities of the Personnel Committee Chair were, except to discuss the balloting with the department chair.  So I don’t know what he failed to do or succeeded in doing.

What are the responsibilities of the Dean?  Which did she/he fulfill?  Fail?

I don’t see the Dean mentioned at all in this scenario, so again it’s hard for me to say what he should or should not have done. If this happened at my institution, the dean would play a fairly limited role. He would look at the promotion file and write a letter indicating whether he thought Guzman should be advanced or not.  When the final results from the highest level of review came down, he would be charged with informing Guzman that she had succeeded or not.  I don’t see it as the Dean’s role to mentor the faculty members or caution them.  That is the role of the department chair.

What are Guzman’s responsibilities?  Which did she fulfill?  Fail?

She needed to have a clear understanding in writing of what was expected of her. If she relies on verbal agreements, she might be seriously disappointed when, later, those who made the agreements say they didn’t. She did fulfill her responsibility to be a scholar, and it seems she became the kind of scholar she thought she was expected to become. It doesn’t seem that she fulfilled as well as she might have the responsibility that presumably comes with the assignment to be a writing center director. But maybe she did what she had been led to believe she should do, i.e., focus on the culture and technology program, even if it meant neglecting the WPA work..

What went wrong?  What went right?

Communication of expectations seems to have gone wrong. The hiring committee seems to have been using the writing center director position as a tool to get a culture and technology specialist regardless of interest in writing program administration.

The chair (or somebody) seems not to have communicated to Guzman that, come advancement time, some people would actually expect her to have done recognizably “English” scholarship. The administrators who were eager to hire a culture and technology specialist are in the wrong to support her up to the point that the program is up and running and then to tell her chair to pressure her to do more writing center work. I think it is duplicitous of them to want to have their cake and eat it too. No one seems to have helped Guzman to see how she might have turned her interest in technology towards the work of the writing center.

What went right is that Guzman has established an enviable record of scholarship that cannot be gainsaid. So she is viable on the job market if she chooses to look elsewhere. She may also have a strong negotiating tool to get out of the writing center and into a position that allows her to do what she is interested in so that she can be judged on her merits, not on expectations that she didn’t understand or that weren’t really intended or communicated well at the time she was hired.

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