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Department Chair #1

Maricela Guzman: Case #3

Characterization of Institution

Research II

Characterization of Department

M.A. granted in English literature, teaching of writing and literature, and professional writing and editing;
B.A.  granted in English, with writing tracks;

(Also note, that we have a heavy involvement in Cultural Studies and D.A. in Community College Education)

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

I can’t imagine that a productive scholar of this proficiency would have reached this point in her career at my school and not have been fully confident of how to proceed. From the outset, she would have known what was expected and we would have taken pains to make clear to ourselves and her the nature of her work and our approval of her agenda. First, given her educational background and interests, we would have made sure that she was the person we wanted in that position, then each year the Chair would have reviewed her progress and suggested any modifications.
Let me say that I don’t think we would have hired for WC director a person who could not make those fertile connections between technology and the work of the Center, but had we made such a choice we would have stuck by our decision and not have expected her to become a new person.
The technological nature of her work, by the way, does not appear to be the problem here, but its scientific subject matter. On our campus, more and more work by more and more faculty is being done onlind and in multimedia; given her background and interests we would probably have been excited by her potential.

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

The Chair is an independent voice in these decisions not a mouthpiece for the rest of the faculty.  Sure, the Chair should mention and reflect on the committee vote in her letter, but the Chair primarily should exercise her own judgment. Otherwise, why have a separate letter from the Chair? In this case, I find it appalling that the Chair did not take responsibility for defending a scholarly agenda that she had either openly or tacitly approved earlier on.

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

The Chair of the Re-appointment, Promotion, and Tenure (RPT) Committee here expressed dismay and surprise at the vote, since it did not reflect the discussion. That disjunct should not have occurred, and it’s the RPT chair’s fault that it did. We caution faculty during meetings that they must bring out in discussion anything that might lead to their negative vote. Whenever there has been the hint of a breach of confidentiality of meeting proceedings we have held meetings to reinforce the rules, because we know that the discussion must be secure if faculty are to be forthright.

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

The Dean obviously had a different agenda from that of the Department in hiring this person.  If the Dean approved the hire of a WC director, that’s what he/she had the responsibility to support.  The release time agreement should have been honored. At this point, the Dept. chair should consult with Guzman about her career goals, and, if she wants to become primarily associated with the new culture/technology program, then the Dept. should argue for a new hire to direct the WC.

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

Like it or not, the candidate needs to be sure that her goals and accomplishments are meeting with Department approval; this means regualr, at least annual, review and consultation.  If the Chair doesn’t require this, the candidate must. When it comes right down to it, lack of mutual assurance hurts the candidate the most, so the candidate must take the initiative. In her favor, of course, she did what she assumed she was supposed to be doing and did it well. But she still left too much to blind faith.

What went wrong?  What went right?

What went right was the candidate’s work; what went wrong was the process. Let me add that this case assumes continuity in college and departmental leadership during these five years; but most chairs don’t serve the full probationary period for any candidate; RPT committee chairs serve much less. Hence, all the more need for the candidate to by reassured each year that she is on the right track. As a case in point, in my first semester as chair I was blindsided by a surprisingly weak vote from one candidate’s subcommittee; everyone vilified the subcommittee for not bringing their dissatisfaction with the candidate to anyone’s attention earlier, but clearly the candidate had assumed too much for too long without consultation, and the resulting confusion led to the candidate’s leaving the university.

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