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Notebook and Pencil

Dept Chair Q&A: What Do You Do with Grumpy Senior Faculty?

I asked folks a couple of weeks ago to send me questions on Twitter, and I would answer them as a former department chair. Here's one for you.

What do you do about those old head faculty who retire in place, are full professors and have tenure but won't mentor students, don't do any research, don't want to teach any classes, don't wanna learn new technologies, and are mad grumpy?

First of all, pray, because this is a bad situation for everyone.

I think that there are different things that people would say to do, depending on their role and the direct interactions they have with those faculty.

There are those political things that you do, and then there are the real things that you do when you're a department chair. The political thing that people often say is to place those faculty in their areas of strength. If they are really good at something, whatever that is, whether it's committee work or service, put them in that position.

You just hope as a chair that there is something that they can do well because unfortunately, the system is set up so that you can't really do anything with those faculty. If they are bad, they are bad, and they continue being bad. It's the perpetuation of a system that a department has to endure.

Contrary to popular belief, being a full professor can be challenging. For many people, they realize that they are mortal beings and the thing they have been working for has been achieved. During these times, it's best to be empathetic.

As a full professor, you go through different points in your life where you're learning and you're still developing. Whether people realize it, getting to a full professor status is a process, and you need to have more sympathy or empathy for people who are in that situation. Although they are considered to be the "elders" of higher education, most department chairs hope that they can grow in whatever space they are in the academy.

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