A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education explores the questions, “Should You Lead a Department on the Brink? And How?” (January 13th online)
Intriguing queries, to be sure. But they bypass the most crucial issue: “How can I be certain that my department is indeed the sort of dumpster fire that warrants a description of being ‘on the brink’?”
Fear not. Here are the Top Ten warning signs that your academic dinghy is sinking:
— At department meetings, faculty members do not address each other by name; they use the phrase “demon seed” instead.
— The pair of consultants the department hired to facilitate team building were hospitalized with PTSD following the first session. They subsequently left the field altogether and now own a yarn boutique in Camden, Maine.
— When individuals calling your department are put on hold, Siberian funeral dirges play in the background, accompanying a deeply flawed public service announcement for a suicide hot line (“This could be your last chance…”).
— The department’s 2022 end-of-year holiday party featured a Velveeta sculpture, soggy saltines, and tap water. The miniature Christmas tree sitting on top of the photocopier caught fire. A BIC pocket lighter was discovered nearby.
— When department members were recently asked by your school’s IT office to update their computer passwords, they were instructed to register as “Guest.”
— Prescriptions for Zoloft and Paxil account for 72% of your department’s budget.
— The last time your department sponsored a team-taught course, a knife fight broke out in class between the instructors. Campus police had to be summoned. There were minor injuries.
— Facilities staff have been showing up at your department in recent weeks, taking measurements in preparation for converting faculty offices into lounge areas for undergraduates majoring in e-sports and recreational cannabis.
— Department members routinely key the phrase “demon seed” on the car doors of their colleagues, often leaving their initials.
— Although custodial staff empty the office trash baskets of department members three times a week, the refuse they remove is simply dumped in the hallway and covered with lime.
If three or more of the above conditions characterize your department, it might be wise to think twice before agreeing to serve as chair.
Have a good semester.