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I’m free!

It’s July. According to College policy [1], new department chairs take over on July 1. So I am no longer department chair. I’m free! Okay, I’m not really free. I’m still a senior member of my department [2], so I’ll still have responsibilities. And we’re still a growing department which needs more resources, so life will still be complicated. But the primary burdens have been lifted from my shoulder.

I have realized that there is one disadvantage of no longer being chair: I no longer get to choose how to use the budget. That was not much of an issue under our prior chair; we had enough long-term history that I’d been approved for most of the ways I like to use our restricted funds and our regular funds. But since Jerod is a new chair, I should ask and not just assume.

I hadn’t thought about it until I started writing this musing, but there is a significant benefit to having stepped down as chair: the compensation model for overloads is quite different. Under Grinnell’s old chair model, we received one course reduction for a two-year term. If you could not take that course reduction, you saved it up for your next leave. Under Grinnnell’s new chair model, we receive two course reductions for a three-year term, a modest increase. However, if we do not take one of our course reductions, we no longer get to save up the reduction for the future. Instead, you get a stipend of $7,000 or research funds of $8,000 [3,4]. But we have no institutional policies for faculty members teaching overloads, except for faculty members on shared contracts, who receive one-fifth of their full salary. Of course, HR does not believe that faculty deserve that much, those on shared contracts are the only ones who get that much.

In any case, due to a variety of circumstances and miscommunications, I’m teaching an overload this fall. I had anticipated a complicated negotiation with the Dean. But he simply said We’d prefer that you take a corresponding release the following year, if possible. I like the accumulated release model; it lets me take longer leaves. I don’t think I would have received the same agreement if I were chair. Of course, I probably wouldn’t do an overload as chair.

I’ve identified three advantages of no longer being chair: less stress, less work, and better compensation for overloads. I’ve identified two disadvantages: less control [5] and more of an inclination to teach overloads [6]. Are there others? I should get less email [7]. I’ll get less information about what is happening at the College [8,9]. Most folks at the College know that I’m still overworked and I have my new Sam’s advisory committee, so I’m not likely to get too much additional work [10]. There are still a variety of not-yet-completed initiatives that I will need to work with Jerod on pushing forward [11,12]. I may have fewer opportunities to rant, either in messages to administrators [14] or in this series of assorted musings and rants [15].

I am sure that in the next few months, I will discover more advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps you will hear about them. Perhaps not.

The worst part? I know that in three or four years, I’ll be chair again. I hope that things have settled down by then.

[1] Surprisingly, the transition date for chairs is in no official College documentation. But this year, Council re-verified that the transition happens on July 1, so it should appear soon.

[2] And of the institution.

[3] Both amounts are less than I was paid to teach one course at Dartmouth in the spring of 1993.

[4] I am told that the College leaves the amounts comparatively low to discourage chairs from giving up their course reductions.

[5] And I really am a control freak.

[6] That’s not quite true. I don’t really want to teach an overload. But it seems necessary for the department. And, as the most senior of the faculty not on leave, some necessary work falls to me. Perhaps I should say less disinclination to teach overloads.

[7] That’s a good thing.

[8] That’s a bad thing.

[9] I hope that Jerod is enthusiastic about sharing information from the monthly meeting of the department chairs.

[10] That’s good.

[11] That’s neither good nor bad.

[12] Under our previous chair, I felt more free to just take on initiatives and to follow up on them. Since Jerod is a new chair, I think I should ask permission in many cases.

[14] E.g., You made me fill out this annoying form. Will I ever get feedback on it?

[15] I’m not sure if that’s a positive or a negative for me. I’m sure that it’s a negative for my readers, many of whom tell me that my rants are among their favorite posts.

Version 1.0 of 2017-07-04.