New Dean’s Guidebook (more)

This blog was originally published on Aug. 18, 2009 by Professor Russell L. Weaver.

In a prior blog entry, I began creating the “New Dean’s Guidebook” in which I articulated rules for new deans to live by. In this blog entry, I continue that effort. Recall the initial two rules:

Rule #1: Never forget that this is all about you. Oh, sure, the law school may have been there for decades (and, perhaps, more than a century). And, sure, there may be an existing faculty which has been toiling at the school for years. But, surely, those facts are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Also, don’t be distracted by quaint faculty notions regarding the importance of teaching and educating, or relating to the importance of scholarship or service. This is all about you, your career, and your self-interest.You should focus on your decisions accordingly. After all, what else matters?

Rule #2: Make sure that the faculty knows who is boss. Indeed, you should regard anyone who speaks out against you, or opposes your ideas, as committing the functional equivalent of treason. Medieval kings were not simply regarded as heads of state, but as the embodiment of the state itself, and criticism of the King was subjected to punishment. Moreover, since medieval kings were regarded as appointed by God, and as carrying out God’s will, criticism of the king was regarded not only as treason but as a sin against God. It is important for faculty to realize that you were divinely appointed.

So, here, is the new “guide” or “rule:”

Rule #3: Assume the worst regarding faculty motives (and impose “productivity penalties”). It’s wise for a dean to assume the worst regarding faculty motives and to try to rein in faculty activities. After all, aren’t faculty only out for themselves? So, one great idea is to impose “productivity penalties.” If, for example, a faculty member wishes to travel to do research or give a speech, make the faculty member pay 10 percent of the travel expenses. Without such a penalty, there is a higher probability that faculty will abuse their travel funds by being too active in scholarship activities. The reality is that far too many schools are worried about impressing others by encouraging their faculty to write books and articles and give speeches, and they thereby succumb to the hogwash and hoopla surrounding U.S. News rankings. By imposing productivity penalties, law schools can make sure that faculty think twice before they do too much research or give too many speeches, and law schools can thereby rein in these disturbing trends toward increasing productivity and visibility.

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