Deans may come and go, but for most of us, our department is our home. That’s where our closest colleagues are, it’s where the most important discussions take place, and, if we are lucky, it’s where we find our best support. It’s also where collegial governance begins.
I want to encourage you to take charge of some key areas in your department. If you organize these points yourselves, amongst faculty members, disputes with administration are much much less likely to arise, and when they do, you’ll have an important track record of decision making. All it takes is democratic will.
Please consider establishing minimum teaching qualifications for all your courses. Most departments have done this informally. However, a formal document that you keep on file and update from time to time is more useful. Are the qualifications the same for all your offerings, or do some courses require specializations? Is there a single degree that covers all your courses, or are combinations of experience and academic credentials acceptable alternatives?
These can be difficult conversations, especially if you have faculty members teaching those classes without the new qualifications that you want for the future. (Such colleagues must be grandfathered in.) But, changes are feasible as long as the new qualifications are logical and reflect reality.
Please consider discussing and establishing principles for fair course allocation. Does your department prefer to work by seniority? How should seniority balance against fairness of course rotation? Do you take turns with plum assignments, with difficult assignments, with multi-campus assignments, with evening teaching? Do you have a wish list and ask the Chair to balance the ‘must-have’ with the ‘preferred’?
These are decisions you can make together–about principles. In practice, there may be other factors at play, such as medical accommodations and family status, but having a set of principles establishes what your group believes. They can help take the heat off your Chair as well as provide some sense of collective fairness.
Please discuss how you think your courses should be delivered. At this moment, the College says that departments can request alternative modes of delivery (such as hybrid classes) as long as they are pedagogically supportable. But, Deans and Directors seem reluctant to accede to individuals’ requests. Maybe your department can come up with some principles about delivery mode that all can live with. For example, you could discuss which courses would be better to rotate from face-to-face to hybrid (and back, perhaps).
Taking these steps democratically and through open discussion doesn’t guarantee that administrators will agree, of course. But that is not really the point.
It’s much easier to justify a request when everyone in your department makes it together. It’s much easier to protect the subject expertise when the subject experts themselves have already agreed. It’s much easier to make the argument for what the department wants when we already know it. Solidarity begins at home.