Since I started working at my current university, there has been one aspect of my job that made me feel blessed: the Chair of my department. We are not very used to having great bosses in academia. A person can be a great scholar, a fantastic colleague, and a talented pedagogue but that doesn't mean they will make a good leader of people. There is a certain set of skills and a certain way of relating to others and to your workplace that make a great boss. Academics not only don't get any training in how to lead their colleagues effectively, but the very nature of what we do on a daily basis usually makes very lousy bosses out of us. Just think about it. A teacher is a person who is used to students shutting up and taking notes of everything s/he says. A teacher knows that a student will only speak when they get a permission. A teacher imposes her own class plan every single day of class and never even imagines that any dissent on that subject is possible.
When an academic becomes the Chair of their department, they are expected to forget miraculously about all these aspects of relating to others. If we often bring this way of interacting with people to our friends and families, we can hardly be expected not to do so when interacting with our colleagues. This is why good departmental Chairs are so few and far between.
Our Chair is an amazing exception to this rule. She is a true leader of people who makes our department a place you want to be even when you don't really need to. The force of her personality is enough to make people perform above and beyond the call of duty. Her enthusiasm for what we do is simply infectious. She defends the interests of her faculty and instructors with a true passion. One would think that with a Chair like this, the university administration would just count its blessings and let her do her job. If that's what you expect, then you really don't know how the academia works.
Yesterday, we were told that the administration wants to remove our Chair from her position and bring a new departmental leader from the outside. The reason why this is happening, is that under the leadership of the current Chair, we haven't been able to raise the number of Majors at our department from several dozen to several hundred. I don't expect much from the intellectual capacities of our administrators but this is way too stupid even for them. The economy has been completely in the toilet for the past few years. The unemployment (at least in this area) is stuck at 10%. The number of people who are underemployed is scary. Colleges keep cutting funding and staff in the Humanities across the country. In view of all these factors, the idea that the number of students who don't want to major in, say, French is the fault of our Chair is mind-boggling. Next thing we'll know, she will be blamed for single-handedly causing the Recession as well.
Our department often gets informed of job offers in the area that can be of interest to our graduates. In May, for example, we were asked to direct our students to a job opening at the US Bank. They required a person who had a double Major in Spanish and Business. We told several of our recent graduates about this job opening, and they applied. Then, they were informed of the salary they could expect there. It is $15,000. Per year. Seriously.
Should we really wonder after this why so few students want to pursue a Major in Spanish, French, and German?
Sadly, our administrators are incapable of seeing the very obvious reasons behind the stagnating enrollments in the Humanities. They are trying to feed their obsessive interest in enrollment numbers through some really useless policies like inviting outside Chairs. The only result of this plan is that we will lose our great boss and will be forced to deal with an unwanted newcomer. Who is extremely likely to be a lousy boss.
I can't begin to express how sad this makes me.