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Every academic dean should know Janus. That two-faced
Roman god was a kind of doorkeeper (ianitor, from ianua,
door). Like a door, he looked both ways at once; like the doorway,
he represented entrances and presided over beginnings (dare we say
commencements?). His double-faced image appeared on coins, giving
him a close association with financial transactions. His temple
door was closed in times of peace--a rare occurrence in Roman history--and
open in times of conflict. His most famous function was to preside
over the link between one year and the next: the month of January.
What better patron divinity for academic deans than this circumspect
guardian of the past and guide to the future?
The dean is often regarded as a Janus-figure, standing between the
faculty who embody the college on one side and the campus administration
on the other. Both connections are essential, but almost everyone
thinks of the dean as either the leading faculty member, the colleges
champion in dealing with the administration, or as the administrations
agent in the college. In the past fifteen years the balance of perception
across the country has shifted markedly towards the second view:
deans are far more often considered administrators making decisions
based on policies and resources rather than academic leaders fostering
ideas and programs in collaboration with the faculty.
Even more unlike their double-visaged patron, however, academic
deans hold an impermanent honor. Emory has had its share of turnover
in the decanal roster recently, with eleven changes of leadership
in the nine academic schools since 1996. Although that rate sounds
high, it is only slightly above the national average. In fact, the
average time in office for deans is now less than the five-year
appointments with which they typically enter office.
This means that searching for a dean is almost as constant a feature
of the academic landscape as capital campaigns or (elsewhere, of
course!) athletic scandals. That in turn makes it imperative that
the permanent population, namely, the faculty, and the campus administration
achieve clear agreement about what they are looking for in a dean.
The arts and sciences at Emory are confronted with an unusual occasion
for such deliberation in the wake of Dean Steven Sandersons
departure, with larger questions being raised about the relationship
between the college and the graduate school. Thus the already complex
question of what we want in the next dean is linked to the possible
reorganization of a major portion of the university.
What do deans do? Traditionally, they manage and lead operations
from student affairs to physical plant and from faculty development
to massive (but always insufficient!) budgets. But changes in the
decanal role at schools across the country make it harder to predict
what a college wants and recruit someone who will fit everyones
Most noticeable is the great increase in the amount of time a dean
spends off campus, especially in development (the pursuit
of external resources). Twenty years ago it was uncommon for a dean
to be much involved in this activity. Deans at private institutions
did more than their public colleagues, but few spent more than 10
percent of their time on development. Now many deans, both public
and private, say that they must commit at least one-third of their
calendar to work with major donors, foundations, alumni, and other
groups, and even more at crucial stages of a campaign. The alternative
is to fall behind peer institutions in garnering funds for new buildings,
innovative programs and star faculty.
This emphasis on raising external resources has not only affected
the profile of talents a dean is expected to have (and therewith
the pool of preferred candidates from the universitys perspective),
it also means the dean is less visible on campus and less accessible
for personal contact with faculty and students. As a result, no
matter how engaged the dean may be with campus issues, no matter
how successful in gathering resources for the academic purposes
of the college, faculty are likely to regard their leader as detached
from the life of the college. A dean may appear indifferent to academic
concerns if Janus looks outward rather than inward too much of the
At least as important are the changes in the academic landscape.
Traditional disciplines have combined, mutated, or even vanished
from the catalog, while new fields and programs spring up, calling
for more faculty, facilities, and fresh forms of collaboration.
Some of the most exciting new fields cost a great deal to start
and even more to maintain at the requisite level of quality. The
dean must be able to appreciate and adjudicate the claims of both
the traditional and the innovative across the full spectrum of intellectual
effort in the school.
The arts and sciences are peculiarly affected by this process, here
as elsewhere. Emory College teaches by far the largest number of
undergraduates on campus, in some three dozen departments and programs.
But the vast majority of those same faculty are also engaged in
graduate education and research, not to mention advising nearly
five thousand students through four change-filled years of personal
and intellectual growth.
It is the scale of this double commitment to both undergraduate
and graduate education, together with the daunting array of fields
and programs, that makes leadership in the arts and sciences such
a challenge and such a pleasure. The college and graduate school
are not the same thing, but they are inseparably linked by their
disciplinary scope, their faculty and their research. Most college
faculty are also graduate faculty, but there are as many more colleagues
from units outside the college who are also graduate faculty of
arts and sciences.
The deliberations in the college and graduate school over the next
two years will determine whether the faculty wish to preserve, alter,
or even discard the current organizational arrangements. In any
case, the next dean(s) in arts and sciences will be looking in many
directions at once: in and out, up and down.
Perhaps deans need a new patron, one with three faces instead of
just two: but that was Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded
the gates of Hell.
David Brights book The Academic Deanship: Individual
Careers and Institutional Roles (Jossey-Bass) was published this