It was my first EC meeting. Half of the time the provost defended his much hated cluster hiring initiative; the other half dealt with school internal issues.
The main issue is departmentalization. Currently all areas are housed in a single department. This centralized arrangement is a remedy for containing toxic people. In the past, each area is a department. With a small size, it can be easily hijacked and crippled by toxic few. Eliminating departments dilutes their impact. Doing so also allows oversight and peer-monitoring from other areas. This check-and-balance will ensure quality in teaching, research, hiring, and promotion.
Or so the argument goes. But such centralization has its own woes. For one, it disperses the ownership, disincentivizes people, and dilutes responsibility. When no one owns it, no one will pay attention. Accountability is all but disappear—the ideal situation for the dean. This is indeed the current state of affair. Worse, people vote on issues they have neither expertise, no incentive or interest to care. Without check and balance, power corrupts: the dean can push his agenda almost unchallenged, akin to dictatorship.
J. seems less keen on departmentalization, with good reasons. There are two groups in his area: one is big in size and wore willing to play politics; the other is small, with little interest in politics. So the former dominates. Without outside counterbalance, the smaller group will be marginalized over time. Indeed, that was their fate—they were once completely eliminated from the school.
Finance folks champion the idea. They are well trained, well paid, and well organized. More importantly, their master programs are the money cow for the school. But they do not get along with the dean. The dean takes all the money and credit, leaving them paying all cost without any benefit. Of course they resent and vow to break away.
For other areas, either way they are doomed. So they don’t have much sympathy for departmentalization. Finance folks have a long way to go.