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Department chair "a thankless job," writes MTSU communication prof in new book

March 19, 2001

Faculty members today often shun the position of academic chair, a spot once viewed as evidence of esteem in the eyes of one's colleagues. The job is seen largely as one of dealing with recalcitrant faculty members, fighting for resources, shuffling paperwork and coping with an ever-expanding array of personal problems that professors and staff members bring to the office, says the March 2 issue of "The Chronicle of Higher Education."

"I've had to beg faculty members to take the job," says Deryl R. Leaming, dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University and author of "Academic Leadership: A Practical Guide to Chairing the Department." Leaming's newest book, about coping with troubled professors, is due out this fall.

Some chairs do enjoy the challenges of the position, the article notes. One University of Washington chair called the job "completely fun." His secret, he says, isn't figuring out the right thing and doing it. "It's helping people figure out what the right thing to do is and helping them believe it was their idea."