Of course, I'm in no position to apply for a departmental chair position but I see postings for such positions pretty regularly. How do these positions work? Is it a formality with the department or are they really interested in an outside hire?
Date: 02 Jan 2012 22:54
Number of posts: 13
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They definitely are. The Psych department at my school (I'm in a different department) just made an outside hire for their chair. Especially in a large department, being the chair (it seems to me) carries a lot of administrative duties that a lot of faculty members don't necessarily want (this hire was brought on partly to manage a major expansion)
Thanks for the information! This question was fueled by curiousity.
A few years ago I was at an institution that had a search for a department chair. They did a nationwide search and were definitely looking for a senior, external person (based on who came for interviews).
Yes, outside searches are real. Some depts only do internal chairs, some only do external chairs… Just depends on the climate. In all cases, though, they tend to want a senior person. Someone pretenure would likely be tossed aside without much consideration… Even senior people will likely need to demonstrate some amount of administrative experience (e.g., being an associate chair or being head of their area in their current dept)… Of course, there are rare places where a dept hires an asst prof as chair, but I've never seen it in psych. The biggest issue with having a nontenured chair is that they can't stand up to the other faculty in their dept and they certainly cant stand up to the dean when needed… So they're quite weak, but maybe some depts want that?
I was told that when a department is looking to do an external hire for a chair it's because there is some disfunction in the department, and they want to bring in an outside person to fix it. I've also been told that no one ever wants to be the chair; it's a lot of busy work, including dealing with the issues of everyone in the department; if no one is willing to step up to the plate that could be another reason for doing an external search, I suppose. Re: a non-tenured chair, I believe I came across one ad this year where they wanted to hire a person as an assistant prof, and they would be the chair, which seemed very odd. My understanding is that TT faculty are usually protected from such positions because they need to be working toward tenure, and you have much less time for teaching and research when you have the administrative responsibilities associated with leading a department. But then again, things surely vary substantially depending on the institution, size of the department, etc.
it's not true that all outside searches are for disfunctional departments. and it's definitely not true that tenure-track people are "protected" from administrative duties… there is variation across departments and universities to be sure, but i think your ideas are a little misinformed. maybe you got them from very specific situations or rumors, but i do not think they are the norm.
Well, I don't admit to having first hand knowledge. This is information from the current chair of my department, whom I consider a trustworthy source. But perhaps I'll tell her that she is misinformed.