So yesterday the dean of the U. of Arizona's College of Humanities held a "talk" with about fifty English graduate students. The reason: he's pulling funding for hiring faculty, the monies of which could only be supplemented by taking course releases from graduate students. That means teaching two sections of English comp--50 students--every semester. (Including when one is trying to prepare for a test on 120 texts, for example; i.e. "prelims.")
Dean Chuck Tatum is no John Roberts. He's not even Alberto Gonzalez. Not even Samuel Alito. More like a haggard, unprofessional Robert Bork. My perception of the man is that he is conniving, shifty, unwilling be accountable, and in over his head regarding his position as Dean. It's a lofty position. Then, how could he recommend to graduate students that we "find funding...from corporate sources...and if you know someone who's become rich"? According to him, 60% of his job is to fundraise. Yet here we are in the CoH, squabbling about 100,000 when the total budget is $12.8 million. He couldn't even convince the English graduate students that he has our interests merely in mind!
What indicates that he's in over his head is that during the meeting he appeared overly nervous at first, then later antagonistically interrupting valid questions, and usually starting his answers with a ponderous, "Let me give you some perspective on this..." which drew chuckles.
The problem for grad students is that our departments are shrinking--we can't hire new people unless we cut into the "instructional budget," which pays our salaries and allows us to teach one section instead of two every so often. The UofA RCTE program (rhetoric, composition and the teaching of English) grad program is a national leader (mostly because it's one of the first programs to put resources towards prepping grad students to lead big university writing programs (which pump thousands of first-year students through composition courses) and focus on "how to teach comp," which I couldn't stand to think deeply about for too long)--the creative writing department is also a national leader, comparable to the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. Anyway, keeping academic programs up simply takes money, and it is the Dean's job to ensure that program grow and get better, while Dean Chuck Tatum's philosophy is to wheedle the programs and keep the budget from the red. Beyond that, I don't know what he even does.
Granted, the state legislature of Arizona is slowly pulling funding for higher education. But Chuck Tatum seems like the kind of guy who couldn't sell you water when your house is on fire.
Check out AZTogether.org under "picture gallery" of a good picture of my wife and me. --adam