Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chair Hierarchy

When I was in high school, there was definitely a clearly defined hierarchy - and I was at the bottom of it. Not that I'm bitter about my social ranking. I really had no desire to be Class President or Pep Club President. I'm more stating this as a fact.

The same trend pretty much followed in college - I hung out with the classmates in my major. As I was not really in one of the party-friendly majors, very little partying happened there. And the pattern replicated in graduate school and in my post-doc. So, from the outside, I was still at the bottom of the social pile - and I was really quite happy there.

However, within this ranking, there was a social hierarchy. "Smarter" students, as determined by test scores or research success, were treated better. Luckily, I happened to be one of the smarter students. Or maybe I just worked really, really hard. I knew some students who got better grades than me who didn't work as hard. I worked hard. Really, really hard.

Now, I'm an assistant professor - officially at the bottom of the faculty rankings. And, as I look around, I realize that even among Asst. Profs., we are treated differently. We even treat each other differently.

Even students treat us differently - many don't really understand the whole faculty system, which is really a problem - but the whole age thing throws them. Once student even asked me if I was "real" professor - he though "Assistant" implied I was an "Assistant" to a Professor... But that is a whole different problem.

Anyway, the whole point was that I have had many discussions over the past few months with several different Dept chairs - my dept and others - and they all have very different opinions (polar opposite in some cases) on how I should be approaching my first year. In fact, at this point, the "score", if you can call it that, is pretty much 3:1, other chairs to my chair, in favor of my pursuing a series of options (which I want to pursue).

So, do I pursue these things or listen to my chair and not do them. Other chairs say I should - but my chair (who is my boss) says I shouldn't. In the end, I probably won't. After all, I'm only an assistant professor. I shouldn't rock the boat too much.

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