as a new department chair

Our department chair is taking this quarter off, so I am filling in and finding that despite a bit of release time and some extra (if there is such a thing), it's not all peaches and cream. Classes begin in a few days and there is a bit of last minute scrambling going on.

Probably the biggest concern is that we don't have rooms for six classes. It was 11 classes last week, so we (meaning the department secretary) found five rooms and we (meaning me too this time around, along with the dean, or so I hope) are hoping that a few rooms open up in the next couple of days. We have one of the smaller buildings on campus and one of the largest enrollments, so some sort of space crunch is a regular occurrence and things work out, but right now, a flood of students will be heading for the department office come Monday morning because that's the default room number in the tabloid. Probably the hardest class to place is going to be our new Salish language class, the language of the native tribes in the region. It runs two days a week (with most of our classes running for 50 minutes, five days a week) for two-and-a-half hours, in prime time. That's probably the last room we'll get figured out, but time will tell.

Less of a concern when it comes to the numbers of people affected is one of our adjunct faculty who got one class less than he expected. This didn't come to my attention until yesterday. My first thought was to reassign a class from one of our new hires on the basis of seniority. When I suggested this, I was informed the contract doesn't allow taking a class from one faculty member and giving it to another in the last two weeks before classes begin unless it's an enrollment driven decision, which means a class has to be canceled and then the person who loses the class, if they have seniority, can bump a person from a class with enough students. The person who lost the class has been teaching with us for 15 years, longer than I've been at the college. I do have to fault the faculty member though for not catching this in the proofing of the schedule. It would have been relatively easy to fix things at that point, sometime last spring. But now, because of the contract, I'm not able to do anything to help. Bummer.

There are lots of little niggling sorts of things that come with the territory. Students who want to bypass FYC and get into advanced comp. Because they got a 4.0 in one class, they think they should be able to skip another, without so much as a writing sample. I got to pass that one off to the comp director. I also get to run our department meetings until winter break (yee haw!) and put out who knows what fires as they flame to life, and attend quite a few more meetings than I usually do, and mediate between students and faculty, and faculty and the dean and who knows what else. Having done administrative work before, I think I'm up to it. It's the politics and the personalities that will determine whether I do well or not. I know I'm going to learn more about the college than I have already, which is part of the reason I asked to do this. Here's hoping it goes well.