College to eliminate department chairs in fall 2019

Sarah Noble, Digital Editor

The college will eliminate departmental chairs starting next fall, AACC Vice President for Learning Mike Gavin told faculty on Aug. 17.

As part of a restructuring, 10 new assistant deans will take over the administrative tasks that chairs traditionally have tended to and coordinators within each department will take care of issues relating to teaching and curriculum.

In addition, the college will hire an assistant vice president.

“For the last two years we have heard faculty overwhelmed by administrative work,” Gavin said. “This is a solution to that problem.”

According to Gavin, administrators have been working on changing the college’s administrative structure for about a year.

Some faculty members said the announcement surprised them.

“I think like most of the faculty, we were kind of surprised to hear that such a sweeping change to the college … No. 1, has already been decided, and No. 2, has already been decided without consultation of faculty,” English professor Wayne Kobylinski said.

“The fact that we weren’t consulted as faculty sort of pushes against the idea of shared governance between faculty and administrators here,” said Kobylinski, who added that Gavin said at the Aug. 17 Division of Learning faculty meeting that the decision to restructure is final.

Dave Meng, who became the chair of the English and Communications Department on July 1,

said he “wouldn’t describe it as a win-win situation but I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a lose-lose situation.”

Meng, who taught English at AACC for 24 years before becoming the chair, said he “put a lot of work into the process of applying and transitioning from professor to chair.

“I got invested in this chair position and to be honest, I saw myself doing it for a few years,” he said. “So now … [I] need to reimagine a different future.”

Meng said he will keep his job as chair until the college eliminates it in fall 2019.

One faculty member who asked for anonymity said adding assistant deans adds an extra layer of administrators, which could dilute the influence of faculty.

“It’s not necessarily a bad idea to move administrative work away from [department chairs],” the faculty member said, “but there are ways to consult faculty that could make the transition go more smoothly.”

The faculty member called the move away from chairs, who traditionally have experience as professors, “a symbolic removal about faculty importance.  It’s a symbolic removal that’s bothering faculty.”

AACC has approximately 82 academic departments. Approximately 45 chairs oversee those departments, as some departments overlap in subject matter, so they share the same department chair.

Business Management Department Chair Shad Ewart said he supports the decision to do away with chairs.

“I think it offloads a lot of administrative duties. … It allows for more teaching and that’s why I came to AACC,” Ewart said.

Most department chairs give up teaching during their time as administrators.

Ewart said every faculty member is going to feel differently, but restructuring is “what I want.”

Gavin said he will release more information about the specifics of the new positions soon.

“I would say this is not a governance or faculty issue; it is an administrative issue,” Gavin said.