Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What I Miss, and Don't Miss, About Being a Dean

I was very fortunate to serve as dean of the University of Mississippi School of Law from July 1, 2010 until June 30 of this year. I appreciate that my co-bloggers on this blog are allowing me to continue to post, even though I am no longer a member of their ranks.

There are  things I miss about being a dean, among them is the opportunity to spend time with  US Supreme Court Justices, and other dignitaries.  I will also miss working directly with alumni who care about the law school, and give generously of their time and talent, while asking for very little in return. Maybe what I will miss the most is the close working relationship I had with the other university deans and administrators, and the law school administrators and staff. I really enjoyed those daily interactions. I am not sure that most faculty members understand how much law school associate deans, administrators, and staff do every day. As a dean, I knew I could have never survived without their collective dedication, support, and sense of humor.

 On the other hand, after 13 years as a dean at three law schools, there are things I definitely won't miss, now that I am teaching full-time, again. My colleagues here have all said I look happier, and even a little younger, now that I have stepped down. I must admit it feels great to be able to have a much more regular work-out routine. Exercise has been my go to drug for most of my adult life, and being a dean makes regular exercise much more difficult, because of the demands of time and travel. 

I truly like every member of the Ole Miss Law faculty, and being a dean means that it is hard to have lunch with colleagues or to socialize with them on a daily basis. There is a natural separation between deans and faculty members that I will not miss. Similarly, being in the classroom regularly allows me to get to know our wonderful students much better, and in a different capacity.

Additionally, I  am happy not to be the person conducting faculty meetings, and I certainly like the way my email inbox has thinned out. It is also nice not to have to deal with personnel issues, or all of the administrative paper work and e-forms that fill up so much of any day. 

Maybe the best part of not being dean is not having to deal with the "Don't You Know Who I Am" and "I Will Never Give Another Penny to this Law School" attitude I encountered on occasion. For example, one alum wrote me a nasty email because I had invited Congressman John Lewis to speak at our law graduation in 2014 (his speech was fantastic, by the way). The alum said that he would never give a penny to the law school, because of my choice of speaker. Of course, I checked his giving history since he graduated decades ago, and he has never donated one cent to the law school. As dean, I had to spend far too much time dealing with negative people like that, and had to do so diplomatically.







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