1. About
  2. Features
  3. Explore

How do you cope when a department chair is all out to cause you problems? Especially when he is doing it for personal reasons that I have no control over (e.g. gender, skin color, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, accent, etc). My chair hates me, so he harasses me with bad teaching loads, too many preps, assigning me one class at 8am on one campus and another class at 8pm on a separate campus three hours away, making me teach every day when others teach only twice a week, denying me funding to go to conferences, not permitting me to go on a sabbatical, etc etc etc. He is highly unethical. I suspect he discards good teaching ratings I get and pencils in bad teaching ratings but I have no way to prove it. He makes up untrue anonymous complaints from anonymous students and anonymous complaints from anonymous faculty / staff. When a particular person is not hired and everyone wanted to hire that person, he whispers to everyone that I am the one who voted against hiring. He tries to turn everyone against me. When anything even remotely goes wrong, he blames me.

He has the Dean in his pocket. He is also the chair of the faculty senate, childhood friends with the university president, brother-in-law of the provost. He is not the research type - he has one of those Ed.D. degrees and is a career administrator who has been the department chair for 17 years now. When I was hired, he was on medical leave, so he had no say in my hiring decision. He is also the only person in the department who does not teach or do research related to the department. He is a politician - former mayor of a small city - so much more astute and politically shrewd than I can ever be. He is dishonest, a blatant cheat and a frequent liar, so sitting down with him definitely never helped. He has superb contacts within the town and in state politics. Short of finding a new job, is there anything I can do? I cannot leave this university for personal reasons relating to the two-body problem, family whose help I need to take care of a severely handicapped child and other personal reasons.

1 Answer 1

I got through this type of situation through a combination of institutional and personal means.

I was subject to mobbing by a group of faculty members in a particular field of British lit (pre-1800). When one of them became chair, and I stepped down as graduate program director, they piled on. One filed a specious grievance against me. When that failed after a year of harassment (during which I lost my mother), the new chair scheduled me to teach 3-4 new preps every single term. After four years of this, and after 3 separate administrative complaints that went through my chair and were stopped by the dean, I filed a grievance after my chair finally got grounds to file a negative performance review because she had overloaded me for years. The grievance was part of a peer review process; my peers found for me five to one. Next, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and got 1 year off. During that period, my chair got promoted (!!!) and was gone. Problem solved, on top of which I had grounds to file EEOC complaints for gender, age, and disability discrimination. I'm back this term. So far so good, with a chair that doesn't seem to have the stomach for all of this.

We are so vulnerable--and until our good work is trashed, we don't realize how vulnerable we are.

Fight the good fight when you can, and back off and lay low when you can. There's nothing to be lost by it, either in terms of your job or in terms of your self respect.