Challenges of Chairing Philosophy Departments

Challenges of Chairing Philosophy Departments

One thing that a Philosophy Head or Chair has to bear in mind continuously is “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.” I’ve always made it a point to tell higher administrators about the many accomplishments of Philosophy faculty—probably to the point of annoying them somewhat. But there’s simply no substitute for self-promotion with administrators who often don’t think of the Philosophy department right off the bat.

Also, heads and chairs have to learn where the available money is on campus. Is it in a center or institute? Is it from Distance Learning? It doesn’t take a lot of money to run a Philosophy Department, but a visiting speaker series is a must, and so is more travel money than what’s in your department travel budget line from the College or university. And every place I’ve been, I’ve found such money available for the getting, somewhere. You’ve got to seek it out, and where it is can differ from university to university. That alone will provide a real boost to faculty morale.

John Bickle, Professor of Philosophy and Head of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Mississippi State University, is the current interviewee at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher? The interview, conducted by Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina), is interesting for a few reasons (Carnap was robbed! he tells us), but one bit I thought worth pulling out for discussion are his remarks about being chair of the department.

Being chair is a demanding task in any department, with a lot of time consuming work that is invisible to students and colleagues. Yet one might wonder if different disciplines present distinct problems for chairs, and if so, what particular kinds of problems tend to present themselves to chairs of philosophy departments, either in regards to managing faculty, dealing with students, answering to administrators, and so on. So, let’s not table this discussion: chairs, you have the floor.

(image: Spike Chair by Alexander Lervik)

Spike Chair Alexander Lervik


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