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Nageshwer Reddy


( 6 months ago )

I have been facing the following "problems" with my department head at an undergraduate institute. I joined it just under a year ago and am already facing (what appears to be) a lot of negativity from her. Here are my main problems:

1) Last semester, she would always come to me/email me telling me what a couple of students said/complained about me - mostly being that I am tough and expecting them to study more - well, it is Physics, you can't just enter the classroom as if you are entering a cinema and expect entertainment - one has to be prepared! Anyhow, I am pretty sure she was asking students "how is the new guy?" which encouraged this behaviour from students - she implied it once during lunch.

2) Towards the end, she failed to put an end to disruptive (and borderline racist) behaviour from one of the students in spite of my complaints, but kept on encouraging it instead of nipping it in the bud when it happened first.

3) Moreover, I am continuously discouraged in collaborating with another department - I haven't had any problems with them so far.

4) A few months ago, when I sent in the new syllabus for this semester (it has to pass through the Dept Head before being posted on the website), she said she wasn't OK with it - it didn't have anything unusual!

5) And now, when I wanted to add points for interaction in the syllabus for the next semester - as positive reinforcement (instead of penalising students), she gave a straight no, and asked me to give her a scientific paper proving that it is effective! I mean.. really?

6) To be in students' good books and get good feedback, she is encouraging a manipulative student - she helps him in doing homework and he will be taking a summer "reading course" with her. So, now this student doesn't have to sit in my course or pass it, and yet complains all the time which is encouraged by her.

I know these things are pretty vague but are definitely giving me a lot of negative vibes... Any advice as of how to face this situation? It looks like she is building a way to get my lose this job or make me go... Or am I just being too "sensitive" about it?

PS - She pretty much has the regular Dept Chair power -- my annual performance review should pass through her, teaching assignments pass through her, etc.

PPS - The disruptive student's concern was that the grade on the website wasn't correct where as everything was as it is supposed to be - she acted like a middle-man everytime he was trying to cause trouble instead of either directing him directly to me or atleast recommending that or telling him that disruptive behaviour is not OK. The manipulative student gets a slap on the wrist for blatantly lying about grades, quiz, etc, she helps him in getting his homework done - he is supposed to do it on his own!

Sophia Chang


( 6 months ago )

Department chairs should solicit feedback from students and they should insist that teaching practices be based on evidence. That's normal. But it sounds like this department chair is using these mechanisms to be a bully. That's bad.

My advice would be:

  1. Document everything.
  2. Consult your university's omsbudsperson.
  3. Study up on your institutions procedures. There may be something that keeps the department chair accountable, such as an election. We do not know your institutions specific regulations.
  4. Develop good relationships with the dean and other faculty in your department. The chair often has little power on their own.
  5. Look for a new job.
  6. Keep in mind that department chairs often have no training for the job and may not like being chair. Do not be surprised if they are bad at their job.

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