be disappointed. Besides a personal view of being a department head,
this is an opinionated view. Disagree with me if you like. Curse me
out if you must. But if more people think about the role of the head
of a department, I believe the entire profession will profit.
I think it might be helpful for other heads as well as faculty mem-
bers to read the opinions, observations, and advice of one head. From
all the comments I have heard over the years about department heads,
much of which was nonsense, I think most rank-and-file faculty can
get something from what I have written. University faculty, moreover,
must begin to be more savvy in the world of academic politics.
The economy and the political scene have undergone enormous
change. Industry is downsizing and many are losing their jobs and, at
best, finding new employment at greatly reduced incomes. The entire
base of the economy is shifting. Frustration and anxiety are apparent
in the rise of radical political movements. In such an atmosphere can
anyone believe that any part of society will remain unchanged? Soci-
ety is an ecological system and change in any part of it will produce
change in its entirety.
But in their actions faculty often seem not to realize this or, at
least, to act as though it isn't so. Clearly they wish it weren't so.
In fact, what happens in the university always seems to lag behind
what is happening outside. But the dreaded downsizing has begun in
academia. We are beginning to feel some of the same forces that have
beguiled and disrupted the lives of factory workers for many years.
We had better learn to cope.
The enormous crunch towards formalized assessment and ac-
countability is beginning to affect us all. We have always been held
accountable, but today the parameters have changed. Increasingly,
often with the cooperation of university administrators, we are being
asked to live by the same rules that govern business. This will have a
far more permanent effect than importing a flock of Russian and East
European mathematicians and scientists.
For years higher education prospered. It loudly proclaimed that
college graduates command far greater lifetime incomes. Ample fund-
ing followed. We produced. But that argument has begun to sour. A
college degree has long since stopped being a guarantee of prosperity
or even job security. Society has begun to question its support of
universities. In this environment mathematicians and all academics
must begin to change, compete, and seek resorces that will be used
with greater care. It is the only solution if we hope to maintain the
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