Friday, July 12, 2013

Helping a New Dean Out

Recently retired Admiral and former SACEUR (military head of NATO) James Stavridis is now a Dean at Tufts, and is "drinking from the firehose."  That is, getting heaps of info in a short period of time to learn the new job.

This is not new to him, as the US armed forces tend to move officers from job to job and they have to learn quickly the new stuff, like a submarine commander being put on the Joint Staff's Balkans desk.  I witnessed the ability of this sub captain and many others to learn completely new tasks quickly.  Still, as someone who has studied NATO for several years and has dwelled within academia for two decades, I thought I could point out for the Admiral a few key differences/similarties between his old job as SACEUR and his new job as Dean of the Fletcher School.
  • Remember how you could not remove easily those officers countries put under NATO command?  Well, tenured professors are even more difficult to remove.  The good news is that you can alter what the profs get paid or what their portfolio of responsibilities might be (direct a center? maybe, maybe not), whereas the capabilities of your subordinates in NATO were largely determined by what their home countries gave them.
  • When countries transferred their contingents to your command, they let you know most, if not all, of the restrictions that limited their usefulness (caveats).  Most professors and sub-units will NOT be so clear about what they will and will not do.  Oh, professors, unlike countries, can change their minds quite frequently.
  • Just like in NATO, not all of the professors will show up when something important is going on.  
  • No worries about trying to get consensus--imagine if there are many Greeces and Turkeys playing out their various dysfunctional interactions in ways ways that block committees and thus block progress.
  • The good news is that the stakes are far lower at Tufts than in Brussels.  The bad news is that the lack of urgency means that folks will not be motivated as much.  In the case of NATO, countries would relent and join the common good if the future of NATO was at risk.  Hard to get all hands on deck when the future of Tufts and of Fletcher is not at risk (unless Drezner gets one of those Sharknado movies filmed on campus). 
Seriously though, I am sure that you will be a terrific Dean, especially as it will allow you to continue to engage in public debates and lend your expertise to the issues of the day.  Tufts is lucky to have you.  

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