Dear Faculty Relations
A collection of articles and advice on communication, managing relationships, other topics of interest to faculty members and academic leaders.
Dear Faculty Relations - You may recall my note from last year. I reached out in a bit of a panic in July because I felt, once again, like I was coming up short in terms of summer productivity. I’m being proactive this time – reaching out as the semester ends. I’m still worried, though, that I’ll feel bad about my productivity come August. I would love advice on how to set myself up for a successful summer. – Making the Most of My Summer
Dear Faculty Relations - Over the last decade, we have lost several BIPOC colleagues in our unit. Sometimes, we didn’t even get a chance to counteroffer. In my leadership position, I want to ensure we do everything possible to retain our colleagues and be aware of issues that may drive our BIPOC colleagues to seek positions elsewhere. What can I do? - Seeking Greater Awareness
How Do I Engage with a Hostile Colleague?
Dear Faculty Relations: I have a colleague who has been increasingly hostile to me. They have sent upsetting emails and have engaged in some aggressive personal interactions. I’ve tried to defuse the situation, but nothing is changing. I have to continue working with this individual, but the situation is getting increasingly worse. What can I do? - Feeling Overwhelmed
Is an Online Presence Necessary?
Dear Faculty Relations: I am a faculty member engaged in research, teaching, and service activities. Most days, it is a struggle to stay afloat. Recently, a colleague mentioned that I need to have a social media presence and brand myself and my research online. Why should I care about having a social media account? - Your Anti-Social Media Professor
Dear Faculty Relations: How do I know what I should prioritize? Now that the semester has begun, I am feeling overwhelmed and rushed but not accomplishing much. I have no idea where to begin. – Time is Getting Away
Better Mentoring of Your Grad Students
Dear Faculty Relations: I am overwhelmed by one of the many new (to me) aspects of this job. I’m in my second year in my tenure-track position and am now primary advisory to two doctoral students, one in their first year and one in their third. I feel like I was JUST in their shoes (and, really, I was, having gone straight from completing my Ph.D. to my current position). I understand that this is not unusual, but I’m feeling pretty lost and want to do a good job. Can you share some tips? – Advisee to Advisor Flip
Dear Faculty Relations: What is meant by holding a coaching discussion with staff? How can I be an effective supervisor? – Effective Supervisor
Dear Faculty Relations: What do you wish you had known earlier in your career about being a leader? I'd appreciate hearing from our deans. – Looking for Advice
Dear Faculty Relations: There seems to be a rapid change in the number of students using different pronouns, such as they, them, theirs, or xe, xem, xeirs. These pronouns sound out of place, and I wonder about their grammatical correctness. How should I address students in my classes who have made requests to use such pronouns? – What is Up With Pronouns?
Dear Faculty Relations: With all the talk around the great resignation and re-evaluation, I'm worried about those around me either leaving or being disengaged in their work.
How do we keep our people? - Fearful of the Great Resignation
Dear Faculty Relations: Sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I am doing, and it is only a matter of time until I am "found out". What can I do? – Feel like a Fake
Dear Faculty Relations: I was elected as the department chair last spring and began on July 1. While I am very excited to lead the department and positively impact our faculty, students, and staff, I have some concerns keeping me up at night. I am worried about the role of our outgoing chair, a full professor with a strong personality and connections both within and outside the university. I am also an associate professor in our department with aspirations to go up for promotion to full. Do you have any advice for me? - Worried Incoming Chair
Dear Faculty Relations: I was beyond excited when I received a job offer for a tenure-track faculty position here at CU last winter. It was my top choice, the culmination of years of work, the entry point to my dream career, and the perfect motivator for completing my dissertation on time! Well, I've moved my family across the country; I'm trying to manage all the logistics of the move, settling in, and starting 1) a new job and 2) my first (and hopefully for the foreseeable future) tenure-track position. I'm so overwhelmed; honestly, I'm not even sure what my questions are! - I'm Here, Now What
Dear Faculty Relations: We spent months recruiting and hiring a new faculty member. Now that they have arrived, I’m not sure what is important to do next to make sure we can retain them. – The Chair Who Values New Hires
Dear Faculty Relations: As the semester begins, how should I approach creating a great classroom experience for my class and fostering a sense of belonging? I hear that a sense of belonging is positively associated with academic success and motivation. - Caring Faculty
Dear Faculty Relations: I just completed my employee's year-end review. Is it already the start of the new performance cycle? What should I do? How do I plan? - Planner
Dear Faculty Relations: HELP! I’m in my third year in a tenure-track position and am freaking out. For the past two summers, I’ve had big plans for writing. I’ve fallen short each summer, and when I heard those July 4th fireworks, I thought, “Here we go again.” At the same time, I’m still exhausted from the past academic year. How can I manage the competing goals of finding time to recover (I have young children, so “me time” is limited) while keeping up with my writing to be “on track” for reappointment? - Save My Summer
Staff Evaluations: Year-end Evaluation
Dear Faculty Relations: I know performance reviews have to be done next month for my university staff and research faculty. What does a successful year-end review look like? - Anxious Supervisor
Dear Faculty Relations: I think I may be burning out. I have noticed that my physical energy levels are not quite the same as they used to be. It is a struggle to stay asleep at night, which makes waking up a challenge, and I feel my energy levels remain sluggish throughout the day. On top of that, I find myself with a shorter fuse than usual and making silly mistakes in my writing, teaching, and other work. I think stress might be the culprit, but the demands of life make it challenging to work on self-care, which only exacerbates my stress levels. I feel like I am caught in a loop. What do you suggest? – Burnt out
Conflicts of Interest and the Breakdown of Trust
Dear Faculty Relations: I currently chair a department with an outstanding reputation. We built our program by attracting faculty from the strongest departments in our field, including the department where I received my Ph.D. degree. This esteemed department has hired some of our PhDs, including one of my students.
Our department is currently engaged in a contentious search for a new colleague. Although we have an excellent applicant from this esteemed department, some of my colleagues are concerned that I, as Chair, may have a conflict of interest. As it turns out, the applicant's advisor is a former student of mine, perhaps the most brilliant student I have ever had the pleasure to teach. I trust my former student who says we should hire this applicant! What should I do? – Chair Who Knows Brilliance
Dear Faculty Relations: There has been headline news about the reckoning over office romances. Is it okay to date someone in my unit? - Interested in a relationship
Dear Faculty Relations: Why does it matter that the faculty in my unit complete the DEPA form? What can I say to sway them of its importance? - Compliance Weary
Dear Faculty Relations: I often find myself spending more hours on my work and research than what is even expected of me from my department. This has created some problems at home—I feel distracted or less available to my family and friends. Is there something that can be done? – Stretched Too Thin
Dear Faculty Relations: I’m both excited and nervous about my new position as the Department Chair. What can I do to help myself and my department thrive? – New Academic Leader
Creating Collaborative Classroom Norms
Dear Faculty Relations: I’ve had students make ignorant comments during class. How do I deal with microaggressions and other problems I see happening in my classroom and manage discussions about sensitive or difficult topics? – Teachable Moments
Dear Faculty Relations: I am an associate professor, and I have been at this rank for over a decade now. In my case, I have been asked repeatedly to serve in administrative roles, such as the department’s associate chair and later as the department chair. I haven’t had enough time to pursue my research. I suspect other faculty members, particularly BIPOC and women faculty members, are in a similar boat with increased service loads or other responsibilities and circumstances, which prevent them from meeting the standards for promotion to full. Are we all destined to be career associate professors? – Stuck in Associate Land
Protecting Your Job: The Family Medical Leave Act – What’s in it for me?
Dear Faculty Relations: I need to take some time off to deal with my health issues. Why do I need leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if I am a tenured/tenure-track faculty member? How is it in my best interest to file for leave under the FMLA when I have accrued sick leave? What happens if I need to be out past the 12-week FMLA entitlement? – Needing time off
Overwhelmed with Service Responsibilities
Dear Faculty Relations: I am a junior faculty member on the tenure track. I will be coming up for tenure in three years. My department is attentive to spreading service assignments equitably among all faculty members; however, this year's service assignments are especially time-intensive. I have also agreed to serve on college-level committees and on committees for professional associations, which also require significant investments of my time. While I am committed to the goals of these service assignments and want to continue to do well as a teacher, I am concerned that this heavy service load, in conjunction with my teaching, will take time away from my research activities as I move closer to tenure. What should I do? – Service Scholar
Dear Faculty Relations: I find my department’s faculty meetings irksome. The chair never calls on those of us who are pre-tenured, and as a result, only the senior members of the department shape important policy decisions. My other junior colleagues say, “Why talk? Someone will hold it against you when you come up for tenure.” Are they right? I am frustrated at being seen but not heard. – Seen but not Heard
Complicity and the Chair: Maintaining a Positive Environment
Dear Faculty Relations: Several faculty members came to my office wringing their hands about the behavior of a colleague who frequently interrupts others, raises their voice, and bangs on the table during meetings. The faculty member is also known to be spiteful, having tanked a person’s tenure years ago; others are afraid to speak up. They aren’t alone, I’ve witnessed this and have felt the same way, and I don’t want to deal with it. For our new faculty coming to their first meetings, this behavior feels particularly threatening and intimidating. I know this colleague well and understand the newish faculty fright, but I am used to it and would rather not engage. I checked the personnel files, and there are no notes that any supervisor has ever reported or dealt with this behavior before, even though it has gone on for a long time. I want to let it go. – Uncomfortable Chair
Dear Faculty Relations: An untenured faculty member came up to me (I am a tenured, full professor in the department) with concerns about the shifting nature of the department culture, the unwritten rules for how decisions are to be made. They told me they had been quietly waiting for three years to access a parking spot near the building they work in and believed they were next in line for one. Instead, the nearby parking spot was assigned to a newly hired faculty member. They then asked me to advocate for them. How do I support my untenured colleague? And how do we navigate these unwritten rules? – Supportive Full Professor
"The PRD is history. The PRR is where it’s at.”
Dear Faculty Relations: What is the difference between the PRD versus the PRR? – Lost in the Alphabet Soup
TA/GPTI Professionalism is Faculty Professionalism
Dear Faculty Relations: A faculty member reported a student in violation of the Honor Code and shared emails and a zoom recording as part of the supporting documents. I was dismayed to learn the TA screamed at the student and described the student as a sociopath to another colleague. Does the PRD apply to graduate students too? – TA Supervisor
"Primum non tacere. First, do not be silent."
Dear Faculty Relations: The same people bully and dominate our meetings. Everyone knows they are problematic, yet at meetings, everyone is silent. How do we speak up? - Silent
Dear Faculty Relations: I was told that a faculty member acted unprofessionally. I’m the Supervising Administrator. I checked out the allegation and found it was true. What next? How do I sanction? - Sanctioner
Dear Faculty Relations: Our department has a tenured full professor who doesn’t show up to meetings, which results in other faculty having to take up the slack. I don’t know what to do when this person doesn’t do their job. Can I hold them accountable? - Accountable
Dear Faculty Relations: Dealing with faculty members who are not respectful or collegial, whether in meetings or over email, overwhelms me. I know it’s my job, but I’m not very good at handling confrontational interactions. How can I address this? - Conflict Avoidant
Dear Faculty Relations: What can I do about a faculty member who doesn’t respond to emails or submit required activity reports, like FRPA or DEPA? I email reminders; they say they’ll get around to it but don’t. Sometimes they also ignore my emails. I have more urgent matters to attend to, and besides I resent having to baby-sit adults, so I let it go. Should I? - Fed Up
Dear Faculty Relations: An untenured faculty member came to me with concerns that a senior faculty advisor bullies them. How do I resolve this? - Stuck in the Middle
No Mask and Too Close for Comfort
Dear Faculty Relations: I received a report of a professor wearing only a face shield with no face mask and had his face shield lifted above his mouth during class. Also, he walked within three feet of several students while teaching. What can I do? - Too Close for Comfort
Insights from John P. Frazee, Former Director of Faculty Relations, University of Colorado Boulder
Why We Can't Just Get Along In this essay, John Frazee explains why academics sometimes struggle to maintain good working relationships.
Don't Hit Send Until You Read This John Frazee takes on one of the biggest sources of conflict: email.
New Kid on the Block Being the new kid on the block -- a junior faculty member newly arrived on campus -- presents multiple challenges you’ll need to manage to lay the foundation for a successful career. John Frazee offers some advice.
The Old New Kid on the Block Joining a new institution as a senior faculty member or administrator presents many challenges. John Frazee offers some advice for managing them.
A Different Kind of Career Capstone Forging a different path in academia, John Frazee discusses the importance of conflict management and resolution as an academic leader.
"Bullying": How Helpful Is the Term? John Frazee speaks to the importance of using appropriate terms to describe inappropriate behavior, in an effort to avoid diverting attention from real issues in the workplace.
"Wicked" Colleagues John Frazee discusses parallels between the Broadway hit “Wicked” and what value can be found in hearing all sides of a story.
Advice from a Veteran Chair A chair with years of experience offers candid reflections and advice on the role.
Listening is a Difficult (and Essential) Leadership Skill A neuroscientist explains the difference between hearing and listening.
Miscommunication John Frazee shares thoughts on miscommunication, misunderstanding, and curiosity.
What's an Apology? John Frazee offers definitions and examples of what is (and is not) an apology.