Here are 20 ways deans can say "No" that can serve as a stay against requests you don't want to entertain:
- We didn't budget for that.
- Maybe if we get a grant we can do that.
- The President won't go for it.
- The Trustees won't like it.
- The accreditation Standards won't allow for that.
- It's not in the by-laws.
- There's no room for that in the course rotation schedule.
- We don't have the right size faculty to do that.
- We don't have a large enough student FTE for that.
- We'd have to hire more staff for that.
- The Faculty committee that would need to handle that no longer exists.
- The Faculty Manual (or Academic Manual, or Personnel Manual) may not allow that; I'll have to check.
- That does not fall within the degree program goals.
- We don't have a rubric for that.
- Can you draw up a proposal for that?
- That will put you over the teaching load.
- It's in the budget, but we don't have the money.
- Let's wait till after the curriculum revision is done.
- Let's wait till after the accreditation visit is over.
- I think we need to leave that for the next dean.
Despite the tongue-in-cheek list, saying no isn't always easy, but it is often necessary. Sometimes we fear people won't like our decision. Other times we fear people won't like us> because of our decision. But both are beside the point in the job deans must do. Deans are stewards of a wide ranging area within their institutions, covering multiple facets with limited resources. Few in the organization have the vantage of position that gives them the capacity to see how saying "yes" to one thing impacts other areas in positive and/or potentially negative ways. For deans, saying "No" just comes with the job.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean, Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. With Rebecca Slough he led the 2013-2014 Wabash Colloquy for Theological School Deans. Galindo serves on the Advisory Committee of the Wabash Center and is available as consultant through the Center in the areas of curriculum development and assessment, leadership, and teaching and learning in theological education.