Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Meanings of Titles

So, I'm now chair of the department -- do not congratulate me, do NOT congratulate me. This is not a promotion. This is not gaining power or authority. With any organization there is crap work, not busy work, but detail work that needs to get done so things can happen and the chair is the person who makes sure that stuff is completed. It is not a position of vision or power. I don't control the department. I just stand in on behalf of it when someone has to, when e-mails need answering, when meetings need attending, when forms need signing, schedules and budgets need working out, etc. The point simply is that this is stuff somebody needs to do and it's now my turn.

But for some reason (probably because chairs did run the department under the old European model of the university), people give the position a sense of importance beyond what it really deserves. And that is what gives rise to my question. I've noticed that other colleagues who chair their departments make that clear in their e-mail signature. I've been thinking about it, but am uncomfortable with it. It seems a bit arrogant, as if I'm claiming some prestige I don't really deserve. At the same time, it could be useful in making clear that I'm the person to contact with questions or concerns about the department. But then that information would be easy enough to find, should it be needed.

So, should "chair" appear in my sig or not?