Our law school has (soon to be had) an endowed professorship that was awarded (on a 5-year rotating basis) to a faculty member with an outstanding record of research and scholarship, consistent with the traditional role of endowed professorships and chairs. The money in the endowed fund has grown sufficiently to transform it from a "professorship" into the law school's very first endowed "chair." At the very same meeting that the faculty was informed of this positive development, we were also informed by the University's chief development officer that this new and first chair would be awarded to the dean, not to increase his salary but to augment his administrative line of funds for travel, fundraising, etc.--a move consistent with our university's persistent shift of more and more resources away from faculty and to administration. The endowed professorship--awarded to a faculty member--will expire as soon as the current holder's remaining term ends in two years.

The CDO maintained that it was usual to award the first chair to deans and not to faculty members, a statement that members of the faculty found to be ludicrous.

Is it usual anywhere else for chairs to be used more often for administrative support of the dean rather than to recognize, encourage, and support faculty academic research and scholarship?

  • 4
    Depends on the terms of the endowment, I expect, and the needs of the school...
    – keshlam
    Sep 5, 2014 at 19:07
  • 4
    I wonder what the endowment's donor would think about this... Sep 6, 2014 at 4:07
  • To synthesize both @keshlam and Nate Eldredge, is there legal recourse in the terms of the endowment itself? Even if not, is the entity that created the endowment still living? Perhaps they or their heirs or executors or whatever would be very interested in hearing about how their substantial gift is now being used in a way quite differently than it has been up to now. I guarantee that the university probably cares about ten times as much about what a donor thinks than what you think. (At least you ought to be able to get a spoof movie out of it called "Terms of Endowment").
    – msouth
    Sep 26, 2014 at 16:24

3 Answers 3


I only know how these things work in the natural sciences at R1 institutions, so my experiences might not be helpful for your institution.

However, at my university, both the current and former deans of natural sciences were given endowed chairs when they arrived: the (former) dean Daniel Carson (see here) is the Schlumberger Chair of Advanced Studies and Research and Professor of BioSciences, and the current dean Peter Rossky (see here) is the Harry C. & Olga K. Wiess Chair of Chemistry. As you can see from his webpage, Carson continued to run a lab and churn out great research while dean (he finished his position in the spring of 2014), and I expect that the same will be true for Rossky (he just arrived and doesn't have much of a web presence at Rice, but here is his former webpage). So it is not necessarily nefarious -- to hire really top-notch scientists into administrative positions, you have to offer them things.

But of course I have no idea what is going on at your university, and it could very well be a power play by the administration.


I have never heard of using an endowed chair to support administrative duties of a dean, but then again, I have never heard of a rotating endowed chair before. Many donors stipulate terms as to what their donations can be used for. It may be that some endowed chairs exist explicitly for supporting deans administrative duties, but I would think this is quite rare. While I would assume that your law school is not breaking any laws, they may be bending them. I would ask the CDO (whatever that is) for some evidence to back up their claim. You could probably gather evidence from within your university and other comparable universities to back up your belief that it is uncommon.


No. What you're seeing is an example of academic politics. An attempt to grab truth before anyone else can argue against it.

Many people who attempt such reptilian measures tend to "double-down" whenever they are questioned. Just persist and you'll see that they back off.

Then take charge. This is the kind of stuff that makes academia look ridiculous.

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