Diane Maleson Loves Her Job!
A Conversation with the Senior Vice President for Faculty Development and Faculty Affairs
Recently we went over to the 3rd Floor of Conwell Hall to talk with Diane Maleson. Diane is well known to veteran faculty. In 1972 she started teaching at the Law School. She served for twenty years as the Editor of the American Journal of Legal History, a leading journal in her field.
During Professor Maleson’s years at Temple she has held many administrative positions. In the Law School she served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, as Vice Dean and for a year and a half as Acting Law Librarian. She also served on and chaired the Faculty Recruitment, Curriculum and Administrative Committees. At the university level, she was Vice Provost for Faculty from 1993 to 2001. In that capacity she oversaw the tenure and promotion process and served as a faculty advocate. She also was responsible for implementing procedures for merit, research and study leaves, contract renewals and other aspects of the Provost’s portfolio relating to faculty. She also chaired the President’s Faculty Affirmative Action Committee and was active in a task force that ultimately led to the recommendation that the Tyler School of Art move to the Main Campus. Professor Maleson has also been active in service to the university. She was twice the Law School’s representative to the Faculty Senate Steering Committee and sat for several years on the Human Subjects Committee at the Health Sciences Center. She has also served on various Presidential task forces and special committees.
Faculty Herald: How did the position of Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Faculty Affairs come into being?
During the 1980s faculty became interested in having a dedicated position for faculty issues in the Provost’s office. So it was a response to faculty concerns. The developmental component was added later, by Provost Lisa Staiano-Coico.
Faculty Herald: How did you decide you were interested in the position?
In the late 1980’s there was a change in the Law School administration. As editor of the American Journal of Legal History, I had been given a two credit course release. When I was questioned about the release time I said I would see if there was some university policy for editors of scholarly journals. After several attempts to get an answer to what seemed like a reasonable request, I was unable to find anyone to respond to my question. I remember thinking there has to be a better way. When this job was posted, I thought I want to be the person who answers questions and seeks out solutions if I don’t know the answer. That’s why I applied for the job and why I reapplied when it came open again in 2008.
Faculty Herald: Why do you think that the Law School has been a notably cvollegial as well as successful place over the last several decades?
One reason is that Peter Liacouras as dean created a sense of community while recruiting people of vastly different backgrounds.
Faculty Herald: You’ve said repeatedly that you “love this job.” What about the job appeals so much, and has seemed a good fit?
Certainly being a lawyer has been a big help. That has helped me to know when I can address a problem and when I need to consult university counsel. We have a really close relationship. I have also developed relationships with the deans that facilitate my ability to address the needs of individual faculty members, as well as matters of university policy where there is ambiguity. As a lawyer I expect ambiguity: no written policies are perfect, or eliminate the need for careful consideration and adjustment. Sometimes a dean will send a faculty member my way – form example, in relation to contract extensions for one-year contracts, and also about interpreting language in faculty contracts.
Observing different management styles is one of the fascinating things about the job. Schools differ, often because disciplines differ.
Faculty Herald: Are there any notable trends in matters of promotion, tenure, or merit as policies and procedures have developed in recent years?
We used to have several tenure and promotion appeals per year: now we usually have none or one at most. I think it’s because we have become clearer about expectations, better at mentoring, and at third year reviews, especially in underlining the strengths and weaknesses of faculty members as they are developing. In the past, in my first stint in the job I found that faculty sometimes had difficulty delivering bad news when a pre-tenure candidate had problems. Failure to communicate expectations in a clear way is harmful to the candidate. But folks can’t walk on water in year five and be denied tenure in year six.
As far as merit is concerned, there are differences in philosophy. As you know, In some schools and departments, it is widely distributed; elsewhere, it tends to be large amounts given to a few individuals. It’s been pretty much left to the deans.
Faculty Herald: What do faculty need to know that they sometimes do not know about your office?
I have often told folks at Temple that “there is no mire into which I will not wade.” I am also comfortable making decisions. I have an open door policy. There is always someone to answer the phone in my office. You can always call or send an email.
Last year we had a series of brown bag lunches with faculty in particular schools. As a way for us to get to know folks we don’t know already. We expect to do more of those this year. •