Excerpts from an interview with Dr. Veril Phillips and Dr. David Elliott, April 28, 2011, conducted by communication studies graduate student and UCCD graduate assistant Jessica Johnson.

Please contact Stephanie Coopman, stephanie.coopman@sjsu.edu, with any additions, corrections, and suggestions.

The University Council of Chairs and Directors began as the Association of Department Chairs. A chair or director could be a member, so the name was changed to the Association of Chairs and Directors. Later it became the University Council of Chairs and Directors. The group started around 1986. Several years later, Dr. Dennis Jaehne, Communication Studies, provided the energy behind the organization’s growth. He found funding for the group. Phillips became the liaison between the UCCD and California Faculty Association to provide a communication link between the two groups.

Some of the original members were the Chair of English- Jack Mick Otten, Chair of Social Sciences Wilson, College of Science and Meteorology Chair- Chi, Geology Chair John, Chair David Swartz, and Chair of Biology Lee Duros.

The meetings started as a way for chairs to learn from each other. They only met once or twice a semester. It was a way to figure out what it meant to be a chair. Originally members would get together to discuss teaching schedules and other problems in the department and issues from the president. Budget problems were discussed, particularly in the late 1980s. No radical changes were going on, but it gave a chair that would normally be all alone to have someone else to talk to. Some of the deans felt a little threatened, but most were okay with it.

The SJSU administration responded with some distain initially because they didn’t want the chairs to start something. Then over a few years administrators saw it as a way to reach the faculty. Like middle managers, chairs have very little authority and are still a faculty member. After the elected bargaining law came into being, administrators were concerned with the nature of the chair position and wanted chairs to be out of the bargaining unit. However, faculty wanted chairs in. Today chairs are in the faculty bargaining unit.

One reason a lot of people joined the UCCD was because 26 people lost their tenure. The faculty went on strike and there was a rule that if you do not work for five days you automatically resign. So the chairs got together to fight for them to get their tenure back.

Issues also helped rally the chairs together; the RTP process was a big issue at the time. Faculty had a review of 6 years before they get tenure, a permanent position, or promotions. That was the new RTP process and some reacted strongly against it. The policy was put into place without consultation with the chairs. The UCCD was successful in changing the policy within two years; they changed it to a two-year review.

Dr. Phillips had a unique view of the UCCD as the Vice President of Student Affairs. He saw the group as an important group to hear from. He only met with them once because he had enrollment management responsibilities. Overall, it felt good to have interdisciplinary connections.

The UCCD can provide a voice for all the chairs and directors at SJSU by commissioning members to write a letter and sign it by those members and send it to the provost and the senate. That is what they did about the RTP policy. The administration cannot ignore something like that. Chairs also can do lobbying about key issues and talk to their own deans in greater depth.