In the interests of FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm on the dean search committee at my school and this post is NOT about any specific dean candidate so no inferences should be drawn about any of these comments with respect to our dean search. Nevertheless, it has been in the context of participating in our dean search that I have started thinking more generally about the following issues.
It seems to me that in recent years, a number of law schools have moved away from appointing traditional academics as law deans (understandable, because the skill set isn't always obviously and immediately transferable between faculty member and dean). So we've seen law schools appoint business people, retired politicians, retired judges, practitioners, university counsel etc as deans.
What are the pros and cons of this approach? And what have those schools done about the tenure question? In other words, do non-traditional deans generally get (or are they required under university/school rules to get) tenure? If so, are they held to the same standards as more traditional academic dean candidates?
I can think of a handful of upsides and downsides on all these issues, but I'd really be interested in other people's thoughts and experiences. Some of my own thoughts - and NOT necessarily those of the CRWU dean search committee - are:
1/ A non-traditional dean brings new and different perspectives to the position and this may be particularly useful in challenging economic times, particularly if the dean's background is somehow connected with finance or business.
2/ However, a non-traditional dean may not truly understand the academic enterprise and may not have a good grasp of scholarship standards for appointment and tenure, for example. This could be difficult in terms of providing leadership in, say, the case of a split appointments or tenure vote.
3/ If the dean doesn't have/isn't required to have tenure, how does (s)he participate in faculty governance meaningfully on issues involving scholarship and tenure standards?
4/ On the plus side, a non-traditional dean with a lot of management experience may well be better at managing budgets and administrative staff than an academic who doesn't have much experience in those areas.
5/ A non-traditional dean may also be more likely to have solid fundraising experience, again depending on his/her background.
I'm sure there's a lot more issues I haven't thought of, and I should also disclose that our current interim dean is a practitioner who is doing a great job, so I'm certainly not advocating against the appointment of non-traditional deans. But I would be very interested in other people's thoughts and experiences on these issues.