The Academia has a tension between its strong egalitarian instinct and the academic rank. On one hand, once you're hooded, you join a community of equals; you have proven your worth. On the other hand, just like with any other job, it takes years and years to learn how to be a good university professor. And because those jobs are not trivial, and demand a lot of effort and experience, the hood itself does not guarantee one is good at it yet. It does not guarantee one knows one's limits.
In some universities, rank is very important – full professors run the show and often enjoy tangible privileges, such as better schedules, easier loads, etc. Our School is a lot more egalitarian place – we agreed that seniority should not create privilege, and we are supposed to rotate all burdens and perks. The UNC's policy is also quite egalitarian: assistant professors can vote on promotion to full professor. It is a real strength, because we are more inclusive, and junior faculty are less likely to feel alienated or excluded from decision-making (That's my hope anyway, and junior faculty may feel differently). However, I now realize there is also a weakness to this system. We don't have a good mechanism of making qualification decisions: who can and who cannot teach certain courses; who should start advising doctoral students when; who can define what a program's philosophy should be? I am certainly not in a position to make many of those decisions. We have a pecking order spelled out in our Charter, but it does not always work as we have more inter-disciplinary programs, and as course prefixes make less and less sense as turf markers.
I think we make reasonably good decisions most of the time. But sometimes I hear people questioning each other's qualifications – in private, of course. And regardless of whether I agree or disagree with those judgments, there does not seem to be a clear way of resolving such conflicting claims. It looks like more senior faculty should have more say in it, but how do we make it a reasonably fair and reasonably transparent process without hurting each other's feelings needlessly? Do we create a committee? Do I solicit informal opinions? How do we resolve disagreements? How do we remain rational, and above personal likes-dislikes? How do we help people grow, rather than create permanent divisions between more and less powerful?
Perhaps we should have adjudicating committees, consisting of at least three people: the program coordinator, and the two most senior professors with the appropriate expertise? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.