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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Collegiality

Collegiality is a sticky issue, because if two people don't see eye-to-eye, which of them is being uncollegial? A lot of us have intense, difficult personalities, might not be naturally easy people to get along with. When conflicts arise, it is hard to know who is to blame (for example, between two people who are both somewhat difficult.) There might also be legitimate differences in opinion / ideology that make things more difficult, or difficult work conditions. If the administration puts the squeeze on a department, some might react by siding with the administration, while others might legitimately resent them for that. I have friends in various departments who don't like other friends of mine, even when all parties concerned are dedicated professionals. I also don't know if I would be as good friends with certain people if I shared a working space with them.

The problem with using collegiality as a criterion for promotion is that the largest burden should fall on the senior colleagues. In other words, if a junior colleague is perceived as uncollegial, often that is in reaction against treatment by the senior colleagues. They shouldn't be able to mistreat the person and then turn around in call the same person uncollegial for fighting back. I remember that feeling that the senior colleagues are not on your side, and since I got tenure I've tried very hard not to be that guy. I am still in the position of judging the untenured people, and every one knows it, but usually if a senior colleague positive then junior people will not go out of their way to make enemies.

In short: the senior colleagues should set the tone. Some conflict should be expected; not everyone is going to like everyone else. You shouldn't take sides in other departments unless you have an extremely good sense of what's actually going on.

8 comments:

Andrew Shields said...

Was this motivated by a particular current situation? No details necessary, I'm just curious.

*

"They shouldn't be able to mistreat the person and then turn around in call the same person uncollegial for fighting back."

That's a bit like how whites used to call any black "uppity" who demonstrated any resentment about his "position."

The "uppity" assistant professor? I'm suddenly imagining the worst possible situation for this: a white full professor calls a black assistant professor "uppity" ...

Jonathan said...

Not a current situation, but one in the distant past. I was also thinking, though, more indirectly, about the Alberto Moreiras reaction to the Antonio Calvo case: a lecturer at Princeton who killed himself after his contract wasn't renewed.

profacero said...

I've had some bad senior colleagues in my day but in terms of rudeness the most outrageous have been junior, and relatively recent. Doing things that I'd take action on if a full did them, but since they were new and assistant, I feel mean doing anything that could hundir some poor untenured person.

For example: one called me at home to complain about one of the fulls. Said she was too ugly to be raped but I wasn't. I got caller ID. Then it turned out he called another woman on the faculty near midnight to scream at her about his dissatisfactions. I told him talk to the chair about your problems. He said, I can't, in front of men I have to look good.

What I have to say about this is -- if that's how someone acts when they're brand new, can you imagine what they'll be like later?!

profacero said...

Oh, also we had one who turned out to be a crackhead!!! Caused various types of trouble, including sexual harassment. This got smoothed over by the U until finally one of the TAs called the city, not the university police. He got out of that one, and we got rid of him at 3d year review on collegiality grounds. Was good publisher though and got better job; died there of drug overdose.

[On both of these I am changing some details to protect the guilty and the innocent - and realize, I work in two departments and have had more than one job, so you don't know what places I am talking about.]

Jonathan said...

Well that's foolhardy, because people can just vote against them. I really don't understand it.

profacero said...

...that having been said: male fulls call me uncollegial because I do have expertise and do fight back and can win. It has never made for a comfortable life, though, and it is why I dislike academia.

profacero said...

...people can't vote against them if the administration decides that, since people will do that on collegiality, their case should be reviewed by a special committee and not the whole department.

profacero said...

Also, it's not necessarily foolhardy to act that way if you only do it in front of women and you make strong alliances with the men.