[EAS]Collegiality & New Faculty

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Jul 26 01:33:55 EDT 2000

Mail*Link® SMTP               Collegiality & New Faculty

Dear Colleagues -

Encouragement on a topic sometimes given inadequate attention.



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The excerpt below is from: The Department Chair's Role in Developing 
New Faculty Into Teachers  and Scholars, by Estela Mara Bensimon, 
Kelly Ward, Karla Sanders, Anker Publishing  Company, Inc. Bolton, MA 
(pp. 123-25). In it, Professor Anna Neumann of Michigan State 
University, offers advice to department chairs on helping newcomers 
develop a greater sense of colleagueship, a term with a different 
meaning than collegiality. Copyright 2000 by Anker Publishing 
Company, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis
reis at stanford.edu
UP NEXT: Living and Studying Together

	      ------------ 1,060 words --------------


A Letter from Professor Anna Neumann

Collegiality is a much misunderstood word, and the expectations it 
raises, while admirable, can be unrealistic. Collegiality, in its 
conventional use, refers to the ideals of faculty life-professors 
collectively and harmoniously engaged in the pursuit of knowledge,
the crafting of curriculum, and  the planning of teaching programs.
While the inhabitants of this  idealized world don't always agree,
they rely on reasoned discussion  with peers and sage advice from
"elders" to resolve the differences  of opinion that emerge.
Consensus rules in this collegial world.

I would argue that wishes for collegiality are, for the most part, 
just wishes, and that collegiality, while remaining an important 
ideal in academe is just that. In real life, professors are more 
likely to strive for collegiality than to achieve it. While 
collaboration exists, so does strife, an aspect of faculty life
that  the word "collegiality" does not pick up very well. To
describe  faculty relations as faculty members experience
them-helpful,  hurtful, and inconsequential-I prefer the word
colleagueship because  it brings forth both positive and negative
aspects of faculty  relations. Collegiality focuses mostly on the
positive that we wish  for.

But if we take the word colleagueship as our point of departure,
what  do we see? And what are the implications of what we see for 
department chairs working with pre-tenure faculty? Let me
reiterate:  Colleagueship, as I'm using it, refers to the range of
relationships  that may exist among professors-from friendship to
contentiousness,  from close and regular engagement to alienation,
and everything in  between. If you're a department chair who would
like to enhance new  faculty members' experiences of colleagueship,
what might you do? Let  me begin with some perspectives.

First, when junior faculty enter an institution and department for 
the first time, they are entering a web of well-established (though
 sometimes shifting) relationships, some positive, some negative, 
others neutral. These new faculty are, in essence,
strangers-formally  in the door of the department, yet outside the
ebb and flow of its  internal, colleague-based relationships. This
colleagueship, whatever  its quality, is, for the most part, not
reflected in the university's  bureaucratic structure, including
its departments. For example, that  a group of people belong to a
particular department does not mean  they agree, understand,
support, or even know each other or each  others work. A new
faculty member, especially one just out of  graduate school, may be
unaccustomed to-even unaware of-the ambiguity  and discord of
departmental life.

Second, a new faculty member is likely to be engaged in the
crafting  of her or his scholarly agenda, including the program of
work that  will inform her/his research and reaching for years to
come. This  person is probably learning in the best sense of the
word. The  relationships that she or he forms in the new department
are likely  to affect that learning, and importantly, what she or
he becomes as a  scholar and teacher. Thus while the new
professor's scholarly values  and interests arc central to her/his
work, the colleagueship that  this person finds herself or himself
in can be very formative. For  these reasons, the colleague-based
relationships that a new faculty  member makes-or stumbles into-can
be crucial. How might department  chairs help? Here are some
thoughts derived from my own writing on  this subject.

1. Introductions and announcements that a new colleague has arrived
 are never enough. Help a new faculty member make substantive 
connections to campus-based colleagues who are working in areas 
related to the newcomer's expertise and/or interests. This is 
something you, as chair, should consider doing continuously for the
 newcomer during her/his early years on campus. For one thing, the
new  faculty member's interests may just be emerging, or it may
take you a  while to understand those interests in relation to the
work that  others on campus do. Inform established colleagues about
the  newcomer's interests in ways that will help them see the
connections  to their own work. Such links are not always
immediately obvious.

2. Provide opportunities for junior faculty members to get to know 
each other as colleagues and friends. While competitiveness does 
sometimes grow among untenured peers, this need not be the case.
The  friendship that grows among junior faculty can grow into good 
colleagueship in the middle and senior years of their careers. 
Actively discourage competitiveness. One way to do this is to 
evaluate peers only in reference to their own accomplishments and
not  in comparison to each other. Another suggestion is to
emphasize  publicly the unique identities of junior faculty-for
example, as  reflected in their work-as opposed to speaking of them
in ways that  make them appear interchangeable. This is
particularly important when  the peers themselves are different
from the majority of their senior  colleagues-for example, two
women or two ethnic minorities in a  traditionally all-male
department. While emphasizing the uniqueness  of individuals, you
might simultaneously applaud their efforts to  work together in
reaching, research, curriculum development, or other  projects.

3. Introduce new faculty to departmental colleagues, but don't stop
 here. Help them get to know colleagues with related interests in 
other departments as well.

4. While junior faculty are often advised to avoid excessive 
committee commitments, some committee service that brings new 
professors into contact with other faculty (who might become future
 collaborators) can be a good thing. Help the new faculty member 
choose committee service that makes sense. But consider the other 
side of the coin as well: Discourage the newcomer's service on 
committees that are excessively politically entangled or that may 
draw the newcomer (unknowingly) into longstanding difficulties. 
However, alerting the newcomer about those difficulties is not a
bad  idea. Some department chairs may believe they are shielding
newcomers  by not talking to them about the politics of the new
setting. Chances  are that if a newcomer doesn't hear about
departmental and  institutional troubles (including feuds and
alliances) from a senior  colleague, she or he will learn about
them the hard way-by falling  into them.

5. Be aware that a new faculty member is stepping into a stream of 
institutional conversation-institutional meaning-that has been in 
progress for a long time. Be prepared to help the newcomer decipher
 words and deeds that make little or no sense to her or him. I wish
 you, and those to whom your handbook is addressed, my best as
you-and  they-continue in efforts to illuminate and humanize the
experiences  of new faculty.


Anna Neumann
Associate Professor
Michigan State University

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