Thursday, April 11, 2013

Collegiality and in-house comparisons

In general, I've had very positive feedback from my colleagues about this blog, both from colleagues at my university and from those who work elsewhere. One reply, though, gave me real concern, and I've been thinking hard about it ever since. In part, that's why I slowed down my posting again, just when I'd started to develop something of a rhythm.

The objection was really that in discussing differences between academic units on campus, I was myself escalating whatever factionalism might already exist between the units, and weakening the cross-department collegiality that's the only thing encouraging all of us to speak on behalf of units other than my own. When I compared the teaching loads for History and English, for example, it was suggested that I was undermining the relationship between these two departments.

And this wasn't my intent. I don't think that's what the post did, either, but clearly at least one thoughtful person thought that it did. In consequence, I've decided it makes sense to clarify my views about collegiality, data, and differences between academic units (taking "academic units" in the broadest possible sense to mean departments, faculties, employment categories, whole universities, and really any possible community of interest within the postsecondary sector).

Fundamentally, I assume that genuine collegiality is the basis for every principled question or comment about some aspect of postsecondary educational institutions. That's not to say that we should all hold hands all the time (here's someone else, somewhere else, talking interestingly about collegiality's challenges): disagreement is extremely valuable within a collegial environment.

An academic institution needs to be operated along principles that support its academic mission. I can't believe that this needs to be said (hi, Tom Lukaszuk!), but there you go.