Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Uncollegial Colleague: My New Hero

I went googling for the dead dean joke that Samantha posted, and I found one damned sweet academic article, instead: "Collegiality and the Academy" by Joseph R. Urgo. In addition to briefly referencing the dean joke, Urgo shares his experiences as a former department chair during the employment of a particularly brilliant but uncollegial colleague.

And, honestly? Based on the quotes he offers--in which the uncollegial colleague basically makes smackdown part of her daily routine--she is my new hero.

My two favorite excerpts:
"These students are stupid," the second-year assistant professor told me. "I do not see why I must wait for them in office hours." I was the newly appointed department chair. What this assistant professor had done was to create an "appointments only" office hour policy.
The renegade assistant professor had spoken many of our unspeakable thoughts. She told one senior member of the department, "I do not think I should have to explain things to students individually in my office after I have adequately covered the material in class." To a committee chair she said, "I wish to be removed from this committee assignment on the grounds that the business it is conducting bears no relevance to my research or to my intellectual interests." In discussing a classroom observation, she informed me that "My classroom should not be observed by someone whose intellectual capacities are beneath my own." And as to why she missed department meetings? "At the department meeting, which I strongly prefer not to attend, why is it that we must listen patiently to such nonsense from people who have no right to speak because they have fallen into incompetence, if indeed they were ever competent to start?"

I'm swooning. It must be love.


  1. p.s. The paragraph in which the dead dean joke is situated is equally awesome:

    >> The war stories in Departments of English are legion, so much so that English is a favorite subject of that genre of humor known as the Dean's joke. There's one about the Dean who was sent to Hell for his misdemeanors, Hell being a place where there are two English Departments. Strife in English may be particularly acute because its faculty are so articulate and its storehouse of malignant references so munificent. Mathematicians, biologists, political scientists—these disciplines do not lend themselves to such polished malignancy. This is not to say that these faculty members cannot be uncivil, only that their departures from civility are less inclined to be so memorable, so entertaining to onlookers, and thus so irreparable. At a job early in my career, before email had made its way to Divisions of Humanities, the Dean removed the copy machine from the Department of English because faculty were writing, copying, and disseminating too many memos. The situation came about when one faction called a moratorium on "unsanctioned discourse," by which was meant conversation about department matters in hallways, private offices, public streets, restrooms—in fact, anywhere other than at recorded department meetings (of which there were none) or on paper. And so every morning the memos appeared in mailboxes, accusations flying, sources cited. By the time I arrived, the photocopier was gone and the mimeograph machine had been resurrected from a closet. Mornings were marked by the rhythmic thumping of mimeo-media and the fine smell of that old blue ink. I was not there long enough to know how it turned out, or who won, or even if winning was what anyone had in mind.<<

    Two thumbs up!

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  3. Listen, Dr. Snarky -

    I've enjoyed your posts in the past, but that won't stop me from wrestling you for the lovechild of this "Uncollegial Colleague." =) I too, swoon for him. ... Oh yeah, I'm married. Fine, you can have him. But I want to be his disciple!!

    Honestly, though - I agree with 90% of his arguments. It's too bad we're forced to lie to one another all day at work, isn't it?

  4. I am delighted that U. C. is a woman, because in my experience women get to say this stuff even less than men. (I have been told more than once that I have a "big mouth" and that such a thing is " a woman." Go, South!)

  5. I'm not enamored of the renegade colleague at all. The summary of her attitude is "I refuse to do anything related to my job that isn't relevant to me personlly, or that I don't want to do."

    You explain things individually, asshole, because students learn at different rates, and some of them aren't as smart as the others, and they need to work harder, and they may need your help doing it. This doesn't mean that you are required to give your lecture again to those students that didn't attend; this means that if a student attends, pays attention, and needs extra help, you fucking give it to them.

    You have to serve on committees, asshole, because the business of the university needs to be done, and if every faculty member abdicated, the administration would just arbitrarily decide everything from tenure to curricular issues. So what if it isn't interesting to you? You think the rest of us like it? Sit your entitled, selfish ass down and do your fucking work.

    And who decides that the person observing you is not up to your intellectual standards? You? That sounds fair. Did it ever occur to you that you perhaps are not as smart as you think you are? Or that other people might have something to teach you?

    Asshole, asshole, asshole.

  6. Stella, I was wondering if I'd been the only one with that response. No amount of rock star brilliance from an assistent professor is worth the attitude.

  7. I agree, UC is an asshole. I would even go so far as asshat. Unless she really is as brilliant as she thinks she is, she needs a good dose of reality upside the head. And how is she to determine who is intellectually capable of evaluating her? By the number of papers published? By their ability to be haughty?

    On the other hand, perhaps if everyone opted out of some of the committees, they would wither on the vine and die.

    But I generally don't care for condescing attitudes from anyone, especially since most of the very smartest people I know do not behave this way. If Einstein and Hawking can be decent human beings, what right does UC have for her nose in the stratosphere?

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  9. She's a total fucktard, I'd say, or did we decide we couldn't use that word anymore? Frankly, the UC is a symptom of how the university got so fucked so quickly in the last couple of decades. It is precisely the fact that so many people chose to cop the same bullshit, me-first, you all suck attitude as she did that the administrators took over all the core functions and started hiring adjuncts, imposing outcome-oriented teaching assessments, and proliferating the customer service oriented mentality that we all now lament.

    I guaran-fucking-tee you that while they might publicly lament her big mouth, that privately a lot of administrators consider the UC their wet dream of a disengaged proffie. Why? Because they know that she won't give half-a-fuck that they are gutting the university, because, after all, it has nothing to do with her research interests.

    Well, I hope her research interests include where to find a new career when they take her fucking tenure away in the name of cost control--assuming she got it. And I hope she doesn't have the guts to complain when that happens, because she not only will have done it to herself, she will have done to all of her friends and colleagues too.

    So she can go screw herself in my book.

  10. I was on board through "appointment only office hours". The rest made me bristle, but particularly the committee part. The crap that has to get done isn't on ANYONE's interest list. Someone still has to do it.

  11. If you let her shoot stupid students with a Tokarev pistol, can she still avoid the committees? I mean, as far as I've seen, everybody in Adjuctland bends over and takes it right out of the gate, but this woman is not willing to play the pointless games the tenured play with the n00bs.

  12. It's odd, though ... I know so many brilliant assistant profs who are scared shitless of ever saying no to anything because tenure seems such a scarce commodity.

    I bet UC went to ... no, I won't say it.

  13. I can't remember but on RYS there was a word for this sort of prof--a unicorn or a sparkly unicorn or sumthin'?

    Perhaps because of the piss-poor job market the unicorns will stop being so...unicorny. Plus some of them may actually have to take jobs at (GASP!) colleges with more than a 2-2 load, that don't give them a year off before tenure.

    Come teach here at Deep South Shithole U, unicorn. We'll take a saw to that pointy thing sticking out of you right quick.

    And after that we'll cut off your horn, too.

  14. Wanna know the funny part?

    Most of y'all bitching about what a crank UC is are actually her twins!

    Hypocrites, all of you. You are probably so clueless that many people find your arrogance just as disdainful. You'd probably wither under UC's vicious defiance of your self-important magnificence.


    And the term was Gumdrop Unicorn. And you are one!

  15. Hold it - if she is arrogant, and the people here are arrogant, would that not mean that the Laws of Assholism* would come into effect and everybody would repel everybody else? And would you, Babbling Brook, not also be enveloped in the Asshole Field because you called everybody on their dickishness?


    * Like eletromagnetism, but for personalities. Like Asshole Fields repel, unlike Fields attract. No, I'm not wring a paper about this.

  16. "My classroom should not be observed by someone whose intellectual capacities are beneath my own."

    Classic case of "illusory superiority." People who are of below average intelligence are more likely to believe they are above average intelligence, whereas people who are above average intelligence are more likely to believe they are below average.

  17. Hey Brooky,
    I'm an asshole, but I'm not a hypocrite. I do my service, go to senate meetings and push back against the deans, and I get my research done. But then I'm one of those silverbacks, not a gumdrop unicorn.

    But hey, tell us what fucksticks we are for pointing out that UC is a serious problem. Do you have a TT job? Or are you one of the many adjuncts, freeway fliers, grad students, and other members of the contingent labor force who come to this site? If that's you, then save your self-righteous little hissy fit for the one who deserves it: UC. Because as I said before, you're the one she's hurting. On a personal level I could give a fuck what her major malfunction is. I'm only pissed off because her major-league laziness coupled with her incredibly inflated self-image (because let's call it what it is), is hurting the whole university system.

    Archie the Asshole.

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