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« I don't understand... | Main | This Week's Acquisitions »

June 23, 2005

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Timothy Burke

I've written about this before, but the problem with the notion of a kind of reciprocal unfriendliness to uncollegial people is a side-effect of tenure. Namely, that at most institutions, odds are you're going to be spending a long time around the uncollegial person, with no way to avoid them. In fact, you're going to be in situations where your cooperation with that person is required. If the uncollegial person is at all adroit with institutional politics, they may in fact be able to cause you considerable grief if you just ignore them and go about your business.

This is no different than in any other workplace, except for the fact of tenure. Tenure means that there is virtually nothing that the other person can do which is so disruptive to the efficient functioning of the institution that they will lose their job as a consequence. It also means that your options, if that person is sufficiently destructive, are very limited. If you're a middle-manager with some transferable skills at a corporation and some ass is too grevious an annoyance, you can find another job. If you're a doctor and you find another doctor in your practice too frustrating, the same. A humanities professor, however, is pretty well stuck. If the uncollegial person is just a loner, or isolated, then it's not such a big deal. If the uncollegial person is a more ambitious manipulator, potentially a very big deal indeed.

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