Letter from St. Paul to the Colleagues

And now, as so many of us are about to say good-bye to our colleagues for the summer, I would like to draw your attention to these bon mots from Bridget Crawford at Feminist Law Professors:

1 If a faculty member is a great teacher, but is not collegial, then the faculty member is not contributing positively to the educational institution.

2 And if a faculty member has the gift of communication, and understanding of a subject matter, and scholarship in a particular area; and if a faculty member has intellectual interests, but does not engage constructively with others, then the faculty member is not contributing to the academy.

3 And though a faculty member may be generous with one’s time in meeting with students, and though the faculty member may proclaim himself or herself a good teacher, if the faculty member is not collegial, then an adjunct position may be more appropriate.

4 Collegiality suffers long meetings, and is civil when others are not; collegiality focuses not on the faults of others; collegiality does not promote oneself at the expense of others.

5 Collegiality does not behave unprofessionally, seek personal power, provoke easily, speak ill of others.

6 Collegiality rejoices not in failures by the administration or faculty, but points out and celebrates success and achievements.

7 Collegiality is open to different viewpoints, believes others act in good faith, hopes for the best, admits when one is wrong.

8 Collegiality never fails (well, doesn’t fail too often), stops or vanishes entirely.

9 Because each of us is right sometimes, and each of us is wrong sometimes.

Ain’t #9 the truth?  Read the rest of it here.  I actually am a bit skeptical of the value of “collegiality,” because it seems to mean so many different things to different people, and it can be used unfairly as a weapon in tenure and promotion decisions.  I think people can be uncollegial and still make positive contributions with their teaching and mentoring of students, contra numbers 1-3.  I don’t need someone to be my best friend or cheerleader–I just need civility and colleagues I can work with.  I think that’s what she’s getting at for the most part in points 4-13.

Or, as my very wise husband always reminds me when he’s trying to pull me back from the ledge:  don’t be a jerk.  No one likes a jerk.

0 thoughts on “Letter from St. Paul to the Colleagues

  1. Yes, I think it can’t be understood categorically (as in a checkoff box on an official form), but rather it comprises the entirety of the social relations side of the academic or professional enterprise. And the civil society there will thus evaluate it however it will, unappealably and with some lack of anything like mercy. I know that I’ve been adjudged as “highly collegial” in some environments for the very same package of plusses and minuses that was scanned as indicating “not so collegial” in others. How could it be otherwise?


  2. Here ends the lesson. I’m almost tempted to circulate it to my colleagues, but won’t… I deal with the stress of dealing with some colleagues who are not collegial by occasionally (in private) making critical and or snarky comments. We don’t even need to name names.


  3. As another wise blogger once noted, you should behave like the colleague that you want rather than the colleagues that you might have.

    Like Historiann, I am hesitant about “collegiality” as a catch-all category. If a department is hostile, for instance, a junior faculty member might reasonably opt to stay out of the line of fire by avoiding tense meetings. I also dislike the notion that we are supposed to have institutional loyalty when institutions have no loyalty to us.


  4. that “you’re better off an adjunct” line smacks of privilege, to me. Only someone who had a tenured or tenure-track position would be so glib about the career mess that is adjuncting, when you don’t know when, if, or where your next teaching assignment is coming from.

    when is adjuncting ever a career choice? It is pretty much always the choice of last resort, unless teaching is a hobby for you!


  5. I don’t like the term “collegiality” for the above reasons. I also don’t understand how someone can be a great teacher and not be contributing to the institution. But I do agree with most of the commandments that follow. However, I would replace “collegiality” with “good citizenship” – which, as I tell new faculty members, basically means that once in a while one is willing to put aside one’s self-interest in order to contribute to the common good. Or, don’t be an a$$hole.


  6. I would say the people I think of as “not collegial” are the ones who do the minimum of service to the institution, and only engage in activities so far as they help their own interests. In many cases, they abuse their colleagues, especially junior ones. It is not the same as being administratively incompetent….


  7. I don’t buy that shit at all. I know plenty of people whom I would never in a million motherfucking years consider “collegial” under any plausible definition of the term, yet whom I am extremely grateful to have as colleagues. It takes all kinds, and any resilient institution ought to be able to tolerate some level of “non-collegial” colleagues in exchange for their other strengths. Of course, no institution can survive if everyone is like this, but a reasonable number is absolutely fine.


  8. also, the list is sufficiently vague that I’m not sure if the main point is about behavior during faculty meetings, mere willingness to take on extra departmental duties, or being a friendly and generous scholar on a personal level.

    I’m not sure what the list-maker is even trying to demand, just whatever it is, they’re sanctimonious about it.


  9. While I agree with the “don’t be a jerk, nobody likes a jerk” bit, I have seen the “not collegial” ruler used far too often as a way to smack down, or rule out, people that administration or senior colleagues, and I am using *that* term lightly, just had some reason not to want to keep around.

    Academic freedom, freedom of thought, intellectual curiosity and sharpness, all of these will, sometimes, lend people to behaviors that are, yes, testy. Well, do we want a garden club or do we want a university?


  10. I spent time with private/government organizations, for the sake of Collegiality, no one I encountered has ever thought about it beyond the most simplistic level.


  11. That mosaic of St Paul looks eerily like one of my more uncollegial former colleagues. St Paul looks like he must have been a real pill.


  12. First Corinthians 13:

    Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

    (King James Version)

    (Greek αγάπη, Latin caritas, rendered as Liebe in Luther’s translation. The choice of three cardinal academic virtues is left as an exercise for the reader, cause ol’ rootless ain’t going anywhere near that one.)


  13. Thanks, Rootless. As Rootless Cosmo understood, it’s a parody of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. That’s why Bridget starts the post: “With massive apologies anyone who is now, ever was or will be a Corinthian, here’s my effort at defining collegiality …” and why Historiann gave the post the title she did. Y’all never heard this read at a wedding?

    If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
    I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
    And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
    and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
    but have not love, I am nothing.
    If I give away all I have,
    and if I deliver my body to be burned,
    but have not love, I gain nothing.

    Love is patient,
    love is kind;
    love is not jealous or boastful;
    it is not arrogant or rude.
    Love does not insist on its own way;
    it is not irritable or resentful;
    it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
    Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
    Love never ends.

    As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease;
    as for knowledge, it will pass away.
    For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;
    but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.
    When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
    I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
    when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
    For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
    Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully,
    even as I have been fully understood.
    So faith, hope, love abide, these three;
    but the greatest of these is love.

    First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 13:1-13


  14. I recognized the parallel right away and, yes, I have known some gifted scholars and teachers who were right nasty, power-hungry bastards and who I’d not want serving in a department or institution with me under any circumstances.

    Collegiality can be abused as an excuse in hiring and promotion, I know, but if it is absent or beaten out from a person or an academic department? You are so screwed. So very screwed.


  15. @Ann Bartow and all y’all: part of that text was set by Brahms in the fourth of his Four Serious Songs, a late work probably occasioned by the news of Clara Schumann’s death. “Nun aber bleibet Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe; aber die Liebe ist die grösseste unter ihnen.” I like the recording by John Shirley-Quirk, but there are many other fine ones. The piece itself–all four songs, they need to be heard and appreciated as a set–is absolutely not to be missed.


  16. Ann–I didn’t read it so much as a parody as a takeoff inspired by Paul’s letter. (That is, although some of it is overblown because of the genre, Bridget Crawford really believes in the value of collegiality.)

    Or did I not get it at all?

    I agree with Janice: while collegiality can be used as a weapon in some cases (or rather, the accusation of absence of collegiality in someone), it is necessary to get things done around the office. Self-interest alone doesn’t work in an academic workplace. I’ve been in departments that had conversations about re-jiggering the expectations and rewards formulas for our distribution of labor (research, teaching, service) to elevate the importance of service in annual evals and advancement, but they never get very far. The majority of us are apparently happy to perform service to our unis and our profession without demanding commensurate rewards. St. Paul would be proud.

    (Except for all of the women who speak in public, preach and teach to men, and don’t cover their heads, of course.)


  17. I can’t speak for Bridget but I know she manages to roll off a lot of bad colleague behavior because she is both extremely nice and extremely strong. She is the opposite of sanctimonious and very funny as well, but perhaps picking up the humor embedded in the post is dependent on knowing the kind of crap she puts up with professionally.


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