Friday, May 2, 2014

On Collegiality

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program
As we enter the final weeks of the semester, the days lengthen and our workloads seem to grow in kind -- albeit a little out of proportion. I've run out of hands on which to count the number of people around me who have said, "there aren't enough hours in the day" in which to complete all of the tasks with which we've been charged. This seems to be across the board: whether we're teaching faculty or non-classroom faculty, we're all a little (or a lot) overwhelmed.
And when we feel overwhelmed, sometimes we react badly. Tempers can flare. For the most part, I'm talking about tenured faculty -- not new hires. I haven't noticed any new faculty being short-tempered or rude with colleagues; and yet I know you're all as stressed out as the rest of us. (Thus I say in all sincerity and with admiration -- good job by you!)
The administration asks that, although divided into three campuses, we act as one college. I just heard the most baffling story the other day about a group of faculty who refused -- refused -- to meet with another sole faculty member regarding one of the programs at the college. I won't go into specifics here -- I don't have any right to anyway, because it doesn't involve me -- but I refer to it obliquely now in order to illustrate my point: Don't let your own workplace interactions slide into the murky territory occupied by middle-school lunchroom cliques. We are members of a college. As such, we are colleagues, and to colleague, as a verb, is "to cooperate toward a common end." (Thanks, OED! You're the best. Love, Sarah.)
Okay, a photo of pretty flowers is KIND of Pollyanna.
I'm just glad it's finally spring.
I'm not going to go completely Pollyanna on you: I don't believe we should be silent when we disagree with one another and I don't believe we're going to like each other and love our jobs every moment of every day of our careers. Our jobs don't require that we like one another. They do, however, require us to accomplish a multitude of tasks, some of which have very concrete and tangible implications for our students. Sometimes these tasks have very concrete and tangible implications for us. Regardless, no matter the nature or outcome of the tasks, the following remains true: We can't get anything done in this culture of committee-work if we won't even communicate, let alone sit in the same room, with one another.
As I pointed out in my last post, lest you think I'm being sanctimonious (and I really don't want to be!): I am not a person without fault. I can be snarky, reactive, a tad emotional at times. I don't have a good poker face, and when I'm unhappy with something, usually everyone can tell. I do, however, think that cooperation and professionalism are imperative not only to our job, but to our quality of life. I'm sure there's not a single person reading this post who likes the idea of coming to work every day and wasting his or her time. But that's what happens when we stop being collegial with one another. We waste our time. 
A great deal of good is done on these campuses. And a great deal more could be done on these campuses, if it weren't for personality conflicts: particularly conflicts that have been festering for years.
So why bring this up in a blog that's focused on the new hire? Because as the 2013-2014 cohort (one of the largest groups of new hires in years) you're a new generation of faculty who have the power -- whether you're conscious of it or not -- to shape the tenor of departmental, campus, and college-wide relationships at the college.
As new faculty who haven't been part of former interdepartmental disputes or college-wide "bad blood," developed over years or even -- sadly -- decades,  you have fresh perspective and a great absence of bias and I would encourage you to nurture that aspect of yourself, perhaps above all other things, as you head into your second year of employment at SCCC.
Try to remember (hell, someone remind me if it appears that I don't remember, and gently remind those crankier senior colleagues if it appears that they don't remember): we have all been hired to do the same job, regardless of our different degrees, titles, and purviews:  we must make this college thrive, and by extension, ensure that our students thrive. It helps to remember, too, that when we "get things done", when we accomplish what we have been charged to do, our careers thrive.
So today, on the day of the New Member Social (where I hope to see a good number of you, shortly), and because we are so close to the end of this first year, your first year at SCCC, which I hope has been challenging but productive and rewarding: I wish for you a prosperous career in a collegial atmosphere: one where you continue, despite differences of opinion or agenda, to help one another thrive.