Friday, October 30, 2009

small school politics

There is some stuff going down here at SLAC, into which I will be dragged at some point (probably early next term), and which has brought up a lot of old feuds between profs who work on my side of campus. It's funny how completely isolated I have been from the campus politics - to the extent that there seemed, at first, to be surprisingly few divisions between faculty at SLAC. And of course that was the very misleading impression of a newby who was not included in the snarky email exchanges and was not provided with a detailed background in the history of so-and-so's relationship with everybody else. That's now changing, and, just like everywhere I've ever been, academics can never get along.

In some ways, in my in-between status and as a recent graduate of a large university, the things the profs here at SLAC get worked up over seem quite ridiculous. They are minor, or they have more to do with semantics and details than seems absolutely necessary. This is a place where I have email or personal exchanges with my Dean at least once a week, and I have a huge say in how the school is run in general (compared to larger universities). I can even voice an opinion on how other people are running things, even if at this point that opinion would mean very little to the powers that be. But they would still listen before throwing my vote out the window, which is more than you can say for the school I came out of last year. In a place like this, you'd think people would be more empowered to effect change and would spend less time bickering, but that is not the case. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, considering the fact that there are just as many egos and old-timers set in their ways at a SLAC as anywhere else.

Also, it's interesting how a few strong voices can really turn opinion, or create a new faction, since the size of the faculty overall is so small. Again, you might think that this more personalized power would be a helpful thing, but it seems to create more rifts than it mends. Sometimes maybe it's a good thing that someone in a paneled office somewhere just makes a decision, though I'm not convinced of that quite yet. We'll see how long it takes to work through these issues as individuals - if it takes as long as I think it might, I may be revisiting my opinion in favor of top-down decision making.


EcoGeoFemme said...

I too have recently become aware of local politics that I never knew about. Kind of amazing. But, you know, people are people, and when resources of any kind are limiting, there will be conflict and politics.

PUI prof said...

I really related to your post! I wonder if you have been following my Blog? I had a problem with a student that involved a mediation with the Dean. It revelaed some of the institutional world-view.

Luckily (or unluckily) everyone here has a religious view that we should all get along. That means, yes, we all do try genuinely to get along and keep out conflicts fair and seek justice. Its pretty nice actually.

BUT the flip side is that there can be some passive-aggressive behavior (we joke with each other about being passive aggressive- its not covert). In addition, the whole thing by nature is very bottom up... which can be inefficient sometimes.

Liberal Arts Lady said...

EGF, yeah, sadly true. I wonder if people at larger schools feel the sort of political isolation I noticed here...maybe it's just a newby experience.

PUI, I recently found your blog, so I'll be staying tuned. :) I'm glad there are some small school bloggers out there to warn me about my future.