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CAUT Bulletin Archives

November 2003

A Case for Collegiality

Victor Catano's column about confusing collegiality with congeniality (Bulletin, Oct. 2003) went straight to the heart of a thorny patch of issues that have caused me a lot of grief in my 10 years at the University of Alberta.

Universities are, indeed, not clubs, yet the pressure to dress "professionally," behave "professionally" and be "collegial" (i.e., deferential, or at the very least polite and compliant) from certain senior colleagues began the day I arrived. It gasped its last in the form of three waspish comments by some of the same people, no doubt, on the questionnaire regarding my promotion to full professor last year: all concerned putative problems with "collegiality."

If collegiality really means "collective sharing of power," as it originally did, then a number of faculty members very much senior to me at that time were breaking all the rules regarding interactions with colleagues. If it means being deferential, remaining polite in the face of provocation, being clubbable and dressing professionally, then I was (and still am) breaking all the rules. But, I'm happy to report things have changed dramatically in my department in the last five years, and being collegial now seems to mean "working together."

Andrew Colin Gow
History & Classics, University of Alberta