Equating Collegiality With Face Time Is Outdated and Harmful

To The Editor:

I read with great concern your article, “Where is Academe’s Collegial Buzz?” (The Chronicle, July 17). 

Your article is uncritical in its nostalgia for particular forms of “community” that perpetuate an out-of-date, masculinist understanding of work. It begins by profiling two male scholars; one works until 9 p.m. at least three days a week, the other proudly says that he comes in seven days a week — seven. One of these men addresses the problem of a perceived lack of community in his department by holding evening faculty workshops.

These kinds of expectations equate collegiality with face time, and create an atmosphere actively hostile to faculty with young children, for whom evenings and weekends are — and should be — reserved for parenting and child-related activities. Single faculty, too, are disadvantaged by expectations of evening and weekend work activity; they do not have their support system waiting for them at home and sustain essential relationships of social support through evening and weekend activities. A substantial body of research shows that such expectations weigh particularly heavily on women, who still do more domestic work of all kinds. If a male professor and a female professor both work from home, it is the woman who will be judged to be less “collegial” relative to her male faculty peer.

It is problematic for a publication as influential as The Chronicle to publish such a piece without seeking input from any scholars who work in this area who could have provided a more balanced, accurate, and useful take on questions of community and collegiality in academic life. 

As someone who provides leadership in an academic institution, I would like to see a rebuttal or follow-up piece that does not indulge in nostalgia or imply that people who cannot stay at the office until 9 p.m. at night are somehow lacking in collegiality. It is, after all, 2017. The life course has been reconfigured, how people manage family and work has been reconfigured, and the internet has been around for quite some time now. It’s time to stop looking backwards.

Penny Edgell
Professor of Sociology
University of Minnesota

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