Northern Clime is in a friendly part of the country, and it's been a long time since I've encountered real rudeness at the university. I'm still trying to figure out what to make of a mild little incident that occurred the other day.
I was at a remote campus site to participate (watch, really) by videoconference in a day-long workshop. I've been at enough of these to know that the usual drill is go in, make a little polite conversation with whoever shows up in the conference room, and pay attention. Everyone there has signed up for it, so you can assume that we're all colleagues of one kind or another.
I enter the room, and, as the senior person there (judging by my being older, more professionally dressed, etc.), give a friendly greeting to the two younger women sitting there.
"Hi. Are you all here for the workshop?"
Undeterred, I press on:
"Are you faculty here?"--thinking I'd introduce myself after getting the conversation started.
One smirks. "No."
Without learning a lesson (not used to rudeness, remember):
"A grad student?"
Another smirk. "No." Glares at me and turns away. The other woman looks a little unnerved and says nothing.
What I think is this: What on earth is your problem?
What I say is this: "I was making conversation."
And that is the extent of the conversation in the room until Rude One leaves at the noon hour and Unnerved One unbends a little bit.
What I don't understand is the thought process of someone like that. It's not about being a professor and having someone suck up to you (don't care about that) or about my being senior to both of them (though why would you go out of your way to alienate someone who might be able to help you?).
It's about being three human beings in a room for the next six hours, and why would you want to make the room tense with rudeness if you didn't have to? It's not as though we were bumping into each other on a downtown street: there was a context and purpose for what we were doing.
I don't get it. I have had students in the past who seriously wanted to Stick It To The (Wo)Man, and one who actually gave me a Nazi salute (!) to indicate that I was Hitler and she was a Brave Iconoclast. (Yeah, that was a fun time.) Could that be it?
Or is it that she wasn't a professional like the other people I've met through these workshops and didn't understand how they operate?