Saturday, December 08, 2007

Professor Volcano

From "How to Get What You Want in Academe" by Gary Olson at the Chronicle:
(Shorter Olson: This isn't the way.)
At a recent professional meeting, a department chairman described being yelled at by a faculty member disgruntled over not being assigned to teach a favorite course.

"I was flabbergasted," the chairman said. "This newly promoted associate professor hollered at me right out in the busy hallway as if I were a misbehaving child." He was especially annoyed because the complainant had chosen to adopt an adversarial tone from the outset. "The scene in the hallway was not the culmination of a long discussion or debate," the chairman said. "He simply acted out from the get-go."

It was a department chairman who did the shouting in another recent incident I know of, yelling at the dean of his graduate school because of the dean's newly imposed restrictions on doctoral-defense committees. The dean reported the incident to the chairman's academic dean, who sighed and responded, "Yes, he often behaves badly, especially when things don't go his way."
Explain to me please, someone, why the chair did not say "I will not discuss this until you speak politely and rationally," turn on his heel, and leave. I'm old school about this stuff: if you can't restrain your rudeness, you don't get to talk to me. Period. I don't care who you are.

Did you notice the response? Both the dean and the chair acted as if Professor Volcano and Choleric Chair were tantrum-throwing two-year-olds. "Acting out," "behaves badly, especially when things don't go his way"--those are the explanatory terms you'd use for someone under the age of three. If you're under the age of three, you ought to get cut some slack on this stuff because maybe you missed your nap. A tantrum in your thirties and beyond? Not so much.


Anonymous said...

I know. I really dislike this but the thing is, I dislike the passive agression which passes for "professionalism" even more.

undine said...

I think I can handle the passive aggression better because it's so much more common :-). Both ought to be banned, though.