Academics: Tell me your stories of cooperation
October 29, 2014 5:59 PM   Subscribe

I am writing a script in which one of the characters is a prof (religious studies/history). I need background. Tell me your stories of cooperation/quid pro quo, between students, professors, departments, admins, schools.
posted by falsedmitri to Education (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you be more specific?
posted by girl flaneur at 6:01 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

How so? Any story as described may help
posted by falsedmitri at 6:02 PM on October 29, 2014

When I was a social sciences grad student, us TAs used to cover each other's classes when we had conflicts or would trade, say, grading exams for preparing a powerpoint.
One professor ran a field camp every summer and would invite students from our school and his alma mater only.
posted by thewestinggame at 6:08 PM on October 29, 2014

What are you trying to convey in your story? Is the professor helpful or mean? Are they hard-working and the type that goes the extra mile? Or are they self-serving? Whatever you are going for, I can probably think of a story from my college days as both a student, and a grad student TA of other students.
posted by mathowie at 6:09 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

>>Is the professor helpful or mean? Are they hard-working and the type that goes the extra mile? Or are they self-serving?
Tell me any of this. The protagonist is a good guy, but he has to deal with others, who will not be so nice.
posted by falsedmitri at 6:12 PM on October 29, 2014

As luck would have it, I have a friend who is a religious studies professor. She's told me all sorts of horror stories about trying to keep the department running. There are almost always overt and covert factions that band together: the old-timers and the newer profs, the American historians and the ancient/world historians, the conservative and the more radical. Or simply "the people who follow Charismatic/Persuasive Person A" and "the people who don't like Charismatic/Persuasive Person A."

How that might pan out: tenure votes, hiring, etc. There are committees for just about every issue you can think of. And if you don't support a colleague on one issue, they may go against you on something else.

There's no such thing as a completely good or bad person, or a person who does everything right or everything wrong.
posted by Madamina at 6:16 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Miss Dent, I see this is... let me just check here... my goodness, your third attempt at passing this course?"

"Yes sir, it is."

"I see. And in your first attempt, you scored 32% but I see that in your second term, that mark rose to 47%. What accounted for that rise?"

"I attended the class, sir."

"Oh, indeed. Yes. And this term, your mark was 58%?"

"I attended the class and read all of the materials, sir."

"Hmm. Well, I'll make you a deal, Miss Dent. I will pass you in this class if you promise to never enroll in another course in this department again. Does that seem fair?"

"Very, sir. Thank you. I promise I will never, ever sign up for another Geology course ever again."
posted by DarlingBri at 6:19 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a professor, but what you're asking is such a broad question that I'd prefer to direct you to a giant repository of stories: read the Chronicle of Higher Ed forums.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:19 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ok, well I once worked at UCLA in a computer group supporting the Social Sciences wing of the university (about 15 departments). Every department had its own distinct personality and flavor, and that often followed from the attitude/disposition of the department chair on down. Most departments were agreeable and had a "we're all in this together" sort of worldview. There were a couple departments where conflict between professors was normal, and one department where literally no professor ever talked directly to any of their colleagues, instead using third-parties like my computer group as a go-between. So, academics can run the gamut, and every department seemed to have 1 or 2 assholes making the whole department less than perfect and in that one rare department, they were almost all assholes clashing with one another.
posted by mathowie at 6:19 PM on October 29, 2014

Check the Chronicle of Higher Education fora. This one is about experiences teaching and student relations.
posted by harrietthespy at 6:26 PM on October 29, 2014

Tell me your stories of cooperation/quid pro quo, between students, professors, departments, admins, schools.

I don't get what this is asking really...I think nearly every interaction I have with my colleagues, department admins, and students involves some form of cooperation? I mean, we are a pretty functional department, so maybe you're asking about some other sort of workplace?

I could just describe like the last week for you, I suppose. But that can't be really what you mean. (I'm not actually going to do that, either. It's quite boring.)
posted by advil at 6:39 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

I feel like a lot of the drama centers around finishing for grad students. So scheduling your comps and defense. Also asking your advisor to read your publication daily through ten drafts and six months. When somebody's defense gets delayed it's huge gossip. Or if somebody flakey gets published in a major journal it's an outrage. ..
posted by Kalmya at 8:01 PM on October 29, 2014

Can anyone tell me what issues that committees would be adressing? The more trivial the bettei
posted by falsedmitri at 6:24 AM on November 2, 2014

Can anyone tell me what issues that committees would be adressing? The more trivial the bettei

Once again it would be helpful to have a more specific request, and I think you'd get a _lot_ more responses if you can narrow these questions down; there are plenty of academics around mefi but these questions are just too broad to be worth it (I realize that it may not be obvious to you, as there seems to be a bit of a cultural gap between where you're coming from and academia, but this is what's happening and I thought it would be worth just making explicit, since no one has yet come out and said this). In this case most decision-making in higher ed is (at least nominally) collective and structured into committees so non-trivial issues are perhaps more notable when they _aren't_ addressed by committees.

For this question, I'd recommend starting by just googling around some big state schools. A lot of the committees at public institutions will have relatively public record keeping, minutes, etc. that might help you focus your questions (and answer some of them). For example, here are the faculty senate subcommittees at UCLA. Here is a similar but shorter list from UMass Amherst; it is shorter (apparently) because UMass seems to rely more on ad hoc committees. It's worth drawing attention to the committee on committees, which is kind of common, and seems like a joke, but is actually modeled after congress. At the lower levels, any search for a faculty or dean (etc) position will involve a search committee that may be within a department or school. Schools or colleges may have various committees. Within departments there may be various committees for various things, such as organizing visiting speaker schedules, working on the website, managing collective resources such as travel budgets, etc.
posted by advil at 11:58 AM on November 2, 2014

Thanks for all the committee info.
Thanks to all for the stories. And for the link to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
posted by falsedmitri at 2:35 PM on November 2, 2014

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