Am I in Middle School Again? Drama in Academia

Over the past 3 weeks I’ve been introduced to the ‘service’ component of being a faculty member (service is one of the three prongs that decide tenure). Though technically I am not required to engage in service just yet, I am doing so because I might as well get used to the balancing act that is professordom and I may be able to contribute something of value here and there.

Toward that end, I am doing 2.5 things:

1)      I have been tasked with leading a committee in my department whose responsibility is to revise a component of our graduate curriculum. I tapped two people to be on my team and we are making great progress toward our goals.

2)      I am also a part of a 15 person steering committee for a new initiative/center at the college. We had our first meeting today and let’s just say: that adage about too many cooks in the kitchen is very valid.

  1. Under that same umbrella, I am sitting on a search committee for a position in that new center.

Now, what has become abundantly clear to me in the last 3 weeks is that while in my teaching and research I have a lot of autonomy, in my service I do NOT. Working with other people has always been difficult for me because I am a natural leader, I work efficiently, and I work thoroughly. I don’t believe in wasting time, effort, or any other resources. Most of all, I detest the DRAMA that comes with ‘teamwork’. And yes Lord, there has been a boat load of drama surrounding my two measly acts of service (I mean let’s face it—I’m not doing that much in this arena).

I won’t get into specifics because anyone who attended middle school can imagine what’s happening: multiple people want to be decision makers but don’t want the accountability that comes with it; gossiping about who gets to do what and why that person was chosen; figuring out who is friends with whom so you don’t mess up and speak negatively about someone’s BFF; whispered conversations behind closed doors that make you think ‘are they talking about me?’; wondering if you should ask to sit with ‘your friends’ in the cafeteria because you may be interrupting a private conversation about you; befriending the most popular (read: most viscous) people because they (not so) secretly yield the most power; trying to stay one step ahead of the vultures so your body isn’t the one they choose to attack next.

You know…those sorts of things.

As junior faculty, I mostly put my head down, take a deep breath, and try my best not to shout ‘THAT MAKES NO SENSE!’ during meetings. Perhaps that’s the most I can expect of myself this early on.