Sunday, March 08, 2009
The Thin Ivy Line
When I wrote about faculty gangs last week, I did not fully comprehend the sociology of faculties until talking to a friend's 10 year old. She told me of cliques, cruelty, gossip, and the type of piling on that I described last week in the context of faculties. Then I understood. Many faculty behaviors are slightly cleaned up versions of the typical interpersonal cruelties that start with 3 year olds. I wonder if today's cowards were cowards then. Are the gossips and bullies the same too? (I also wonder if today's people who object, refuse to take part, just do their jobs and are empathetic are also just continuing their own childhood behavior.)
The most frightening aspect of it to me is the pack mentality. Last week's example was based on an actual incident of open disparagement. The same target I now learn frequently has things ripped from the bulletin board by the same crew of cowards who are part of the schoolyard gang. This is only a little short of lying in wait after school to administer the type of beatings that ten year olds (hopefully) used to do. Yet, other faculty with more acceptable political messages have doors and bulletin boards that remain untouched and, by the way, are sufficiently trite to be better suited for a teenager's dorm room.
The pack mentality is not frightening because someone reads another person's email to the faculty with a disparaging tone or that someone else makes a nasty remark or another writes a public email bullying the person. The frightening part of it is that every one of those cowards correctly assumes there is a receptive audience. After all, it would not be a pack without the implicit permission of those who snicker or look the other way. Going against the grain by questioning authority is just not in the cards for these folks.
The pack does not stop with faculty. A student may be viewed as overly aggressive in class. One professor talks to another and that one agrees his or her behavior is odd. Another is drawn into the mix and with each added person the story grows from an impolite student to a psychopath. Just as the rumors about a fifteen year old girl might grow from "seen kissing Tommy" to being pregnant.
There is some good new here. I was discussing this all with a couple of understanding colleagues. They assured me that it is much worse in other departments.