At times, it may be their obligation to resolve a variety of types of conflicts.
But it may equally be their responsibility to initiate (within appropriate and productive frameworks) arguments, debates, even conflicts, in order to resolve issues and move the business of the students, the faculty, departments, and the institution forward.
I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I’ve wondered to myself in the midst of a conversation, “Wait, are we talking as friends or colleagues right now?
” My responses to a given situation might be different, depending on which mode I’m responding from.
These individuals seem, cantankerously and perversely, to relish the disputes that they manufacture.
Our culture has developed many entertaining and colorful phrases to describe such people, and so I don’t need to concern myself with those folks here.
All workplaces entail conflicts, of varying scales and of varying levels of importance or unimportance.
One significant factor in the quality of our work lives is not so much whether conflict exists, but how it is handled within our departments and institutions.
An unintended side effect of our current tenure model is that we are trained to defer to the authorities above us, which seems to me to counter many of the principles of inquiry and questioning that are allegedly a feature of American universities.
I have to admit that a proclivity toward argument, and toward seeing argument as productive, is one of my own occupational psychoses.