Yesterday a friend was writing about a disappointment regarding an academic publication. His account of his experience underlined for me that academic can be profoundly isolating and, through its constant processes of labeling and evaluation, can be infantilizing also. In these senses, it is probably no worse than many other professions, and possibly still better than some, but part of its "mythical" presence in many people's lives is that it "should" rise above such common power politics and be better than that somehow. Most of the time, it doesn't rise above.
The meeting with my colleague and with the department head yesterday wasn't as bad as it could have been. It seems to me that I am getting better at articulating positions and at bargaining, although I probably still make far too many concessions regarding my personal and professional interests. Essentially, the third colleague in my area (who was not present at the meeting) has negotiated a phase-out of his workload while he approaches retirement. He has been uncooperative since he was forced to step down as director of graduate studies 5 years ago (!), for which duties he had been receiving a reduced teaching load of 1 + 2 courses (versus a typical university-wide 2 + 2, and a typical 3 + 2 + supervising of teaching by graduate assistants which is the norm for faculty in my area). Since he has been limiting his role in the department, and since graduate student enrollment has dropped, the dean is unwilling to consider replacing his position with a full-time, tenure-track position. At the meeting with the department head, I articulated my position this way: "I'm not willing to be a martyr and to say, 'Let's do more with less.' Instead, we need to think about how to do less with less, but do it intelligently."
We worked out some possible scenarios, and we will begin to take action on implementing one of them, which may make it possible for my remaining colleague and I to take the sabbaticals for which we are eligible.
Okay, time for prayer and then back to grading papers.