Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Collegiality in Higher Education: Toward an Understanding of the Factors Involved in Collegiality

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Collegiality in Higher Education: Toward an Understanding of the Factors Involved in Collegiality

Article excerpt


Collegiality is becoming the "fourth" criteria in tenure and other faculty evaluations at institutions of higher learning. The "three pillars" of teaching, research, and service have their own ambiguities, but the debate over the appropriateness of adding collegiality is heating up. Courts have generally upheld the right of universities to use collegiality as an evaluation factor. Yet, collegiality has been labeled a "tenure battleground" and the American Association of University Professors recently adopted a statement urging the end of the use of collegiality as an independent performance element. Proliferation set against opposition makes collegiality one of the hot issues in higher education.

If we are going to argue about the appropriateness of collegiality then we need to better understand the concept. There is a lack of agreement on the definition of the term. This conceptual paper attempts to define the nomological net surrounding the concept of "collegiality". This paper identifies three primary dimensions found in the literature. It begins the identification of concepts for convergent and discriminant validity. Further research is called for in this article and an outline for empirical study is proposed.


The three "pillars" of performance for those teaching in higher education seem embedded into the very fabric of academic life for most. Teaching, research, and service have, for years, served as the only specified factors for tenure, promotion, and other academic reviews. However, in 1981 Mayberry v. Dees introduced a fourth factor, "collegiality," into higher education case law as a separate criterion for tenure and other reviews of performance (Connell & Savage, 2001). Mayberry stated that collegiality is "the capacity to relate well and constructively to the comparatively small bank of scholars on whom the fate of the university rests."(Mayberry v. Dees, 633 F.2d at 514). For instance, tenure and promotion candidates must self report on the elements of "teaching, research, professional activity, service, and collegiality" (College of Arts and Sciences, 2004). Courts have upheld the rights of a college or university to consider collegiality as a valid issue in tenure, promotion and termination decisions for years. There has been an increase in cases and disputes involving collegiality since Mayberry (Lewin, 2002) and there also seems to be a corresponding increase in the use of collegiality as a separate factor in departments, colleges, and universities.

Some think that the addition of a fourth pillar will cause the building of academia to fall down. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a formal statement criticizing the use of collegiality as a "distinct" criterion and characterizing it as dangerous. The AAUP sees an increasing tendency to use collegiality as a fourth factor on the part of administrations, governing boards, department chairs, and members of promotion and tenure committees (AAUP, 1999) and opposes this practice. Other detractors have referred to this fourth factor as a "fourth bucket" which must be filled (Tenure and promotion).


While some define collegiality as a sum of enumerated (or unenumerated) behaviors, others see it only as a "status" description. This latter argument is that collegiality is not an activity or set of behaviors; "it is (instead) a relationship" (Hartle, 2004). This tautological argument is worth analysis. One dictionary seems, on the surface, to follow this view. Merriam-Webster defines collegiality as "the relationship of colleagues; specifically the participation of bishops in the government of the Roman Catholic Church in collaboration with the Pope" (Merriam-Webster, 2005). First we have the "status" but this is then followed by something more. Another dictionary defines collegiality as "shared power and authority vested among colleagues" and also includes reference to the Roman Catholic Church by giving a second definition: "the doctrine that bishops collectively share collegiate power" (American Heritage Dictionary, 2004). …

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