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Editor: Paul L. Caron
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Value of Collegiality Among Law Professors

Michael L. Seigel (Florida) & Kathi Miner-Rubino (Texas A&M University, Department of Pyschology) have published Measuring the Value of Collegiality Among Law Professors, 1 Faulkner L. Rev. 257 (2010). Here is part of the Introduction:

This article is the last in a trilogy addressing the issue of collegiality among law professors. In the first piece, titled On Collegiality [54 J. Legal Educ. 406 (2004)],author Seigel defined "collegiality" and suggested that most law schools have at least one, if not two or three, "affirmatively uncollegial" members of their faculty.' Seigel posited that these individuals tend to interfere with the ideal functioning of their institutions by negatively affecting the well-being of their peers. In the worst cases, a pervasively uncollegial faculty will drive its best teachers and scholars away, harming the reputation and quality of the institution." Seigel weighed the costs and benefits of enforcing a norm of collegiality in an academic institution and came down, ultimately, on the side of enforcement.

Some readers of On Collegiality questioned the legitimacy of Seigel's cost-benefit analysis. Specifically, they commented that some of the factors Seigel used in his analysis could be empirically measured. In response, the present authors teamed up to conduct an empirical study of collegiality. The goals of the study were to determine: (1) whether collegiality correlates with the occupational and psychological well-being of individual faculty members; (2) whether levels of collegiality in law schools differ for faculty sub-groups broken down by gender, race, sexual orientation, rank, and tenure status; and (3) the characteristics of law schools that create a collegial climate. The beliefs underpinning the study were (1) that enforcing collegiality is costly at least in terms of the potential lawsuits it will generate by those who are denied promotion, tenure, or other benefits as a result of being deemed uncollegial, and (2) that this effort is a net negative unless promoting collegiality brings measurable benefits to the institution more valuable than the costs.

The empirical study, carried out by means of an e-mail survey to 8,929 law school teachers, was completed in June 2005. The authors began their analysis of the data, and published the second article in this series, Some Preliminary Statistical, Qualitative, and Anecdotal Findings of An Empirical Study of Collegiality Among Law Professors, the following year. [Michael L. Seigel & Kathi Miner-Rubino, Some Preliminary Statistical, Qualitative, and Anecdotal Findings of an Empirical Study of Collegiality Among Law Professors, 13 Widener L. Rev. 1 (2006).] That piece was limited to the reporting of descriptive statistics, such as the demographics of the respondents and their reported levels of job satisfaction, institutional collegiality, and administrative responses to collegiality matters.'  It also set out many of the 482 narrative responses to the survey, in full. The present article provides a more complete picture of collegiality in law schools by describing more complex findings obtained by conducting various statistical analyses of the data set. Some of the findings are quite stark and not all are as predicted.

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The problem with this is that it depends what one means by collegial. Each time I criticize the dean or provost, I am termed uncollegial. But each time I say something supportive, I am suddenly collegial once again. I think I've done a couple of dozen round trips of this nature. It's very hard to escape the notion that "collegiality" means "conformity" in such cases.

Posted by: mike livingston | Nov 19, 2010 12:16:17 PM

What I think is that "collegiality" is a way to be. I agree with Mike Livingston when he says that "collegiality" means "conformity". Sometimes it is hard to accept that.

Posted by: Alessandro Crosti - Brambilla e Associati | Nov 20, 2010 12:52:58 AM

I am so glad that students' tuition dollars helped to support a worthless study like this one...

Posted by: Todd | Nov 20, 2010 7:40:12 AM