April 15th, 2009

Faculty Collegiality: Q&A with Robert Cipriano


Collegiality—the ability of faculty members to get along with each other and contribute to the collective good—is a key component of success within the department and the higher education institution as a whole. It is largely up to the department chair to promote collegiality, but everyone plays a part. In an email interview, Robert Cipriano, chair of Recreation and Leisure Studies at Southern Connecticut State University, explained the importance of collegiality, strategies for encouraging collegiality, and the role of collegiality in personnel decisions.

Q: Why is faculty collegiality important?

Cipriano: Some departments are enthusiastic, collaborative, and intellectual (faculty enjoy coming to work) while others are isolated, deadening, and depressing (faculty stay away as much as possible). The difference may be that one department member treats his fellow faculty in demeaning, degrading, and uncivil ways. Lack of civility and collegiality can deleteriously affect the department, its students, and faculty.

Q: Is collegiality more important now than in the past?

Cipriano: Collegiality is more important now than at any other time in the history of the academy. Early career faculty report that climate, culture, and collegiality are more important to their satisfaction than compensation, tenure clarity, workload, and policy effectiveness.

Q: How much influence does a department chair have in creating a collegial environment?

Cipriano: If there is one area that chairs most directly impact, it is the climate in their department. The chair sets the tone by building an atmosphere of trust, respect, and collegiality. In the best departments, the environment is one that invites expression, exploration, inquiry, and mutual trust.

Q: If a department lacks collegiality, what is a good first step that a department chair can take to promote collegiality?

Cipriano: A chair promotes collegiality by being trustworthy and an excellent communicator. Also, an effective chair fosters collegiality by:

  1. emphasizing consensus
  2. sharing power
  3. consulting with all faculty
  4. de-emphasizing status differences
  5. being constructive and informative
  6. clarifying performance expectations