1.5 Collegiality
In the 1950s, 1960s, and even most of the 1970s, math departments were
extraordinarily friendly places. Salaries were low, duties were many, but the
attitude was “we’re all in this together”. The lovely book [DAVH] captures
the spirit of the camaraderie of the time.
It was very common in those days for there to be a colloquium each week,
followed by a fairly large and high-spirited colloquium dinner, followed by a
party at someone’s house. When I was an Assistant Professor at UCLA we
had all these features, often followed by a swim in Richard Arens’s pool.
In fact I can recall many a time when, after lunch, one of the guys (and
this time I really do mean a guy) would phone home and say, “Hello, dear.
Joe Schlomokin from Purdue is in town. He’s giving a talk. Nobody else is
giving the party, so I thought we could do it. Could you run to the store and
pick up some stuff? Also he needs a place to flop and I told him he could
sleep on our sofa. We’ll be going to dinner, and we’ll show up for the party at
8:00 p.m.” Miraculously, the spouse would reply with suitable enthusiasm,
and the festivities would begin in due course.
Times have changed. Today most spouses work. Many spouses work
as academics, and often in the same department as the other spouse. So
there are a lot of shared responsibilities: child rearing, cooking, soccer game
coaching, and on and on. This means that attendance at colloquium dinners
is much thinner. This also means that there is nobody to phone up and tell
to go out and pick up stuff for an impromptu party. And so forth. There
are very few colloquium parties anymore—except for very distinguished or
special guests.
In fact two-career couples often make imaginative accommodations to the
issues raised in the preceding paragraph. For one thing, planning ahead for
parties is much more common. Having cross-disciplinary parties—to honor
someone from English at the same time as someone from math—is a new
and often pleasing development. Obviously both members of the couple must
pitch in for all aspects of the party, or for any other entertaining (dinners,
outings, picnics, etc.) that is done. And certainly accommodations must be
made for the kids, the pets, or perhaps an aging parent who has become part
of the household.
Collegiality takes on new meaning, and has new practical significance,
when a two-career couple with kids is trying to play the game. It is still
of utmost importance to be collegial, to be friends with your colleagues, to
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