Monday morning I arrived on campus at the Faculty of Business, where the Tourism Department is housed, to meet my new department chair. Here he is called the HOD (Head of Department). Since I had already been on campus for a few days I was anxious to meet him and hit the ground running. I wanted to find out what he wanted me to teach, my teaching schedule, get my office, etc. My enthusiasm was quickly met with unparalleled anxiety when I was informed there was a turf war going on (my words, not his- he was much more diplomatic).
Apparently, the Tourism Department and the Department of Environmental Sciences were both calling “dibs” on me and neither was willing to admit defeat. Fulbright had selected me as a Tourism Scholar, but the Department of Environmental Sciences offers several Tourism classes, thus their interest in my services. As gently, yet assertively as possible, I informed the Tourism HOD I wanted to be in his department. And so the negotiations began. I was not actually in the room for these discussions, but was sitting in the adjoining office with his secretary. Based on what I overheard this is basically what happened:
I was the little crab and the six or so men deciding my fate were the seagulls.
In the end, thankfully, Tourism won out. Ahh, the curse of being popular. Imagine being in a baseball stadium and the crowd chanting for their beloved MVP, “We want Kelly! We want Kelly!” Ok, it wasn’t quite like that. But, I will say that there was a certain decorum and protocol I witnessed, albeit with my ear pressed against the door.
Rather than being very straightforward and aggressive, negotiations here are more subdued and polite. While both HODs and the others involved in the meeting continued to reiterate their insistence that I be on their particular faculty, no one was willing to call out the other party and say, “This is why she shouldn’t.” Instead, they tried to make the opposing side come to the conclusion that surrendering was their idea and in their best interest.
This negotiation took nearly two hours, which was agonizing for me, particularly since I could overhear everything said. It took an incredible amount of willpower for me to sit still with my mouth shut and not burst through the door to tell them my thoughts. But this was a good learning experience for me. I now understand that conflicts here take a considerable amount of time and discussion to resolve. While that may not be what I am accustomed to, that is my reality from this point forward, so I am willing to acclimate to this standard.