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So I was wondering: how does one navigate rough departmental politics? Neutrality is obviously a goal, but it gets complicated when one wants to build alliances for letters of recommendation, etc.

I'm wondering because the English department at my undergraduate university is riddled with multiple lawsuits right now--not even being hyperbolic. It's so strange, because all of this intensity is hidden unless you're on personal terms with one or more professors...

So, if any of you have dealt with departmental politics--whether as a grad student or an undergrad--please comment below! As many of you will be starting PhD programs this fall, this information should be very useful for you!

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So I was wondering: how does one navigate rough departmental politics? Neutrality is obviously a goal, but it gets complicated when one wants to build alliances for letters of recommendation, etc.

I'm wondering because the English department at my undergraduate university is riddled with multiple lawsuits right now--not even being hyperbolic. It's so strange, because all of this intensity is hidden unless you're on personal terms with one or more professors...

So, if any of you have dealt with departmental politics--whether as a grad student or an undergrad--please comment below! As many of you will be starting PhD programs this fall, this information should be very useful for you!

I've dealt with departmental politics at the high school level (I taught for a few years before starting grad school). The best bit of advice I can offer isn't to stay neutral, but rather to stay professional. If one professor is bad mouthing another and looks to you for a reaction, all you have to say is something like "I've heard Dr. Your Nemesis is a good prof, but I haven't really had any interactions with him/her." It's bland and it doesn't actually say anything, but it keeps you from becoming snagged as a participant in the drama. Plus, the more often you return a bland response like that, the less often Professor Chatty Britches will look to gossip with you about personal issues in the department (since you won't be feeding his/her need to vent emotionally). I can't stand departmental politics. If there's a war between two faculty members, there is zero reason for that war to spill into the student population.

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I've dealt with departmental politics at the high school level (I taught for a few years before starting grad school). The best bit of advice I can offer isn't to stay neutral, but rather to stay professional. If one professor is bad mouthing another and looks to you for a reaction, all you have to say is something like "I've heard Dr. Your Nemesis is a good prof, but I haven't really had any interactions with him/her." It's bland and it doesn't actually say anything, but it keeps you from becoming snagged as a participant in the drama. Plus, the more often you return a bland response like that, the less often Professor Chatty Britches will look to gossip with you about personal issues in the department (since you won't be feeding his/her need to vent emotionally). I can't stand departmental politics. If there's a war between two faculty members, there is zero reason for that war to spill into the student population.

Good advice! I completely agree with your last sentence. The big problem with my English department right now is that some professors (two in particular) are involving students in the onslaught. It's getting crazy.

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