I learned a valuable lesson this week. Sometimes people aren’t going to agree with my opinion. And I have to learn to be comfortable with that.
This may seem like an odd statement to write as a sociologist. There is always the chance someone might not agree with what I have to say when I write a blog entry, submit a paper to a professor, or deliver a conference presentation. Interestingly, the potential for disagreement within this forum does not make me uneasy. Rather, it is part of my habitus or academic disposition. Disagreement is part of the academic game I play. Difference in theoretical and methodological orientations within the discipline of sociology exists, but fortunately my academic disposition anticipates what a particular line of thought might have to say in response to my argument. I expect conflict because theoretical positions are diametrically opposed; conflict is part of the game. And despite disagreement we at least share some common ground; we are all sociologists and working with some form of a “sociological imagination.”
I am the Graduate Rep for the Department of Sociology and attend monthly meetings with the Graduate Student’s Association (GSA) at the University of Calgary. As much as I may be able to tolerate diversity within the sociological game, situated outside of this setting – and inserted in a small room with graduate students from a wide assortment of academic departments with different points of view – is a different ball of wax. I’m transformed into an intolerant, raging, narrow-minded machine. My blood pressure rockets and the muscles in my face tire from attempts to hide disgruntlement. And, most scarily, I yearn for a water-gun to silence the vocal, narrow-minded, naysayers within the group.
This week I was asked to raise a motion at the Graduate Representative Council (GRC) meeting for the GSA. The motion concerned increasing the honorarium that current and future Executive members receive monthly for services they deliver. Their monthly bonus (and I refrain from the word “salary” because technically an Executive position is not a job in the traditional sense) is a great deal less than what a Teaching Assistant makes per month but their workload exceeds that of a TA. The president receives approximately $800 per month and other executive members receive approximately $500 per month, while a monthly salary for working as a TA is $1600.
In my opinion, the current compensation structure was incommensurate with the amount of time the GSA Executive devotes to the obligations outlined in their portfolios. No more need be said. So, together with the help of others, I presented a proposal in the form of a motion to the GRC, a voting body composed of Graduate Reps. Not surprisingly (in the sense I knew from previous experience with these meetings that my ethic was not the same as my fellow graduate students), the issue was deemed contentious. For 40 minutes I responded, along with my co-presenter, patiently and carefully to the questions and concerns raised. We articulated to the best of our ability the case in attempt to win their vote. But there is only so much discussion of an issue you can do. At one point – we both threw up our hands in frustration – and said in response to one particularly vocal rep, “Fair enough.” I mean – what else could we say, we just weren’t going to agree. And there was no point in continuing to try.
Yes, I am closed-minded about being open-minded. Difference of opinion, BAH!
Thankfully, our motion passed: 22 in favour; 2 against; 1 abstention. Phew! Justice has been served.