Perhaps the space between colleagues is more a pyramid and less a hallway? It’s true that the hall is usually empty and the offices well-spaced out. And we all know about “space – the final frontier”.
And colleagues all mostly work on disparate leading edges of research excellence. No shortage of space there. In 25 years I’ve only found one colleague close enough to my orbit at my own university to write jointly, and he was in a different faculty.
However, in one dimension we are closely bunched- status. When everyone is striving for top journal hits and high teaching ratings, and it’s hard to get into top journals, and everyone is an above average teacher, as one former dean insisted, how do you determine who should be promoted for his or her excellence? I fear the most obvious approach is clambering over the bodies of your competitors by showing they are not worthy to clamber over yours. Why we can’t all just cooperate and help each other is a mystery. I suppose we’ve all been trained in the PhD process to look after ourselves and our process and outcomes, and let the other person do the same.
It’s all very multi-dimensional, and it’s only in one dimension where there are particular difficulties. Not everyone can be top shelf. To sort of quote the Tao Te Ching, without lower shelves, how can there be top shelves?
But I content myself with Jesus’ observation that the first shall be last and the last first. Now, when people intentionally wait to be last, I wonder what God thinks of that?