Jody Nagel
  (Click to send me e-mail)  
"co-chair" (defined)
  Return to
Jody Nagel's Writings
Return to
Jody Nagel's Jomar Page
Return to
JOMAR Home Page

"co-chair" (defined)
by Jody Nagel
co-, var. of com- before a vowel, h, and gn: coadjutor; cohabit; cognate. The prefix co- now productively forms new words from bases beginning with any sound (co-conspirator; co-manage; coseismic), sometimes with the derived sense "auxiliary, subsidiary" (coenzyme; copilot), and in mathematics and astronomy, with the sense "complement" (codeclination).
com-, a prefix meaning "with," "together," "in association," and (with intensive force) "completely," occurring in loanwords from Latin (commit): used in the formation of compound words before b, p, m: combine; compare; commingle. Also, co-, col-, con-, cor-, [ < L, var. of prep. cum with]
co-chair v.t., v.i. 1. to chair along with another person or persons. -n. 2. a cochairperson.
co-chairperson n. one of two or more joint chairpersons.
joint -adj. 14. shared by or common to two or more: a joint obligation, 15. undertaken or produced by two or more in conjunction or in common: a joint reply; a joint effort. 16. sharing or acting in common: joint members of a committee. 17. joined or associated, as in relation, interest, or action: joint owners.
Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1996)
One does, indeed, note both uses (apparently) of "co-" formed words.
(1) "together," "with" (without an apparent internal heirarchy.)
(2) "together," "with" with the derived sense "auxiliary, subsidiary."
One does not see any semblance of meaning No. 2, however, in the definition of co-chair or co-chairperson.
Concerning this university's dissertation committees:
It would further deteriorate the position of a non-prose-writing-oriented dissertation co-chair (formerly known as "Group 2," but at least being one of  two "co-chairs.") To alter the meaning of "co-chair" so that it is "subsidiary" to the "chair" will cause the non-prose-writing-oriented person (the one presumably with the expertise regarding the non-prose-writing-oriented dissertation) to inherit the lion's share of the dissertation supervision while the person with Dissertation Chair Endorsement inherits the lion's share of the credit. I consider this distortion to be ethically unacceptable.
The decision to use the terms "chair" and "co-chair", rather than "co-chairs" implicitly signifies that non-prose-writing-oriented dissertations are not really tolerated at this university. This is an antiquated, non-progressive notion. A Dissertation Chair Endorsement should be based on the reasonability of the relationship between the Chair's skill-set and the peculiarities of the dissertation. There should never need to be "co-chairs" or a "co-chair." But the definition of what constitutes a "chair" needs to be totally revamped.
This point (not the "co" word choices, per se) is what rankles. In my own case, I was apparently good enough in 1998 for this university to award me an elegant plaque for my work as "co-chair" for Dr. Ollie Powers' doctoral dissertation, which received this university's Alumni Association Distinguished Dissertation Award for 1997-98. I spent much more time supervising this dissertation than did [my colleague], the "Group 1" "co-chair" who later was not good enough to receive tenure. I, on the other hand, am not good enough to "chair" a dissertation committee; merely good enough to cause my student to win the Distinguished Dissertation Award. Ollie's dissertation was a prose document. Nevertheless, all I am asking for is the right to chair a composition dissertation when it consists of a composition. Why is this so unreasonable?
Incidentally, the usage of "co-" to imply an "auxiliary, subsidiary" role is relatively recent. There are still relatively few words that work this way. These include: copilot, co-principal (of an orchestra; however, "co-principal" isn't even in Webster's), coenzyme (though it is questionable as to weather or not an enzyme and a coenzyme refer merely to the point of view of the researcher: which is the "enzyme" and which is the "coenzyme"?) Copilot seems to be one of the only authentic (and seemingly anomalous) "non-scientific" words with the "auxiliary, subsidiary" sense to "co­".
Words with the prefix "Co-" that DO NOT suggest internal heirarchy

  coacervate; coaction coadaptation
  coadjutant; coadunate coadventure
  coagent coalesce coalition
  coanchor coapt coarticulation
  cochair cochairman cochairperson
  coconspirator codefendant codominant
  coedit coeducation coequal
  coessential coetaneous coeternal
  coeval coevolution coexist
  coextend coextrusion cofeature
  cofounder cognate cohabitate
  coheir coherence cohesion
  cohort coincide coincidence
  coinheritance coinstantaneous coinsure
  coinventor colinear comanage
  comate comingle cooperate
  coopt coordinal coordinate
  coown coplaner coprecipitate
  coproducer copublish corelate
  cosigner costar (used both ways) coteach
  cotenant coterie cotidal
  cotransduction covariant cowriter

Words with the prefix "Co-" that DO suggest internal heirarchy

  cobelligerent cocurricular codependent
  coenzyme cofactor cofunction
  cogeneration colatitude comaker
  copilot coprincipal (not in Webster's) coprophilous
  corespondent cosecant costar (used both ways)

Jody Nagel
March 4, 2004
March 5, 2004
Dear [Colleague],
You misconstrue the point totally.
The question is not that some words, such as the anomalous "copilot," do use the prefix "co-" with an "auxiliary, subsidiary" sense.
The question is whether the word "co-chair" should be allowed to mean that of a subordinate to the "chair." This has broad ramifications for how dissertations can be handled, and how they are credited.
In the recent faculty meeting, I said "just because they [the airline industry] have a stupid term, does that mean that we have to have a stupid term too?" I was unaware of calling any colleague "stupid." If you are implying that I was calling [Another Colleague] "stupid," then please know that after asking him, after reading your note, if that's what he thought that I had said, he said that he did not think I had called him "stupid."
I respect your position to remain emotionless when you speak, if that is what you wish. I, however, do not, and will never, disconnect [my emotional reaction to the situation of which I am speaking] from [my speaking]. You may consider your way "professional." I have a more old-fashioned definition of "professional" that is based on skill, not personality. I consider an attempt to veil one's emotion from his hearers to be a form of lying. And I have no intention of engaging in this dehumanizing form of lying. In my opinion, a person should speak only when they feel strongly for or against that on which they are speaking; otherwise they should just remain silent. But, as I said, I respect your position to remain emotionless when you speak, if that is what you wish. Just don't require it of me, or I will consider it a breach of academic freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.
I am delighted to hear that you consider prose writing to be creative. So do I. What I write, however, will never be suitable for publication by juried reviewers, because it is these kind of established traditions which I spend most of my time criticizing in writing. I am happy for you that you are allowed to supervise dissertations of the genre that you yourself enjoy creating. I do not take that away from you in the least. I merely want the same right for my own genre, and for the genres of other types of creativity.
I appreciate your sharing your photocopied dictionary definition of "co-" with me.
I presume you have the permission release forms for photocopying a copyrighted dictionary.

Dr. Jody Nagel
March 4-5, 2004

  Return to
Jody Nagel's Writings
Return to
Jody Nagel's Jomar Page
Return to
JOMAR Home Page
Copyright © 1998 by Jody Nagel. All rights reserved. Call 1-765-759-1013 or Email for additional information.