What I’m Reading: ‘Written/Unwritten’

July 30, 2017

Sydney Freeman Jr.
In the spring, my university announced with excitement the names of individuals who had recently earned tenure and promotion there. This caused me to inquire if there were any resources beyond faculty handbooks that could assist with understanding the "hidden curriculum" of the tenure process, especially for a person of color and a black scholar.

A new book, Written/Unwritten: Diversity and the Hidden Truths of Tenure (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), edited by Patricia A. Matthew, provides a valuable contribution to the literature by offering concrete and practical insights regarding the tenure-and-promotion process at predominantly white institutions. It bridges the gap between theory and practice and applies a theoretical grounding to the practical lived experiences of diverse faculty members. Of particular note, a chapter written by Sarita Echavez See, "Talking Tenure: Don’t Be Safe. Because There Is No Safety There Anyway," explains how to remain authentic to oneself during the process.

Some of the advice in the book is directed at the academic administrators who manage the process. Suggestions include ensuring a collegial work environment and standing against the collective prerogatives of faculty members that are damaging to the opportunities and morale of faculty of color. The book does a wonderful job of providing insights regarding the nuances and the opaque nature of one of the most important and guarded processes within the academy.

Sydney Freeman Jr. is an associate professor of adult, organizational learning, and leadership at the University of Idaho and senior editor in chief of the Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education.