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Author Topic: "A Call for Clarity" article  (Read 5318 times)
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Posts: 53

« on: September 19, 2008, 12:43:37 pm »


Here, here! 

The tenure requirements at my SLAC are maddeningly vague and intentionally so: calling only for "ongoing" scholarly activity, "good" teaching and a "committment" to service.  They are used not to objectively evaluate the performance of a junior faculty member, but to keep around the people they like and get rid of the people they don't. 

What is expected--and thus what the words "ongoing," "good" and "committment" mean--varies according to the academic year, the composition of the P&T committee, and the individual.

In recent years in my dept alone (English), a person who published ONE peer-reviewed article total (that's it... nothing else) was been awarded tenure.  Meanwhile, another person who has multiple books out was denied.  It is absurd, and corrupt.

After lurking for eons, finally a
Posts: 103

Amazed I'm paid for what I do.

« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2008, 3:22:21 pm »

The administration at my institution is pushing for the establishment of rubrics to define levels of performance ("outstanding," "meets expectations," "needs improvement," etc.) that, through a tiny extension, could be used to evaluate tenure cases in a way similar to the contracts described in this article. Thus, for instance, "a book and five more articles = tenure."

The faculty--tenured and not--appear united in their opposition to this idea for many reasons, but they all boil down to the complaint that such rubrics remove the potential for evaluation of performance in any but a hyper-objective way.

"One book and four articles? Sorry, not good enough--the 'contract' requires five articles. Next."
"Your book is in galleys but not yet published? Sorry, the rubric requires the book to be published. Next."
"Conference proceedings don't count as an article; therefore, you've only got four articles, sorry. Next."

...in other words, the complaint is that the rubric/contract draws a line that may be TOO bright, preventing committees and faculty who currently weigh in on these decisions from considering the real body of scholarly contributions of the candidate and reducing them to bean (publication) counters.

These problems don't even begin to consider how fields and even sub-fields may vary in methods of scholarly contributions (is a flute professor's guest recital at a peer institution worth the same as a sociologist's published article in a peer-reviewed journal? Is the artist's private show at a regional gallery worth more than a presentation at a national conference? what if it's a joint show, or a joint presentation?), the actual quality of the work represented, or--in a certain way--the quantity of work represented (don't we all know scholars who find ways to publish the same idea three separate ways?). The variables to be weighed--and weighed sensitively--demand careful judgement by professionals in or next to the candidate's field, and must be viewed in as many different contexts as there are tenure streams and candidates in them. Isn't that why we consider them one at a time in multiple faculty and committee meetings in several levels of the academic bureaucracy?

I agree that many institutions NEED to more carefully design and communicate tenure expectations--and perhaps quantifying them to SOME extent may be helpful. But I (and many of my colleagues) see a danger in contractually determining what precise contributions are rewarded with tenure without placing those contributions in the context of the candidate's field, speciality, teaching load, quality of publications, and so on. Certainly there's a happy medium to be found here.

"The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?"
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