Yesterday I turned in my tenure file: a thick collection of documentation, something UM-Dearborn emphasizes. You've got an article forthcoming in a particular journal? PROVE IT with a letter from the journal's editor. Anyway, the portfolio is full of documents and artifacts like syllabi, assignment sheets, photocopies of publications, letters from colleagues who have observed my classes. Even moreso, the file contains lots and lots of reflection. Reflect on your stuent evaluations. Reflect on your research agenda. Reflect on your contributions to your discipline. In five years in the seminary, I never took part in so much contemplative thought.
The file emphasizes the past three years, my "probationary" period at UM-Dearborn. My teaching during my three years at Miami University and four years in grad school at the University of Arizona is largely absent from the file, aside from entries on my CV. Likewise, pre-UMD publications don't really "count" all that much toward tenure, except in so much as they show consistent contributions to the field and/or potential to stay active after tenure. No copies of those early publications in the file--again, just entries on the CV.
I won't hear the yay or nay from the university for over a year. The file goes through my discipline, department, college/dean's office, provost, president, board of trustees, and somewhere in there gets sent out to external reviewers. I probably won't get a response until the end of academic year 2008-2009.
The process, so far anyway, has been largely humane. I could complain about the need for greater transparency (when exactly do external reviewers come into the picture? how exactly do pre-UMD publications count?) but what I don't know is largely a result of my own refusal to obsess over such things. Finite amount of time. Even more finite amount of energy. If it comes down to either doing real work (writing an article, moving forward a relationship with a community partner like St. Peter's Home for Boys, etc.) or working on tenure (networking with administrators who I don't know, tracking down documentation of the minutiae of P&T procedures), I'm going to pick the former.
I'm not advocating a total laissez faire approach. I met deadlines. I followed formatting guidelines. I dotted and crossed the appopriate letters, etc. I'm just saying that sweating out certain details would have affected my sanity, which is already questionable. A senior colleague back at Miami--a person with a very impressive rhet/comp career--unofficially advocated this philosophy to me and it ended up being advice I used. Whether or not it ends up being "good" advice remains to be seen--at the end of academic year 2008-2009.