e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu



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.


Collin said...

Sounds like you've done a good job of keeping it in perspective. When it comes down to it, a lot of those obsessy things don't affect the process--they just offer the illusion of control in a situation where you have little. It sounds like you controlled the process where you could (meeting deadlines, e.g.), and let go of the rest, and that's really the best approach...

Good luck!

Jeff said...

Interesting process, different than the two other situations I've been in (almost going up, now going up). I'm particularly intrigued by you not having any role in choosing or recommending outside reviewers as well as needing everything done right now all at once.

bdegenaro said...

Jeff: Yeah, the whole package needs to be done all at once. I do recommend outside reviewers--I'm just not sure at what point those outside reviews are solicited.

Collin: thanks for the good wishes. My fingers are crossed too.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe that school brings that much rigor to the process. Ann arbor i could understand but Dearborn?

Good luck.

bdegenaro said...

Believe it, anonymous. We've got our own blackboards and chalk 'round here too.

Most junior faculty in the humanities have a single-authored book. I'm one of the few who went the "equivalent" route (as in "single-authored book or its equivalent") and I have seven peer-reviewed articles and an edited collection. I'd put the rigor of our tenure process up against any mid-sized comprehensive university. Yeah, it's not an R-1 school, but it's a place that takes research agendas very seriously.

I didn't mean to come off as bitchy in this response, but I think there's a lot of myths about a radical gulf between different tiers of institutions.

Collin said...

As someone who moved from a "less than R1" to an R1, let me second Bill's response. Despite a number of differences, my sense is that tenure expectations have trickled "down" to the extent that even schools that don't provide a great deal of research support in terms of teaching load, sabbaticals, research funding, etc., often expect the same level and rigor in their tenure processes.

As you might guess, I'm a big believer in a fair match between expectations and support (and transparency, but that's a different issue). I know that there are schools that exploit the asymmetry, expecting far more of their faculty than they support them for, but I do think that there are some schools that have begun to think it through more carefully (and fairly).