Sunday, September 14, 2008

Paranoia May Indeed Destroy Ya

It's Sunday! It's a beautiful (if humid) day outside! I've completed a few onerous tasks that have been hanging over my head, and have some less taxing ones to go, but in general, less work than I should! I'm teaching an incredibly dirty book on Tuesday, and my students are all excited! Life should be super!!

Instead, however, I've spent the entire weekend bouncing between a state of panic and one of resigned exhaustion about the status of my tenure file. The first wave hit me two weeks ago, when I realized that I didn't actually have all of the documents I needed. A quick email to the department secretary and a graciously resigned-and-sent document later, I was all set. And feeling pretty good---until I attended the tenure q&a that the school schedules yearly at this time.

Now, let me just say for the record that since I'm at a teaching institution (and one with a fairly significant load), the story has always been that your work in the classroom and your service to the college were the benchmarks. And luckily, I've got that stuff pretty decently wrapped up. The second part of the story, or at least the way that I've always interpreted it, was that any scholarly work you could manage to do on top of that was good. Going to conferences, maybe an article, all to the good. Here again, I thought I was on top of it. And then I fell down the rabbit hole.

It should be noted that this meeting was populated, primarily, by scientists and social scientists, and so the terms of engagement were disciplinarily specific. There was one voice that noted that the research criterion is written with the singular---as in one---as its default. From there, however, the discussion moved to questions of refereed journals, the importance of multiple authors, and the possibility of a point system (?!!). While this last was denied by the tenure committee member, it did point to the fact that there is an operant hierarchy of research in the minds of the committee. What the crap happened to "it's all to the good"?!! Did I miss something along the way?!!

All of this is complicated, of course, by the fact that one of the pieces of the file I must submit---a piece that contextualizes the work represented in the file and attests to the stuff that doesn't necessarily appear in it---has to be written by a specific administrator. Which is fine and good, except that the person currently inhabiting that role has been there for precisely two months, during which she's met me twice. And during our first meeting, she had no idea how our tenure system worked, but assured me that "someone told her that research was most highly valued." [Oh, wtf, my friends. Wtf, indeed.] She was also in the meeting above, during which she confused two related, but separate processes leading to reappointment and tenure. [In her defense, it's a confusing system, but she has about two weeks to figure the whole thing out.] And lest you suggest that I make one more appointment to discuss this with her, let me let you in on a secret: she's just not a listener. She's charming, and she insists that she's an expert on particular things. But she also seems bound and determined to make her previous experiences the context in which our local procedures are read. Which would be fine, if her previous institutions were teaching colleges with 4/4 loads and high service expectations, and not Research 1 universities. I'm just saying.

If I had my druthers, I would greatly prefer not to be the fodder of an administrative turnover. Of the times in my career when I could really use someone to go to bat for me, this would be a big one. Barring that, I'd settle for someone that has a sense of anything that I've done over the past five years of my life. If that's not an option, how about just a person who isn't holding me to a completely different standard than those that my colleagues experienced? I'm not completely helpless, just in case you were wondering. I'm sending out gentle feelers to other administrators, etc., just to get on the radar in the event of the worst-case scenario. Not sure what all they can do, but here goes nothing...

The four-month window between submission and decision announcement is a long span in which to sweat, folks. Keep your fingers crossed.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Sisyphus said...

:(

Good luck!

I have no advice for this, since I'm not at that level yet. But I hope the dirty novel cheers you up! Which one is it?

Sunday, September 14, 2008 6:45:00 PM  
Blogger Frenchie Foo said...

Damn! Ok, do NOT panic. Follow this recipe exactly:

2 oz vodka

Repeat as necessary.

Seriously, though, how can you not get tenure? You totally rock and they MUST know that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 8:42:00 PM  
Anonymous The Bittersweet Girl said...

Oh Kfluff, you've made my blood pressure rise. I've got tenure looming on the horizon and I live in fear of two things:

1) a last minute revelation about the "real" tenure requirements

2) my incompetent senior colleague behaving incompetently and screwing my tenure case, while all my competent senior colleagues look on with horror but fail to act to protect me because they don't want to hurt incompetent senior colleague's feelings

Just paranoia, right?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Apparently, the solution to tenure paranoia is dirty book + vodka. Not a bad prescription. Bittersweet---try that out and see if it helps!

Friday, September 19, 2008 9:38:00 AM  

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