Wednesday, December 10, 2008

RTP shenanigans

So, my tenure file passed the first hurdle (department committee) several weeks ago. My service record is a little weak, but my teaching numbers are "above average", and I ended up going up with two peer-reviewed articles and a book under review at Dream Press, with one very positive review back. I've been told by my department committee (unofficially, of course) that I have nothing to worry about. It's now in the hands of the college-level committee.

Of course, the tenure files are all in line behind the retention files: those "third-year reviews." And this is where it gets weird. The two colleagues in my department up for retention both got renewed for a full three years, which was expected, since both of them have stellar records in research and teaching, and both have gone over and above for service. All of this with a very heavy teaching and grad advising load, since we are not a research university.


Yet the college-level committee expressed "concern" about their publication records to date.

One of these colleagues has published two peer-reviewed articles or essays since his hire here 5 semesters ago.

The other just had her book come out. That's right: I said "book." Here she sits, semester 5 on the tenure track, with an actual copy of her university-press book on her desk.

And the college committee is "concerned."

Which makes me concerned.


~profgrrrrl~ said...

It's possible that the committee feels (pressure from above) that they must express concern as a safeguard in case things go awry in the next few years. It seems to be a fairly boilerplate thing to do and perhaps this year's reviewers are just doing it in a particularly clumsy manner?
I've seen that happen before.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Possibly. But this seems to have caught everybody by surprise. I think we just may have drawn a particularly contentious and unpredictable committee this year.

Fortunately, it seems that we are not the only department who has noticed this. So it's a pattern that the dean is aware of. Still, I'm indignant on behalf of my colleagues, as well as a bit jumpy on my own behalf. It's going to be a couple of months now, so we'll see.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

I think it's impossible to avoid the tenure jumpiness, but often tenure cases are treated differently. At least around here the perspective is that pre-tenure you need to point out areas for improvement (although they do it supportively since those letters are on the permanent record), but in the tenure year you support your candidate (supposing you do want to tenure the person).

Also, deans have a way of smoothing these things out as needed.

medieval woman said...

Ugh - that's annoying and ridiculous. I also think that committees often get their jollies at expressing concern - it's a power play. It all depends on what the standards ahve always been in your department - if they haven't changed in an official codified way, then you have nothing to worry about (also, because you're awesome) - otherwise, their opening themselves up to an appeal and maybe more.

Good luck, though you won't need it!

Belle said...

From my own experience on that kind of committee, that stuff leaks out because one person wants it to. In our case, it was a Computer Science prof who had no clue what research meant in history or art. Gah.

Positive vibes your direction! BTW, it was great meeting you in person!!

historiann said...

You don't say, but I'll just throw this out there: will your junior colleagues be held to a different standard for tenure than you are this year? I ask, because we recently completed a re-write of our tenure requirements, and only this year are all of our junior faculty on the same standard. For a few years, we had people going up for tenure under the old standards, and people being reviewed annually under the new (higher) standards. Even so, it's hard to imagine that a BOOK in a history department wouldn't be considered enough publication for tenure.

Another thing to look into, if you don't know the answer: does the college committee you speak of have a vote in the cases it reviews, or is it purely an advisory committee? I serve on the college T & P review committee at my university, and our function is purely advisory. That is, we're not supposed to say whether or not a candidate deserves tenure, we're just supposed to flag cases that have discrepancies or omissions for the Dean, but she then can do anything she wants with the information we bring to her attention. (We're mostly supposed to ensure that departments are applying their tenure standards fairly to their faculty.) If the college committee at your school is just advisory, that may put your mind at ease.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Belle & MW: Thanks. I hope you're both right.

@Historiann: Good questions, all. Unfortunately:

1) If junior colleagues are being held to a different standard, no one has told them, us, or the department chairs. They are also being critiqued for not including information (journal rankings, for example) that was *not* in any way specified in the voluminous instruction sheets and workshops. It boils down to a much-ballyhooed "transparency" that is anything but, which is really the source of my anxiety.

2) It is hard to imagine a book not being enough for tenure. It's even harder for me to wrap my mind around it being insufficient for third-year review. Grrr....

3) College RTP here is the decision. The dean's report is optional.

Believe it or not, though, I'm approaching this with equanimity -- mainly because there's really nothing I can do at this point.

Dr. S said...

I've been trying to think of something comforting or helpful to say, but everything I can think of is laced with obscenity.

SO, perhaps it's not just coincidental that my verification word is