May
4th 2008
Baylor U. outrage update: backlashalicious!

Posted under: Gender, jobs, unhappy endings, women's history

I can has  tenure now?A few weeks ago, in one of my posts on the abuses and bullying that are endemic to the tenure system (see here, here, here, and here, for example), I wrote about the spike in tenure denials this year at Baylor University.  At the time I wrote, based on the information provided here, “and guess what, boys and girls?  The 40% rejection rate this year worked disproportionately to disadvantage female tenure candidates–six of the nine women up for tenure were denied.  Surprise!” 

Yesterday, Historiann correspondent Andrea left a comment on that post that I want to highlight here, because she reports that the situation is worse than even those pathetic numbers suggest.  Andrea is someone who is close to the situation of women faculty at Baylor and she has given me permission to post again on this topic, but Historiann is sworn to protect her true identity.  (Think of me as Commissioner Gordon to her Millionaire Bruce Wayne.)  She writes,

Being someone close to the situation at Baylor, please let me provide some more accurate information for you. There were 12 of 30 faculty (40%) denied for tenure at Baylor in 2008. SEVEN of eleven women were denied for tenure (64% of women) and 5 of 19 men (26%) were denied for tenure. Is this a coincidence? No, I think not. Is there evidence of discrimination? Yes, at every level from departments through administration. Does it affect just those denied for tenure this year? No, in my opinion, Baylor has perpetuated a culture of discrimination for many years.

Small sample size or not, those numbers are significant and speak to a larger institutional problem.

Andrea’s testimony calls to mind Nancy Hewitt’s dire forecast that I published back in January–the part in her paper where she talks about her sense that the climate for women faculty is getting more hostile, based on her observations about the experiences of some of her former graduate students.  In summarizing her comments, I wrote:

Still, sex alone appears to correlate with being denied tenure, especially in the Dean’s or Provost’s office.  Hewitt related some recent tenure cases involving some of her former students.  The details varied, but all three women were denied tenure by administration higher-ups even after winning departmental support (and in two out of three cases, it was a unanimous vote by their departments.)  I’ve heard dispatches from the front that sound quite similar, and Squadratomagico has blogged about the same disturbing trend in her department’s recent tenure cases.  Hewitt followed up in further comments that “it seems clear that there is a growing backlash–especially at the dean’s and provost’s level–against women faculty and women’s history [or] women’s studies at many institutions.”   

It looks like Hewitt’s comments were eerily prescient.  Chilling climate, much?  I like Andrea’s point that the tenure decisions at Baylor this year don’t just affect the 64% of women and 26% of men who were denied tenure, they reverberate across campus and send a powerful message that women’s work and achievements won’t be fairly evaluated and rewarded.  At least this year’s tenure decisions have cleared some things up about the tenure process at Baylor:  rather than the nameless, unreasoning doubt that shrouds the tenure process, women faculty members at Baylor now know that there’s a 64% chance of getting the shaft.

4 Comments »

4 Responses to “Baylor U. outrage update: backlashalicious!”

  1. ej on 04 May 2008 at 3:21 pm #

    I find this whole situation disturbing, to say the least. Do we know if the women denied tenure were supported by their departments? If not, I’m wondering why bother hiring them in the first place if you’re just going to deny them tenure later on. Or is the problem at the administrative level? Not that one is any better than the other…

    Yet another reason why I’ll never live in Texas.

  2. Historiann on 04 May 2008 at 3:34 pm #

    ej–Andrea says that the problems at Baylor for women are “at every level from departments through administration,” but she doesn’t get more specific than that.

    I agree with you: why hire people you’re just going to use up and throw away? What sane person wants to spend hir time and money that way? The problem is that even though Baylor is a private (Baptist) university, they can’t state outright that it’s their goal to hold the number of tenured women faculty to less than 10% (or whatever) of the whole. Presumably, they want to be taken seriously as a “real” university. So, it’s SO much more effective to hire women, bully and harrass them, and let the women flounder until their tenure cases “prove” that they’re unworthy, not competitive with men, etc.

    How many of us have heard this before: “We keep trying to hire/tenure women, but they just won’t come/just don’t make it?”

  3. James Stripes on 05 May 2008 at 11:48 am #

    Universities hire those that make them look good, then try to remake them so they no longer represent a threat.

    I dislike threadjacking, but have been obligated to inform you that you’ve been tagged in a meme by Patriots
    and Peoples
    .

  4. Historiann on 05 May 2008 at 5:53 pm #

    Thanks, James–I’ll work on that later this week!