Search Results for "tenure"

20th 2009
Teaching and tenure: what counts (and what’s good?)

Posted under jobs

everythingcountsdepechemodeWell, if you teach in a Ph.D.-granting institution, what counts is research, and if you teach in a bachelor’s degree-only institution, it’s teaching.  With apologies to Depeche Mode, notEverything Counts, in Large Amounts.”  This unsurprising result is brought to you by a national survey of Political Science departments, published in the most recent edition of PS:  Political Science and Politics, and reported by Inside Higher Ed.

A national survey of department chairs found that superior research compensates for “mediocre teaching” at 55 percent of Ph.D. granting institutions, compared to 34 percent of master’s institutions and 17 percent of bachelor’s institutions. A contrasting split is evident at bachelor’s institutions — although many of them do not claim that their faculty are committed to research. At 64 percent of bachelor’s institutions, superior teaching would compensate for mediocre research, while that’s the case for 38 percent of master’s institutions and 14 percent of doctoral institutions.

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Departments from different sectors share some approaches to evaluating teaching. Overwhelming majorities across sectors report using teaching evaluations, teaching portfolios, syllabi, and peer review of teaching by other faculty members. But department chairs or deans are much more likely to be involved in peer review of teaching at bachelor’s institutions than doctoral universities. For instance, 69 percent of chairs reported doing peer review of teaching at bachelor’s institutions, compared to 27 percent at doctoral institutions. For peer review by deans or senior administrators, the figures were 31 percent for bachelor’s institutions and 3 percent at doctoral.

This survey appears to be a relatively blunt instrument, because I think the more interesting questions are:  1)  What kind of teaching are we talking about:  survey classes, upper-division elective courses, or master’s or Ph.D.-level seminars?, and 2) in any case, how do we know what is good teaching?  Continue Reading »


14th 2009
Just in case you thought that tenure at Harvard and a prominent role in government oversight would mean that you were taken seriously…

Posted under American history & class & Gender & wankers

Think again!  (That is, if you think that the U.S. government and publicly subsidized banking system should work for the little people instead of for the banksters.  I’m sure Larry Summers is taken to be a very serious person.)  Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand–not so much.  Lambert at Corrente was all over this last weekend, and this morning TalkLeft posted a brief explanation and a link to an NPR interview with Warren in which she is lectured by Adam Davidson, who has zero credentials in law, government, economics, or banking that I can find.  Warren, on the other hand, has a CV as long as your leg–but that doesn’t matter!  She still gets a lecture from a man who asked her for an interview.  From the TalkLeft synopsis:

Davidson accuses Warren of stepping beyond her bailout watchdog role to advocate for her “pet issues” (Davidson isn’t specific about what Warren’s “pet issues” are but presumably he is referring to Warren’s advocacy for consumers in a number of areas from credit cards to mortgages).

When Warren points out that the financial crisis will “not be over until the American family begins to recover” and that the financial crisis does not “exist independently” from problems experienced by American families (skyrocketing foreclosure rates, high debt levels on credit cards), Davidson sarcastically interjects “that’s your crisis.”

My favorite part is when Davidson informs her quite patronizingly that she is all alone, and that no “serious thinkers” agree with her (from Lambert’s partial transcript):  Continue Reading »


7th 2009
Adjuncts jumping to the tenure track?

Posted under Gender & happy endings & jobs

tootletrainYes, indeedy!  P.D. Lesko writes at the Chronicle On Hiring blog,

I have lost many excellent writers over the years that I have been publishing the Adjunct Advocate. Some simply stopped freelancing, and others landed full-time writing jobs. A third group is made up of writers who landed tenure-track jobs; six of them in the past 18 years. They share some of the same characteristics. In fact, the six of them took an almost identical path toward the tenure track. It got so that I could tell which of my freelance writers who were adjuncts on the prowl would, eventually, end up sending me a “Dear P.D.” letter. I have come to think of them as the Six Musketeers.

So how did they do it?  Here are several of the character traits they had in common:


16th 2009
Women’s History Month book club: Judith Bennett’s “History Matters” Part III at Tenured Radical

Posted under American history & Berkshire Conference & book reviews & European history & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & women's history

bennetthistorymatters2Tenured Radical has posted her essay for Part III of our discussion of Judith Bennett’s History Matters, where she discusses premodern history, the academic job market’s bias towards the modern, and Bennett’s call for women’s historians to write more “lesbian-like” history.  The conversation is happening there now, so come on over and join in the fun!  (If you haven’t read them already, see part I by Notorious, Ph.D. here, and see my contribution, part II, here.) 

Sister bloggers, don’t forget TR’s announcement that the Journal of Women’s History wants submissions for their roundtable on “Feminism, Blogging, and the Historical Profession.”  See the CFP after the jump.

Continue Reading »


19th 2008
Tenured Tammy: giving up tenure for love?

Posted under jobs

Well, not exactly, but read on anyway.  From the mailbag at Historiann HQ:

I am a tenured assoc. professor at a mid-level university in what would generally be regarded as a decent location. I’m applying for a job at a decent SLAC in what would also be regarded by most as a decent location. While this is a fine job, the only reason I’m applying for it at this juncture in my career is because they also hiring in my husband’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field, where his skills put him at a relative advantage in the job market (at least compared to a humanities Ph.D. like me).  He is just finishing his Ph.D., and is applying for entry-level assistant professorships.

My question is, how do I word the cover letter to convey my willingness to accept a demotion without being presumptuous or insulting?  (Since this is clearly not Harvard, they won’t assume that it’s natural for me to want to take an untenured position there.)  Should I be up-front about my ‘two-body problem?’  Should my husband mention it in his letter?

Your thoughts, Historiann?


Tenured Tammy

My advice, Tammy, is to be totally up-front about your personal situation.  Since you’re tenured and apparently are happy enough in your present position, it’s best not to let search committees fill in the blanks as to why you’re seeking what amounts to a demotion at another college in another part of the country.  (Has she been terminated for moral turpitude?  Is she just a bitch-on-wheels?  Are the villagers with pitchforks running her out of town?  I’m afraid the reasons they’ll imagine or invent won’t be flattering to you, human nature being what it is.)

I also think honesty is the best policy in this case, because if being up front about your personal situation is a problem, then you won’t be happy working in that environment.  You’re in a different situation than two unemployed people seeing entry-level positions within a reasonable proximity.  You’ve got a job, and a tenured one at that.  You’ve got nothing to lose by putting all your cards on the table, whereas I generally think it’s best for the Unemployed Ursulas not to mention two-body problems unless and until there’s an indication that a search committee is interested.  In those cases, I think it’s best to let the hiring department get invested in Ursula’s candidacy and get excited about the prospect of hiring Ursula, wonderful Ursula, before Ursula lets them in on some of the complications that may involve.

But, I realize that I’m just thinking about Tammy here.  As a tenured Associate Professor myself, perhaps I’m too concerned about giving strangers on the search committee something to gossip about.  Readers, do you have other advice?  Do you recognize Tammy’s plight, either as a job-seeker who gave up tenure or as someone on a search committee?  Am I dooming Mr. Tammy’s career by counseling such shameless honesty?  How would you finesse this to the benefit of both job-seekers?


17th 2008
Major League cool: John Waters! Plus a “Tenure” update.

Posted under fluff

Well, everyone’s a “citizen journalist” now, aren’t we?  Historiann has some more movie news to report!  While she and her entire family were visiting this city (pictured at right)

a member of her family, who was in this neighborhood (pictured at left) happened to see one morning that a movie was being filmed there.  Last Sunday morning, strolling back up the hill, this family member walked by John Waters.  (I know!  How cool is that?)  He was carrying a newspaper and talking on the phone about movie business.  Some members of the Historiann family used to live in Baltimore, and claim to have seen Waters there twice, although I myself was never so fortunate.   And now–damn and blast–he has eluded me again!  (The only movie Historiann ever saw being filmed was in Baltimore, although, tragically, not a Waters movie.  Nothing to brag about–it was Major League II!)

Keep your eyes peeled for Waters’ next movie, and if it was filmed in this city, you can say you heard it here first at

LATE BREAKING UPDATE ON TENUREE.H., our intrepid correspondent on the movie set at Bryn Mawr College, has been “super busy with midterms” lately, but sent in a recent update on the Luke Wilson movie.  She writes, “[T]he ‘whoa-they’re-filming-a-movie-here’ craze seems to be on the way out. I’ve overheard a few people saying they are already tired of having the big trucks and the film’s crew being around all the time.”  Those Bryn Mawr women–so worldly-wise, so seen-it-all, been-there-too.  (Then again, Luke Wilson is no George Clooney, if you know what I mean.  He’d be cute for a college professor or a congressman, but he’s not Hollywood’s top dreamboat, not even at a women’s college.)


1st 2008
Prof. Lolcat’s application for tenure

Posted under Uncategorized

I can has  tenure now?

Courtesy of all of the fine kittehs at


31st 2008
Tenure, again? Oh, noes!

Posted under jobs

Virtually Me  I’m posting briefly here to direct you to this discussion of the tenure debate at Inside Higher Ed featuring Tenured Radical, which also mentions Lumpenprofessoriat‘s rebuttal and Slaves of Academe‘s discussion of tenure as hazing.  (The article totally neglects the brilliantly informed disucssions of this subject at Historiann, and Professor Zero‘s ongoing meditations on the topic of tenure, however!  Shocking!)  I love this quote from the Radical about why transparency is so threatening to the tenure regime:  “A private institution is like an allegory for the WASP family when it comes to talking about tenure — it’s like you’re not supposed to say that Mommy’s drinking. Whatever happens, the real crime is talking about it.”  I think it works pretty much the same way in public institutions too, but that quote struck me because I used to have a tenure-track job at a private university, and I regularly compared my department to an alcoholic family, where I was cast as the “bad daughter” for talking about and questioning the abuse.

Stay tuned–Prof. Zero and I may be cooking up a Modest Proposal for tenure reform. 

RED ALERT UPDATE, 4/1/08:  Click here to read about the insanity at Baylor, where administrators have applied new tenure standards that were apparently pulled out of their a**es after this year’s tenure candidates submitted their dossiers!  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!  My favorite part of the article is where President of the Faculty Senate Matt Cordon suggests that he’s worried that this will hurt faculty recruiting, a worthy point, especially considering that you’ve already got to recruit people to WACO, TEXAS!  Come on, people–you’ve already got a weak hand to play.  Abusing people and denying them tenure is bad enough, but the ones you “reward” with tenure have to live in Waco, Texas.


22nd 2008
Curiouser and curiouser: Malice in Tenureland

Posted under Gender & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers

“Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.  Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.  “I don’t see any wine,” she remarked.  “There isn’t any,” said the March Hare.  “Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it,” said Alice angrily.  “It wasn’t very civil of you to sit down without being invited,” said the March Hare.

alice-in-tenureland.jpgThis is a follow-up to my super-cheerful post on Wednesday, “Tenure:  What is it good for?  (Absolutely nothing?)”  Hear now the tale of Sheri Klouda, a faculty member who was told she wouldn’t be tenured at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary because the good men of SBTS “believe women are biblically forbidden from teaching men.”  (Yes–you read that correctly.  I know it doesn’t make any sense, but bear with me.)  Her contract wasn’t renewed in 2006, so she took them to court.  She’s in the news this week because a judge dismissed her lawsuit, claiming that their “religious beliefs” make it all nice’n’legal (on First Amendment grounds, natch.)  This ruling doesn’t make any sense at all.  Their “religious beliefs” prevent women from teaching men at all, so–why was she hired?  Other women remain on the faculty–apparently they have no rights as employees which SBTS is bound to respect.  How disturbing that U.S. District Judge John McBryde doesn’t find it troubling that these deeply held “religious beliefs” are checked at the door until they’re needed to block a woman’s promotion.  Disturbing, but not surprising–after all, this is characteristic of that crazy, mixed-up, through-the-looking-glass place called Tenureland, where nothing is as it seems!


19th 2008
Tenure: what is it good for? (Absolutely nothing?)

Posted under Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & unhappy endings & women's history

Well, it’s Spring Break, and the letters will soon rain down from Provost Offices everywhere on assistant professors in their sixth year of employment.  The lucky duckies who get the news that they’re tenured and promoted. . . are permitted to do the same job next year, in perpetuity, and to change their rank to “Associate Professor” on their CVs as of July 1.  The unlucky duckies get heaping doses of shame and humiliation to shovel out of their mental Augean Stables for the rest of their lives.

Inspired by this post at Slaves of Academe, about the apparently outrageous decision to deny Andrea Smith tenure at the University of Michigan, Tenured Radical brilliantly sums up a lot of the rage and frustration that many of us feel about the system we’ve created for ourselves.  The Andrea Smith case is especially vexing for us Women’s Studies types, because she is a Native American scholar and activist with a dual appointment in two departments whose tenure case was approved by American Culture but denied by Women’s Studies.  (With friends like that. . . who needs History departments?)  The Radical One makes the point that unions might serve us better in protecting our right to free speech and the pursuit of scholarship, and several commenters agree.  (By the way, don’t miss the Radical One’s This American Life-worthy story about a short but disturbing conversation with a random dog-walker in New York City.  You’ll never look at dog butt-sniffing the same way again!)  Marc Bousquet has made the point at How the University Works that tenure really isn’t that great of a prize–people in unions get better job protection and benefits than tenured people, without being put through the humiliations that the tenure process dishes out with impunity.  As he puts it, “today’s tenured faculty-and their unions-still have a lot to learn from the people who carry their trash, organize their files, teach their children, and put out their fires.”

One of the things about tenure is that most of us are in denial about its costs, even (or especially?) those of us who are casualties of destructive work environments and/or bruising tenure battles.  It seems like every woman faculty member I know has been brutalized by the system at some point–if not as a junior faculty member, at the point of tenure and promotion to Associate; if not at that point, then they get it when they go up for their next promotion to Professor.  Both institutions that I’ve been affiliated with as a regular faculty member have suddenly and arbitrarily invented higher tenure standards when a generation of women Assistant Professors came up for tenure and promotion.  Example:  In my former department, there were men promoted to Associate Professor before they were tenured (and then tenured easily as a matter of course), but just a few years later when a handful of women came up for tenure, they were offered the pink-collar designation of tenured Assistant Professor.  Nice, huh?

And yet, we don’t talk about this.  Although feminist intellectuals who have sophisticated understandings about how power works, we still feel shame about our own experiences.  We still see them–to one degree or another–as personal failures, rather than the fault of the system and of the people who interpret and enforce the system’s rules.  We don’t want to discourage our graduate students or new junior colleages.  After all, who among them wants to hear that “the evil claw of patriarchy will get you too, my pretty!”  It’s easier for all of us to assume that the roughed-up or ultimately untenured must have done something to deserve it, because we don’t want to believe that it could happen to us.  We’re good girls, we did everything right, we went to conferences and had publications on our CVs when we were graduate students.  We’ve won national fellowships.  We’re protected.  We’re bulletproof. 

Maybe we should all get T-shirts, like the “I had an abortion” T-shirts, that read, “I was denied tenure,” or “I had to go up for tenure twice,” or “I was told that I ‘intimidate’ senior faculty members,” or “I sued my department,” or, “I was told to shut up and take it.”  That’s frequently the advice that junior faculty get, especially from senior faculty who took it, and “won” the glorious prize of tenure. 

Tenure is also on Historiann’s mind because there is apparently a new Hollywood movie in the works called Tenure, starring Luke Wilson, with David Koechner as his goofball Anthropologist sidekick.  It will be filmed at Bryn Mawr College (so cleverly renamed in the movie “Grey College.”)  Here comes the icky part:  the plot is that the character played by Wilson comes up for tenure “and fac[es] off against a female rival who recently arrived” to teach at the same institution.  Other media reports suggest that Wilson’s character “competes for tenure with an impressive new female colleague.”  Ugh.  Just perfect:  the tenure drama reduced to a boys-versus-the-girl paranoid masculine fantasy, made all the more disgusting by the fact that Bryn Mawr is a women’s college that hasn’t been terribly progressive in hiring women faculty members in the past twenty years.  Maybe Tenure will be a clever comedy, and maybe it will surprise me–but so far, the plot sounds backlashy, or at best a weak “cute meet” setup.  For those of us who have been sounding the alarms about the re-masculinization of academia, this movie will be one to watch (like a trainwreck?)  Then again, maybe it will just be the faculty version of Old School, which also featured Wilson:  stupid, but kinda funny.

I’ve been wondering if the generation of us women faculty who were hired between 1992-2002 will witness the further re-masculinization of our departments over the course of our careers.  Like the generations of women faculty who dominated women’s colleges from the 1920s through the 1950s, we could find ourselves patronized and edged out by younger men who will then run our institutions for the next forty years (at least.)  There was a story I heard while still a Bryn Mawr undergraduate about one of the last of the grandes dames from that generation of scholars.  The faculty vote to tenure one of the first young men hired in the 1950s wasn’t going his way; the grande dame acknowledged that he wasn’t much of a scholar, but urged her colleagues to tenure him nevertheless so that they wouldn’t look like they were prejudiced against men.  That was a pretty funny punchline back in the 1980s when I was an undergrad–twenty years later as a faculty member, the best I can offer a rueful grimace.


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