“I had a baby, not a lobotomy”* and Other Irregularities

It seems like I’ve been working on Part II of my gatekeeping post forever. And I’m not done. Sigh. So (not) funny how the specter of failure creeps into all of life’s crevices, even a personal blog with no deadlines, no commitments, no expectations. Yeah, right.

I fret about not getting my next post out, yet I’ve been attending to all the other parts of my life: kids, live-in parent, and that pesky career thing, to name just a few. A conspiracy to impede my progress! Like it is for so many others, time is my most valuable – and scarce – resource. I have to remind myself that there’s only so much of it, and that priorities have to be set. Or, rather, they’re set for me.

Life. The primary theme of my tenure denial …

Failure or not, I will adapt. I may not be ready for my planned post, but I can make progress by writing about my appeal instead.

Besides, the appeal is a perfect segue to a post on gatekeepers in the academy.

Here, I give you the last two arbiters of my tenure case at AU: the Committee on Faculty Grievances (CFG) and the University President.


Actually, I have (relatively) little to say about this part of the process.

When I read them again after so many years, I realized how remarkable the letters were in representing the whole of my tenure denial experience.

The university committee—an external, independent evaluator of the process—arguing point by point the irregularities in the process.

The university president, seemingly disinterested and dismissive of each and every point.

You can read them for yourself in the Library, along with my appeal letter.[1]

It was—and is—rather anticlimactic.

Not that the CFG letter didn’t give me hope—less for myself, but for the larger issues I’d presented in my appeal. This was a committee of seven faculty, none of whom I knew personally, and only one by reputation. They investigated my claims by examining—and recording for the record and to provide some degree of transparency—relevant documents and interviewing relevant actors in the process. They found procedural and discriminatory irregularities in the evaluation process.

Most rewarding was their finding that the Dean had indeed changed his evaluation of my scholarly record after I delayed my tenure clock. The Committee flatly rejected the Dean’s explanation that his views were consistent over time, and they suggested that the President look carefully at the assessment of my scholarship.

Additionally, the Committee found that the focus of the Chair, Dean, and the Provost on future productivity and potential—at the expense of my previous work—was inconsistent with the Faculty Manual.

Similarly, it concluded that the Chair’s consultation with the senior faculty was not in keeping with routine procedures of the Department or the School, as the Dean had claimed. This violation of the Manual—which informed the evaluations by the Chair and the Dean—led the Committee to suggest that the weight of these reviews should be lessened in the President’s review of my case.

Furthermore, the Committee argued that I’d made a prima facie case for gender discrimination in the Department. They suggested that one sign of discrimination might be the Chair’s and Dean’s—and then Provost’s—dismissiveness of the external letters submitted in support of my tenure and promotion. Importantly, the Committee argued that the source of discrimination might not lie (only) in the evaluation process, but perhaps in the Department’s hiring and mentoring of junior faculty. The Committee asked the President to initiate an investigation.

Alas, as far as I could tell, there was no investigation by the President of any part of the process.

The review of gender discrimination in the Department by the Interim Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Academic Affairs mentioned in the President’s letter (and in my appeal) took place many weeks before the CFG made it’s independent determination that there was a prima facie case for discrimination.

Notably, her review—which she indicated was stimulated by the letter of support from my colleagues—was conducted many weeks after that letter was submitted and after the Provost had made the decision to deny tenure.

I do not know who else the Interim Vice Provost spoke to or how she conducted her investigation. I don’t remember hearing anything about a final determination about gender discrimination in the Department until I received the President’s letter. Indeed, it seems from the CFG letter that the Committee didn’t know anything about her review either as it is not mentioned in their letter to the President.

In the absence of transparency, I have no way of knowing if the President carried out his own, independent review of my case.


The failure of my appeal didn’t come as a surprise. I’d hired a lawyer several months before knowing full well how this story would end. Familiar with the tenure process at AU, she’d laid out a number of options for me to consider.

With the standard terminal contract in hand, I had a year to figure out what to do next.




*Quoted in Williams, Joan C. and Nancy Segal. 2003. “Beyond the Maternal Wall: Relief for Family Caregivers Who Are Discriminated Against on the Job,” 26 Harvard Women’s Law Review 77, 77. [Accessed November 9, 2016, at http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlg/vol26/williams.pdf]

[1] One of the most distasteful parts of writing the appeal was comparing my record to the records of my colleagues. I have redacted these portions of my letter.