Failure in the Tenure Process: We Can Do Better

Tenure is the brass ring of the academy, and careers are made or broken in the effort to achieve it in an all-or-nothing race against the clock. Yet, there are few authoritative sources on the rules of the race or how it is to be judged. Instead, the tenure process is generally conceived but highly variable and relatively opaque, and it goes under-scrutinized because those who succeed rarely question the methods and those who fail rarely talk about their experience.

In my contribution to the PS: Political Science and Politics symposium, Reflecting on the Profession, I reflect on a few of the institutional failures apparent from my own denial of tenure in 2010, including lack of transparency, accountability, and effective leadership. I argue for intentional hiring with written contracts that define tenure requirements; clear and transparent tenure standards so junior faculty understand expectations; honest pre-tenure reviews that provide candid feedback about progress toward tenure; meaningful consideration of external evaluations that provide a broader context for understanding accomplishments of tenure candidates; and, effective leadership in the decision making process.

The article is online with the other thoughtful, insightful contributions to the symposium. All are ungated for the month of October.

The Long Game

Nothing makes me happier professionally than to support colleagues and friends who are fighting the good fight against discrimination and other inequalities in academia. Unfortunately, the opportunities to look behind the curtain  to see the fight in real time are rare. But there’s a very important lawsuit against American University for which many documents are public. With permission from both women — who are close friends of mine — I am posting a court ruling denying the University’s motion for summary judgement and a declaration of events in support of the plaintiff. Change is incremental and requires that we all contribute in whatever ways we can to make institutions as fair as possible. These amazing women are working together on the long game for all of us.

Hanna-Summary-Judgment-August-2017.pdf

Newbold-Declaration.pdf

Advancement Through Narrative: Understanding and Navigating Success and Failure in the Academy

Last month, a phenomenal group of political scientists convened in Washington, DC for a NSF-funded workshop on success and failure in the academy. In attendance were current and former faculty from across the country, employed at private and public colleges and universities and outside the academy, with degrees from different types of programs in various subfields. They represented the discipline on many other personal and professional characteristics as well, such as sex, race, ethnicity, disability, age, stage of career, tenure and non-tenure track, and parental and other care responsibilities. They brought with them their experiences in the academy: the successes and the failures, the opportunities and the hurdles, the victories and the disappointments. They were -- they are -- a remarkable group of human beings who, through their personal narratives, laid it bare for two days so that we all might understand a bit more clearly and honestly how the academy works -- and, often, doesn’t work. As two of the three coPIs on the project, Susan Sterett (UMBC) and I wrote a brief summary of the workshop that includes the primary themes and a few of the common reflections that emerged from our two-day conversation. We’ve published it as a post on the WPSA’s New West blog. If you’re interested in contributing your own story about these or related topics, please drop me an email via Contact Me on this site. Also, please join the conversation on Twitter using #AdvancingNarratives and #ProfStories.