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.

PS: Political Science and Politics Symposium: Reflecting on the Profession

It is an honor to announce the publication of our PS Symposium, Reflecting on the Profession. These articles have their origin in our 2017 NSF workshop, which included a broadly diverse group of political scientists. These authors -- and our many other colleagues who participated last fall -- offer their experiences in the discipline as the basis for much-needed conversation about what works and what doesn't work in political science. We hope this encourages other to tell their #profstories as we all strive for improvements in political science and academe more generally.  

Introduction: Reflecting on the Profession, by Susan Sterett and Jennifer Diascro:  https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/introduction-reflecting-on-the-profession/E4D7F3C66C889F70E2012CF8D7D1DA73/share/da94105e9c3c1a5c92f3ca4275530350efb16410

Balance Is a Fallacy: Striving for and Supporting a Life with Integrity, by Renee Cramer, Nikol Alexander-Floyd, Taneisha Means: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/balance-is-a-fallacy-striving-for-and-supporting-a-life-with-integrity/8A3DAD371551AC75D65426C5D527A834/share/ecdaf0d8cab691fbba5fcaa95c4da5267b6fc016

Making Academic Life "Workable" for Fathers, by Jon Gould & Brian Lovato: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/making-academic-life-workable-for-fathers/8CC50CEFA854582FACBE7FFBF12FFFED/share/b9b105af12888dcc399f064f8f25a0c72b939b49

Rejection of a Manuscript and Career Resilience, by Lee Walker: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/rejection-of-a-manuscript-and-career-resilience/F7CA5A10FFAA67E0B97CA68F2513FA84/share/72ab08bdde874ca0ac371492d579968074c05191

Failure in the Tenure Process, by Jennifer Diascro: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/failure-in-the-tenure-process-we-can-do-better/776E6046EE56758E4EB1E1E4B71B4F5E/share/c2664352277aa01a5dddf06ce0863679dc38de90

Rebounding on the Tenure Track: Carving Out a Place of Your Own in the Academy, by Valeria Sinclair-Chapman: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/rebounding-on-the-tenure-track-carving-out-a-place-of-your-own-in-the-academy/C0993728C71F5B074EEB77D518C31EF4/share/33a52913e46688abf27aaa9b0858eef9801305f3

Navigating the Night Sea Journey: Learning to Let Go after Tenure's Loss, by Stephen Bragaw: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/navigating-the-night-sea-journey-learning-to-let-go-after-tenures-loss/20CCBF184FB46E5CD69ECFE832B1D2D4/share/082b24e5eab3e08b9021c096780cfde312649966

Providing Promotion Pathways That Reflect Changing Faculty Workloads, by C. Scott Peters: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/providing-promotion-pathways-that-reflect-changing-faculty-workloads/1B222CFC1EA5BE5F0D781EF6CE8793D5/share/fdedec1b8befaf97500954cc8611eb195cf4003c

Tenure Track to Think Tank and Back: An Unreproducible Path to Success, Christopher Foreman: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/tenure-track-to-think-tank-and-back-an-unreproducible-path-to-success/CA25CF89931BADE4C54D38BC15932CF6/share/207074638efc4e39bf191879be3f94abd6a4a976

 

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.