Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sacrificing Trees to the Tenure Gods

Every two months, the senior professors in my department revise the guidelines for reviewing all the junior faculty. You see, as a junior faculty member, my only goal in life is supposed to be obtaining tenure. Tenure means job security for life, but I must prove my worthiness to those who have already passed the tenure gates. How do I do this? In theory, through solid research and good teaching. In reality, through solid research and smart politics.

About this time of year, junior faculty assembly their dossier to show how much we have accomplished in the past year. The newest guidelines (version 10.01.01), however, has radically increased the amount of paper we must include. Let me give you an example from this new directive:

    File E. The fifth file in your dossier should include documents supporting your service file. When you receive letters pertaining to service – thank-you letters for serving on committees, invitations to deliver scholarly presentations on campus, or correspondence relating to planning or participating on panels at professional organizations – KEEP THEM!!! And include them in this folder. If you have given a paper at a professional conference, tear out the pages from conference programs indicating the panel on which you participated and put them in this folder. (Emphasis in Original)

What does all of that mean? Two things: 1) Seemingly, the senior faculty think that we lie about doing service and won’t believe it without legal evidence. 2) We must now search through our e-mail to find all of our “documentation” if we ever talked to students.

Over the past four years, I have been asked numerous times to talk to student groups about Latinos in the U.S., or gays in the U.S., or gay Latinos in the U.S. I don’t mind providing this evidence per se, but it seems silly. In the end, speaking to 100 student groups would not get me tenure. Only research and politics hold the key to tenure. Speaking to zero student groups would not deny me tenure, either. Again, only research and politics. So, why the fa├žade?

One has to think that the senior faculty imagine themselves as a cross between Perry Mason and a tax auditor. I have visions of being called into a little room with a spot light as they ask questions like: “So, GayProf, if that is your real name, you say that you spoke on a panel on March 23. None of us bother to attend anything where you are speaking, so why should we believe you? Admit it — You are bulking up your service file even though it will not result in any greater pay or increase your chances for tenure in any way.”

It also makes me wonder what they are going to start asking for next. They won’t believe we finished grade school, so will they want class photos from first grade? Maybe they will go all the way back and believe we weren’t born unless we preserved our umbilical cord.

Not including any of my research, my newest dossier file required an entire ream of paper (and I am still printing). If they are really reading all of this stuff, the senior faculty members have too much time on their hands. They ask, though, so we obey.


Adam said...

That seems like a whole lot of overkill. Is this something that is unique to your institution? You think they would have record of when you go to conferences to present your work from the travel reimbursement paperwork. They do reimburse you? Oh please tell me they do.

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