Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Tenure: The early steps

So. It is time. I am beginning, in effect, my critical year.

Let me be clear here. My department, despite the many flaws of the larger institution, is a really good place to work (for those of us privileged to be on the tenure track, at least). The teaching load is a humane 2/3, and the minimum publication requirements for tenure are a very humane four major articles (there are more recommendations that surround that baseline, but still, that's the baseline.

By June now, I have begun the early steps of the tenure process.

Step One: Introducing Myself to the Committee
So that they could begin to choose evaluators, the committee that covers tenure and promotion required a brief paragraph from me to determine good matches. As my work is eclectic in subject matter and ecumenical in approach, and worse, constellates around a book project that will NOT be part of my tenure file, this was not an easy task. But there it is. Short story? I do modern drama. Longer story? I do modern drama and performance studies as it relates to gender studies, life writing, narratology, contemporary British literature, cultural studies and (occasionally) composition pedagogy.

Step Two: assembling the list of external evaluators.

So BRU doesn't offer an honorarium to evaluators, and because of some hitches in the way that our Evaluation Committee (EC) (which handles both annual evaluation and T&P) is constituted, we get a late start on collecting names of potential external evaluators. Which means, with nothing bu good will to offer in return, we call evaluators late in the game, after they've often already agreed to review sometimes multiple other cases. This means that the luxury of choosing a few really wonderful outside readers is mitigated by the likelihood that the most wonderful readers very well may decline the request.

So the process is this: The (EC) and I both submit lists of potential external evaluators. In the past and elsewhere, I've heard that each body gives 5-6 names, and the chair collates those lists, and after I vet them for any material conflicts of interest, gets them approved by the Dean. Once the list is approved, he calls down the lest to secure between 3-6 external evaluators of the case. Because of the likelihood that those requests might be denied, though, both I and the committee were asked to assemble much larger lists of possible readers (somewhere around 40-45 between the two lists). This means that the bottom of the list ends up with people much further afield from my work than I might like, and also that the list inevitably includes those few people on the list who, for whatever reason, don't like me, or my work, or my approach, or (relevantly) the fact that I'm a man doing feminist studies in performance.

But, as of the end of May, I understand that both lists were generated, collated, approved by the Dean, and that readers were secured.

Step three: Assemble packets for External evaluators.
This would seem straightforward, but there are two parts, and questions about each.
  • Part One: What to include. So obviously, I include the major articles, and the components of the edited collection that I wrote or co-wrote. But. Do I include the entire collection as evidence of the editing work? Do I include minor articles (10 pages or shorter?) Do I include reviews? Book reviews and/or performance reviews? Do I include multiple incarnations of radically different lengths of material published under the same title (ie short draft for online journal, expanded significantly for collection)? The book reviews gesture toward that empty center of my work that would otherwise be occupied by the book project in process. The performance review and minor article overlap very closely in subject matter and even primary argument. Current talley: iterations of same article yes, book reviews yes, minor article yes, performance review no.
  • Related question: An article has been accepted for a collection that has not yet found a publisher. I know I can't include it if it's not under contract, but do I a) hold off sending out the packet to see if a contract comes through? b) pull the article from the collection and roll the dice on a journal? c) just send out the packet without the article? I seem to have, by inaction, settled on c).
  • Part two: The framing letter. So I write a letter to tell my evaluators what they're reading. The big questions here are twofold: a) how to explain the collection which represents a significant portion of the page count they are reading, but is only tangentially connected to my stated field. b) how to explain the book project as the nucleus of my work thus far around which all the other pieces revolve as satellites, without looking like a slacker, or intellectually ADD.
So that's where I am now. Making copies of articles, drafting the letter (the chair is glancing over it as we speak), and fretting about the most unknown part of the process. Wish me luck.


Earnest English said...

Good luck! Or as the French say: Merde!

I have to admit that until I read your "What to include" question, I never really thought about the issue of not including something I've done. Instinctively I want to say that's because I feel like I'm always just barely scraping by. But then when I think of my comprehensive exam portfolio, I remember that it was huge and that it put so much of my work (scholarly, teaching, and service) into a kind of context, making it all seem like it was in conversation with each other. But maybe I too will have stuff to not include by tenure time. Hmmm. What a concept!

Thanks for keeping us in the know! I want to hear every detail, as you know.

Sisyphus said...

I wish you luck but think you will do wonderfully! (and, clearly, I have no advice for you on that side of academia.)

it sounds like the framing letter is kinda like the job letter in showing that there is a "throughline" to one's academic work ... that may or may not actually exist.

Go, kick ass!

Tom said...

It would seem to me that you could include the essay accepted by an editor for a collection which has not yet found a home. It may not be what you want to rely on, but as "above and beyond the minimum," it seems useful as completed work in submission, and I think you should include it if it shows some aspect of your work off especially well.

But you know what my advice is probably worth!

BrightStar (B*) said...

Best wishes! Thanks for sharing thoughts about your process. I'm not in your field, but your case sounds great to me. :)

Delaney Kirk said...

Best of luck. I just found out a few days ago that I received tenure again. The process does not get easier! The University of South Florida has a 47 page application form...