First, a quick introduction. I'm Elisabeth, associate professor of English and director of the writing center at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, a small, private liberal arts college located about 30 miles from Austin, where I live. Nancy Grimm, Lisa Ede and I will be leading the break-out session on Tenure and Promotion at the Summer Institute, and we wanted to share some of our thoughts with those of you who might be thinking of attending that session.
One of the ideas that emerged in our email discussions with each other was that the tenure process (and to a lesser extent, the promotion one as well), is really two processes. The first is plotting and completing the journey of scholarship, teaching, and service that your institution defines as the requirements for tenure. The second comprises the tactical, rhetorical, and, yes, social, strategies you'll need to engage to make the first process work for you. To make the most of of this session, we're hoping you can bring some information with you. Please be assured that we won't ask you to share documents like your cv or draft tenure statement with the group unless you volunteer to do so. Lisa, Nancy, and I will be happy to set up individual consultations during evening hours and breaks.
So, what to bring with you? The clearest statements you can find from your school describing the requirements for tenure and promotion; a map, outline, draft, or general hunch about how your work might best fit with these requirements; an assessment of where you are and what resources you need to get to where you need to be.
Now that I've elevated your heart-rate by talking about this stuff, I want to acknowledge that this is so stressful not only because the professional stakes are so high. It's also very emotionally charged, and has a way is kicking loose a lot of old anxieties and insecurities about school and "grades" that you may have thought were safely sedimented by now. This is a true story about my 4th-year review -- two years before the tenure review!
I'm in the provost's office with my department chair, both very kind and supportive men whom I had every reason to believe were on my side (they were, and are). The provost starts with a tone of voice I didn't expect and had never heard before -- formal, legalistic -- and begins with the category of "teaching," which I think I excel in. "You are 'meeting expectations,'" he says. The minimum standard. Crap, everything's going downhill from here, I think, that was my strong suit. Wait till they get to my sketchy scholarship. As it turned out, I was meeting expectations in general, and even "above" expectation in service (yea! -- Miss Congeniality!), but my point in telling this story is that I was so overcome by emotions that I almost literally couldn't hear what was being said. My brain was repeating: "Must use voice, ask for clarification, appear like sentient being." But my body responded, "Voice temporarily disabled by panic and weird feeling of hurt; risk of sobbing very high; please try again later."
I could have and should have been better prepared for that, and having the kind of discussion we hope to have in our break-out session would have gotten me a long way toward that. See y'all in a few weeks.