I have a number of friends at various institutions that are up for tenure this year. Every school is on its own unique schedule, of course, so some of my friends are finding out right about now, officially or unofficially (mostly unofficially) whether they will be tenured or not. I am going to concentrate on two such friends and their situations in this particular post.
Friend #1 is at a school where the tenure requirements are very vague, and where there is almost zero transparency in the tenure process. Junior faculty have to rely on what amounts to smoke signals from departmental colleagues and the administration to figure out *anything* related to tenure and promotion, which of course opens itself up to all sorts of rumor and innuendo and misreading of conversations and such. (Good times.) Anyway, Friend #1 found out this week that he is not being recommended for tenure….and was pretty much blindsided by the decision, since all the early indicators pointed towards tenure recommendation.
Friend #2 is at a school where the tenure requirements are very specific. Teaching effectiveness as measured by X. Y publications in journals/year; Y*2 in conferences/year. And so on. I haven’t heard anything definitive from Friend #2 yet, but last I talked to her, she was pretty sure she was not going to be recommended for tenure. Her publication numbers were good, but not quite Y, and she didn’t think that her institution would be willing to budge too much on the publication numbers requirement, even if the rest of her packet was strong.
So. Two people, two institutions with completely different approaches to tenure, same results.
Now, I am a big proponent of transparency in the tenure process. I honestly don’t see what’s to be gained by shrouding the process in mystery, or not being honest and open about requirements and how candidates will be evaluated. (Honestly, the only benefit I see to not having transparency in the process is that it gives an institution the freedom to give tenure to, and to deny tenure to, whoever the hell it wants…but maybe I’m just being cynical.)
But part of me wonders which is worse: not knowing that you’re not going to get tenure until it happens, and then dealing with the fallout; or knowing for a year or more that you’re probably not going to get tenure, and having to deal with that kind of stress for a prolonged period of time?
Of course, with the latter scenario, you probably have a bit more control over the situation: You can try to publish more. You can apply for other jobs. You at least *know* what that yardstick looks like and can mentally prepare yourself for the expected outcome. But what if you know that you’re not going to measure up ultimately? Does that end up causing more stress than, say, being blissfully ignorant?
I’m curious as to what you, my dear readers, think about this. Which camp does your institution fall into (opaque, transparent, or translucent) regarding tenure requirements? If you’ve gone through the tenure process, or are going through the process right now, successfully or unsuccessfully, did you have specific guidelines, and if so, did that make the process more stressful or less stressful? How would you answer the questions I’ve posed here?