Saturday, December 14, 2013
Hatchet Jobs (and Puffery) in Tenure and Promotion Hurt the School's Reputation in the University
Promotion dossiers must be fair, neither ignoring problems, nor focusing only on them. Otherwise the provost is likely to distrust the department and the school's dean, and such distrust has long-term consequences.
Process and procedure must be clean. If one of the committee members is known to have strong feelings about a candidate as a scholar, it is probably better to replace that person. Moreover, everyone should understand that denying tenure to a candidate, does not mean a replacement favored by a committee member is likely to be appointed.
Canards and gossip about a candidate and their work, unless the claims are well supported by evidence (and then they no longer are canards and gossip!), should be kept to oneself. Hence, a claim that the most well-thought-of piece of the candidate's work was published in a journal edited by their spouse, without real evidence that standard refereeing was not employed, does not belong anywhere in the process.
If you read the letters first, and then the committee report, and that report seems quite selective in its summary of the letters, it is likely the committee's report will be ignored. Only a balanced and fair account of the work and the letters will carry any weight. If comparisons are made with other candidates up for tenure, be sure that all recent candidates are considered.
It is not good to compare two tenure cases at one meeting, although it is fine to consider multiple cases at one meeting. And leaving out other recent cases makes the discussion less convincing. I am all for raising notions of what is appropriate for tenure, but that has to be done fairly.
It may be coincidental, but if say in the last five years an African-American woman and a Native-American woman are both denied, yet a problematic Anglo man is encouraged to submit further evidence in the seventh year, so as to be reconsidered, and is then tenured--you've got to convince outsiders that you have been fair.
If a candidate delivers on their third year review's concerns, you have to take that into account.
Quality considerations need to be topmost. If the letters praise the quality, yet the committee feels that quality is not there, they need to deal with their difference with the letter writers they have chosen.
If numbers are problematic, be sure that the numbers now demanded are similar to other candidates over the last few years.
All the university sees is the dossier. If there are concerns or enthusiasms, they must be expressed there.