17 February 2010

Collegiality and tenure, revisited

Last week, I wrote about a brief presentation I gave to some of the tenure-track faculty at our institution. The major point I made was that tenure guidelines are instruments favouring the tenured in an asymmetric power relationship. But I expressed this as “collegiality” was often an unwritten factor in tenure decisions.

Abel Pharmboy at Terra Sigilata has a long discussion thread going on around the question of whether collegiality should play any role in tenure decisions. From there, I learned that the American Associate of University Professors recommends against using collegiality at all as a factor in tenure decisions. It’s a short but thoughtful analysis. (Also, Dr. Free-Ride has more to say on this.) I think I agree with it, in fact.

That said, here is a possible problem. I have not experienced this first hand; this is just an impression I’ve gotten from talking to colleagues.

The way many departments “handle” behavioural problems (bullying, say) with their tenure-track faculty is not to address the behavioural problem itself. Instead, they’ll ride the person harder on the academic requirements for tenure, and use that as an excuse to get someone out of their department.

Academics should be much more willing to say, “You’re not playing nice. Knock it off,” instead of weaseling out with, “You met all our minimum criteria, but you didn’t publish in a journal with an impact factor greater than 1.7, and your grant was only $49,000, so you just haven’t done enough for us to warrant tenure.”

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