Think, Know, Prove

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

With apologies to the adjunct eyeballs out there, this one is about our beloved (ha) tenure process. I mean, seriously, does anyone think it is even remotely defensible? Has anyone gotten anything positive except tenure out of going through it, which is not to mention A) all of the unnecessary suffering that is requisite for the good at the end; and B) that it is consistently described as a kind of harrowing process to get through, which makes tenure more of a finish line than a quality verification.

Two common misconceptions are that the law or our contract are the reasons for the tenure process being what it is, but the truth is that neither say much on the topic. The guiding force is, far and away, academic policy 2.20A, which can be changed at the wave of a few hands at a board meeting. Have you ever read that thing? If you’d like to, here’s a link; if you don’t have time, but you’d like to know what the experience is like, pick up a big dictionary or a frying pan or something heavy and then hit yourself in the forehead with it. 15 or 16 times ought to do it.

It’s completely non-sensical. As is the process. At least that’s what I think, and what I’ve heard from others.

I’m familiar with arguments against tenure, as well as for it, and, while those topics are interesting, they are not what I want to propose for discussion here today. I also understand that a rigorous tenure process is a good thing, but I don’t think that’s what we have (In fact it bothered me so much, that I drafted a proposal a couple of years ago to change the process and worked on it for months with Art DiVito. We got as far as a district Dean’s meeting, before it went into limbo. I for one, still hold out hope for a better, more reflective, more logical, more evidence based, and (so) more rigorous process that is much, much less redundant and annoying for everyone involved.), but that, too, is a topic for another day.

Today, I propose that we remember, regardless of all our complaints and distaste for the current process that we still have people going through it. So, the point of this post is to provide a little support to our non-tenured colleagues. If you’re out there with tenure in your pocket, what advice do you have for those going through the tenure process at HWC? What did you learn from your own experiences? What do you wish you had (or hadn’t) done? And if you’re out there, non-tenured, here is a place for you to ask questions (and do so anonymously, if you’d like).

Finally, rest assured: this site is NOT hosted on CCC servers nor does it have anything to do with them or their stuff. Consequently, they do NOT have access to names or posters or anything associated with it. The Administrators and Editor/Contributors are HW faculty, so you don’t have to be concerned about administrative spying eyes or recriminations for things you post here. If you use a pseudonym, only WordPress knows who you are, and they don’t care what you say about the CCC tenure process. Fire away…

(Oh, and one other thing: I’d be happy to post an adjunct special next week–a topic of particular concern to our adjunct faculty for discussion, as long as anyone out there with a suggestion sends it along to me (drichardson2@ccc.edu) or posts it in the comments. Thanks in advance.)

h/t to Ivan Tejeda for suggesting today’s topic.

3 thoughts on “Think, Know, Prove

  1. Where to begin… So I recently made it through the tenure process. I’ve talked to several people about this including philodave. The process completely disenchanted me. I found it pointless and idiotic. The only positive thing that came out of it was my project but this was also a huge disappointment given that I really could have used more time, and guidance, to make it something great. Part of that has to do with my procrastination but most of it has to do with me not seeing the value in what I was doing since, in all likely, it wasn’t being closely read anyway.

    The interesting thing about the tenure process, and other things at HWC, is the politics. I was on a committee that put me in the public eye. I think that this, and other affiliations, had a lot to do with my earning of tenure. Though I consider myself a mildly competent teacher (at least enough to stick around for a while and become more competent), I know that it wasn’t my teaching that got me tenure.

    Enough of that. What wisdom do I have for my tenure seeking brothers and sisters.

    1. Don’t talk, just listen: Sadly, I wish I was kidding but there’s some truth to this. I made a career early on of not really fighting any battles. Part of that was that I needed to get to know the terrain (this is a strange analogy for me, a pacifist, but I suppose it’s apropos given that I never wanted a fight in the first place but rather harmony). There is a lot to be learned on committees and other interactions. Though committees can eat up a lot of time, they are an important part of what faculty do. They bring faculty together. So if you’re untenured, even though you “have to” be a member of some committees, it’s good to get involved in a few extra, even if only by e-mail or informally.

    2. Focus on teaching: Really, isn’t the reason for us to be here. The process is tedious. Things will get done. In the end, we need to be able to stand behind our teaching, not our extracurricular activities. No one ever said, I hope to hell not, “xxx writes fantastic meeting minutes, that makes up for his lackluster teaching.”

    3. Try to get something out of it: There is a potential for good in the tenure project. If I was a real rebel, I think I’d include, in the massive section with evidence of what I’d done, some random sheets with song lyrics. This is something my friends and I used to do in high school when we suspected that our teachers weren’t looking at our work. Often, the additional lines we threw in were never commented on by the teacher. I don’t think they’re going through these things with a fine-tooth comb unless they want to (whatever this means, this hanging threat). The point was try to find something in it that is useful to you. For most, this will turn out to be the project. A few semesters ago, CAST had untenureds given presentations of their projects that were in the works. The math dept. also did this a few semesters ago though I think that was more of an accountablilty measure (i.e. to see what progress people were making, perhaps). If there’s interest, CAST (I have a little pull there.) could reinstate this practice. It could even be more informal (you can wear Hawaiian shirts while you do it :)). It could be framed as a conversation rather than a presentation.

    4. Seek help: You’re not alone in this. TIP (Tenure info panel) was formed in response to the horror and tedium that is the current process. They have many very useful documents on their Bb site. Also, harass tenured faculty. I dreamed, while I was going the process, of a day when I was tenured and sitting with untenureds, snacking, drinking coffee, helping to put the portfolio together. By the fall, CAST will have a dedicated room again (1046). I’d love for there to be a few weeks where untenureds can set up camp and get this thing done. Regardless, despite all of our hectic schedules, I think faculty are very generous with their time. Mentors (something in Dave and Art’s proposal for a revamped tenure process) are on every floor. I think it’s really important to have someone to talk to. My doors always open (where I’m there).

    You know where to find me. CS 3153 702C

  2. First, I have to complain a little bit about the tenure process. One of the biggest problems with the process is the lack of consistency and transparency. Some people do the absolute minimum and get tenure without a second thought. Some people do extraordinary work, above and beyond what’s asked of them, and end up having to fight for tenure. Some people do excellent tenure projects that can really benefit our students and the school, and some people do useless tenure projects that sit in a desk drawer for all eternity. You can do everything that is asked of you, complete your requirements, be involved, be a great teacher, write a great tenure project, and then be not given tenure without any reason, with no documentation, and with no notice. AND, you can even be denied tenure AFTER the board report comes out that says you were granted tenure. It’s not a fair process, it’s not a process that measures your worth or your value. It’s a process that seems to be completely dependent on who you know, who likes you, and whether or not you kissed the right asses along the way.

    Some advice for those of you who are struggling through the tenure process:

    1. Document EVERYTHING. Conversations that you have with administration, colleagues, dept. chair, students. Just keep a running log of daily events, and after any conversation, just send a quick email to the person you talked to confirming what was said. You may never need it, but then again, it may come in handy when decision time comes.

    2. TRUST NO ONE. You may think that you have friends, but when push comes to shove, you are on your own. No one will stand up to defend you, even if they themselves have absolutely nothing to lose from it. I know this sounds cynical, but it’s true. People will be sympathetic, but that doesn’t get you anywhere.

    3. I’m not sure how true this is under our current Associate Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs, but under Aybar, the district had absolutely no power over tenure decisions. All the power lies in the College President and his/her final decision.

    4. When things go wrong, don’t believe the local union rep who tells you that the Union cannot protect untenured faculty. Go straight to the top if you need to. The Union is there to save jobs. If you can’t get things done locally, Perry Buckley will fight for you, as will the union lawyers.

    I’m not trying to scare you guys. But I’ve learned these things the hard way, and I’m hoping that you won’t have to.

  3. UsuallyConfused is very right, sadly. There is the possibility for very strange behavior and unusual circumstances which I’ve witnessed firsthand with respect to people that should have been granted tenure automatically.

    That being said, I want to quickly qualify my first comment above. “Don’t talk, just listen.” Though it’s not always wise in any professional situation to walk into a room guns a blazin (tact is important for life in general, if you believe in it), you’ve got to stay true to yourself. Otherwise, what the hell’s the point? If tenure is earned by kissing asses and compromising your values and ethics, then your foundation is built on nothing. Choose your battles but know your enemy and your allies. This is not always easy unfortunately.

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