Collin vs. Hoops

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It's been interesting to me to read the followups on the outcomes statement stuff, and as I was driving home last night, it occurred to me that part of the reason why I quickly bent myself out of shape over a fairly inocuous us/them comment was the fact that I'm going up for tenure this year.

I'm not going to launch into a grand critique of the process. There are people who believe it's necessary, people who believe it's outlived its usefulness, and probably the majority of us somewhere in between. I've spent the last couple of days doing very little other than preparing a selection of materials (offprints, syllabi, etc.) to go out to a bevy of outside reviewers, each of whom will write a letter more or less on my behalf. For better or worse, the outside review process depends to some degree on whether or not reviewers are familiar with your work.

I'm not worried about whether a discussion list post is going to affect that one way or the other--I don't think that being known by this or that person in the field really matters much in the grand scheme of things. However, I do think about the degree to which social networks impact this process. As I glance over my materials, and look at the choices I've made in the past few years about publication venues, about course topics, and about where I've put my energy, I'm struck by the conservatism of the process, the extent to which it mitigates against innovation and change.

And I guess I'm thinking about social networks in a slightly more embedded sense than you might think. I certainly hope that people have heard of me and think fondly of my work, and that the result is a set of sparkly letters the likes of which my college T&P committee has never seen. Heh. But more to the point, I think about the ways in which certain hub programs prepare their students to do the kind of work more likely to be recognized by such committees. I don't think it's always an intentional thing. Certain programs are more likely to house journals, for example, which gives students a jump start on understanding what can be an opaque process of publishing otherwise. There are programs where the culture of the professoriat has filtered down into graduate study--actually, this is probably true everywhere, but to differing degrees--and so each program's graduates are more like each other in certain ways than they are like their colleagues, at least up to a point.

And there are certain schools where the resources exist to provide a steady ongoing source of networking opportunities--I can think of at least 3 or 4 off the top of my head. I won't name them, because this isn't meant to be a post about whose program is better than the others at the kind of long-term preparation that I'm talking about. I don't really have any complaints in that regard.

What it is instead is a post about the long-term implications of the socio-textual network that we call the discipline, and the degree to which there's an unavoidable amount of insiding and outsiding. I don't know where I stand with respect to the white-hot core of the rhetcomp sun--close enough, I hope, to be able to earn tenure this year. Without in any way apologizing for my chippy mood over the past few days, I felt yesterday as though I understood it a little better. Tenure is, to some extent, a matter of recognition, and at a time when I'm hyperconscious of being recognized, and recognized positively, it was less than pleasing to me to be so dismissively unrecognized.

And that's really all I have to say about it right now.


Darn. I thought this was going to be a post about basketball. It is kinda off season and all, but that's why I got excited. An off season post about basketball from Collin! This is going to be good!

Or maybe it's just that I try not to think about those hoops rapidly coming my way...

Best of luck with all that tediousness and stress and such.

Heh. Sorry about that. But I'm definitely not vs. those hoops...

I happened to get the email about my advisor's tenure while I was watching Goodfellas, and it occurred to me that getting tenure is like being a made man.

But then at lunch the other day we were talking about how there should be a gang sign that the tenured can flash each other. Perhaps followed by a University sign if one is at a conference.

So either way, I guess, tenure is violent and cliquish. (sp?) And once you're in, you're in.

That sign would likely bear a striking resemblance to "not now, I'm too busy serving on campus committees!"

My tenure packet is due in two years, and this post really hits home. You are so right about innovation. Coming from an interdisciplinary background, I have no idea what field I'm in, so choosing outside reviewers is going to be tough. Am I in composition, rhetoric, gender studies, medical humanities?

And your comment about some grad programs encouraging such networking is right on. I think of that when I realize that the program where I earned my PhD folded and disappeared within two years of me earning my degree. Poof! It's gone, no record of it on a website or anything. No member of my dissertation committee even in the department anymore. It's hard to feel like you belong anywhere at that point.


In my experience, more and more univerisities are doing post-tenure reviews for faculty. Admittedly, PTR is not as difficult as getting tenure. However, I do know a few faculty who have been terminated due to unproductiveness (not publishing or getting grants, etc.) AFTER being awarded tenure.

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This page contains a single entry by cgbrooke published on July 12, 2006 3:31 PM.

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