Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#223 Ten Commandments Of Tenure Success
There are hundreds of published articles and many books on the
subject of tenure. On of the best sources for beginning faculty is:
Getting Tenure, by Marcia Whicker, Jennie Kronenfeld, and Ruth
Strickland. In it, the authors tell you how to manage your tenure
case and then step you carefully through the tenure process in a way
that helps you meet your institution's research, teaching, and
service criteria. Many of the key points in the book are summarized
in the author's Ten Commandments of Tenure Success.
The posting below lists these commandments followed by a more
detailed description of commandments 1, 6, and 7.
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TEN COMMANDMENTS OF TENURE SUCCESS*
*From: Getting Tenure, by Marcia Whicker, Jennie Kornenfeld, and Ruth
Strickland, ? copyright 1993, Sage Publications, Inc., pp. 138-142
Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications, Inc.
1. Publish, publish, publish! (Pay attention to what does and doesn't count.).
2. View tenure as a political process. (It's more like a legislative
process than a bureaucratic one).
3. Find out the tenure norms. (Understand the difference between
written standards and operational standards).
4. Document everything.( As noted above.).
5. Rely on your record, not on promises of protection. (Remember
that administrators come and go).
6. Reinforce research with teaching and service. (Leverage each with
the other for maximum effectiveness.).
7. Do not run your department or university until after tenure. (Skip
the university policy meetings; go to the computer center, library or
advisory meeting with students instead.).
8. Be a good department citizen. (Determine where, when and how to
chip in and pull your weight.).
9. Manage your own professional image. (Image management is
important, but not a substitute for productivity.).
10. Develop a marketable record. (Seek to develop a record that is
tenurable anywhere.) 
COMMANDMENT #1: TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINDING OUT THE TENURE NORMS
.All universities and colleges use the three different criteria of
research, teaching, and service to evaluate candidates for tenure.
What standards are applied to those three criteria, however, varies
widely across institutions, and across academic disciplines. In the
area of research, for example, more scientific fields value
peer-reviewed journal articles and grants. In some fields within the
humanities, such as history, a university press book may be expected
to meet the research criterion. The number of publications considered
adequate as well as which journals are acceptable and in which ones
tenure candidates are expected to publish, also vary across
departments and colleges. Departments also differ in their
expectations for tenure candidate performance on the teaching and
Although tenure criteria are written down for prospective tenure
candidates to peruse, the operational standards required to meet the
criteria are not. Faculty handbook language may refer to requiring a
certain level of performance in qualitative terms, such as
"excellent" or "very good," but these qualitative terms do not
provide specific information to the tenure candidate. Rather, you
must seek out this information informally through discussions with
the department chair, senior department members, your dean, and other
faculty members who have recently gone through the tenure-review
process. The formal tenure packets of recent successful candidates
should be examined whenever possible to provide examples of both the
substantive content of and format for successful cases.
COMMANDMENT #6 MAKE TEACHING AND SERVICE REINFORCE RESEARCH ACTIVITIES
More tenure candidates have nightmares about meeting the research
criterion than the teaching and service criteria. Three main reasons
exist for this greater fear of failure. First, absence of
productivity is readily apparent. Second, research is among the least
structured tenure activity- the one where procrastination is most
likely. Third, some departments are finicky not just about the number
of publications, but also about the quality of journals in which the
tenure candidate's research appears.
One strategy for using time wisely to meet the research criterion is
to try to organize teaching and service to reinforce research
activities. A supportive department chair will try to give junior
faculty members courses to teach in their research areas. In the
process of preparing for class, the prospective tenure candidate is
collecting articles and information, especially when teaching
graduate seminars that are background literature for research
projects. While teaching and discussing ideas with students, you may
also gain insight that is useful for research and get research ideas.
Sometimes students in advanced and graduate classes can participate
in research projects if the course subject is relevant. Co-opting
students into research as part of their learning is particularly
possible in methodology courses where students are learning research
techniques. Similarly, seek out service activities related to your
research agenda whenever possible. Integrated research, teaching, and
service activities become complimentary and even synergistic,
reinforcing one another and helping you build a tenurable record.
COMMANDMENT #7 DO NOT RELY ON YOUR CHAIR OR OTHER ADMINISTRATORS TO
PROTECT YOU FROM A WEAK RECORD.
Sometimes prospective tenure candidates are lulled into believing
that a department chair or administrator will protect the candidate
from deficiencies in his or her record, if the candidate will only
perform some time-consuming service or task that the chair or
administrator needs done. Do not be lured into this trap. The best
defense against a weak record is to not have one! Spend your
pretenure decision time wisely, filling in gaps in your record and
making up deficiencies, especially those in research.
Promises from department chairs and others to protect a junior
faculty member at tenure time should be viewed with suspicion for
several reasons. First, the chair may be well intentioned, but given
the peer-reviewed nature of the tenure decision and its length with
many decision points, no one person can control it. At times, the
input from a single decision maker may be crucial, but you cannot
tell beforehand if the person trying to persuade you to do something
has and will use that kind of clout. Second, administrators change
with some frequency, especially in large universities. The chair or
dean who promised to protect you may not be in the same position or
even at the same institution in two or three years when you need to
collect on the promise. Third, not all administrators have your
interest at heart. They may be most concerned about pressures bearing
on them at the moment, and they may promise things they cannot
deliver to resolve their immediate dilemma.
Although it may be tempting to think that you could avoid meeting one
of the tenure criteria- say, the research criterion- or get by with
lower levels of productivity because some administrator promises to
look out for you in the future, only those who still believe in the
Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny should believe such
promises. Administrators who really wish to help you will discuss the
criteria vis-?-vis your record and help you develop strategies for
overcoming deficiencies while there is still time.
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