Posts Tagged ‘Tenure Track’

Because the tenure process is nearly as mysterious as the job market, I am glad that my institution provides feedback at multiple points along the way.  Specifically, I have a two-year review, a four-year review, and the tenure review.  Because these reviews occur at the end of the specified years, candidates turn in their materials roughly half a semester early, which results in the recent submission of files for my two-year review.

While I appreciate feedback, the idea of turning in materials for a two-year review is strange to me on multiple levels.  In one way, I feel like I have just started and can’t possibly be nearing the end of my second year.  In another way, I feel like the process of distilling my accomplishments over the past year and a half down to a series of papers, syllabi, evaluations, and bulleted lists borders on homeopathy.  Like homeopathy, I wonder how much effect the original substance can possibly have on the diluted result.  Does a syllabus say much about the experience of creating and teaching a course?

In addition to a three-ring binder, the tenure and promotion committee will receive evaluations of my teaching from four faculty members, each of whom observed roughly one class session of my teaching.  I have similar questions about the effectiveness of these evaluations as a gauge of a student’s classroom experience.  In response to my recent workload, I would tell myself to take it easy if I were on the T&P committee.  It will be interesting to hear their actual responses, which I will surely try to distill down to a blog post.

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In the past, I talked about my desire to dig into life at my current institution rather than seeing this as a stopping point on my way to a job with similar pay but higher prestige.  While there have been some disappointments on the social side of things, my willingness to turn up at all sorts of campus functions appears to be helping with recognition among my colleagues.  This recognition has resulted in invitations to serve on committees and panels that will likely further increase my visibility on campus.  The downside, of course, is that I feel compelled to serve on these things, but since I need to serve on something I may as well serve on things that are visible to the faculty and administration.  Of course, I’m not the only new faculty member who has made regular appearances (there is one faculty member in particular who seems to be at everything that I am – I am pretty sure that we will end up running the school if we keep showing up at things), but it is nice to know that people outside of my department are starting to know who I am.

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Last semester I worked an average of 47.72 hours per week (50.34 hours when not counting weeks that included breaks of some sort).  Although I did not keep track of my work habits during graduate school, I am pretty confident that I have shattered all personal records for academic productivity.  This total included an average of 41.88 hours in my office and 5.84 hours at home (damn those MWF classes!).  On a typical day I arrived at my office around 7:30 and left around 4:30, with most of my work at home coming on weekends.

One of the joys of academic life is the flexibility to work when you want.  Given my problems with procrastination, this flexibility has also allowed me to go long periods of time without doing much work of any sort.  When working on my dissertation at home last year, this posed some problems.  As a result, I told myself that when I had my own office I would take full advantage of the opportunity afforded by a space with no couch on which to nap.  Now that I’ve had my own office for over six months, I can report that conforming to a regular work schedule has allowed me to be productive without constantly worrying about what else I have to do.  When I go home for the day, I am generally done working for the evening.

Of course, I could be doing more.  I reported last semester, for example, that nearly all of my time was taken up by my teaching duties.  I could have placed five or ten hours of research on top of my other work but this would have also caused me to not be home in time to help my wife prepare for dinner or to give up an hour of mental relaxation while watching TV in the evening.  At this point, all signs indicate that I can earn tenure by completing most of my research duties in the summer and winter breaks and focus on teaching and service when class is in session.  As I learned over winter break when preparing my ASA submission, however, I need to approach research with the same rigid schedule.  Some people may become academics to avoid punching the clock.  For me it is essential.

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I know that in the current economic climate the title of this post seems ludicrous, but I did it.  The two job offers I note in my summary of job market success did not overlap.  I had to turn down the first before I received the second.  Obviously, I would have preferred to have the offers at the same time, but I felt at the time that I made the right decision based on the information I had, and I was happy to accept the second offer that I received.  In order to make the following clearer, it may help to think of the four liberal arts schools where I interviewed in the order I visited them:

  • School 1: Visited in week 1
  • School 2: Visited in week 1 immediately after School 1
  • School 3: Visited in week 3
  • School 4: Visited in week 4

I received a job offer from School 1 on a Tuesday the week after I had completed back-to-back campus visits at Schools 1 and 2 (if you value your emotional stability, I would advise against back-to-back visits).  The visit had gone well, the faculty were friendly, and I thought that I could be happy living in this area and working at School 1.  The problem was School 1’s desired time frame.  They wanted me to respond within a week but I had already scheduled interviews at Schools 3 and 4 and felt that it was unfair to me and those schools to cancel the visits.  School 1 extended the deadline, but only by three days (to the end of week 3).

The new deadline meant that I would have to respond to School 1 on the day I completed my interview at School 3 (clearly before I would hear from them about an offer) and before my interview at School 4.  If School 1 would have been my dream job, these timing issues may not have been a concern.  Unfortunately, while I thought I could be happy there, the teaching load was a little higher than I desired.  After discussing the issue with my advisor, he supported my belief that I should probably turn down School 1’s offer.

For me, the biggest issue was pressure.  I felt like School 1 was putting an extreme amount of pressure on me to decide before I had finished my scheduled visits and I didn’t think that I would be happy with an acceptance in that situation – I figured that accepting an offer is supposed to make you excited, not angry.  My advisor also pointed out that, given the teaching load, it would be hard to publish enough to get a different job in the future if things didn’t go as well as I anticipated.

I waited until the day of the deadline to call School 1 back, figuring that if I had heard by then that School 2 didn’t want me and if the School 3 interview was a disaster, I could still accept the offer.  I didn’t hear from School 2 but the School 3 interview wasn’t a disaster and I still had the School 4 interview coming up, so I told School 1 (from the airport) that I was had to decline their offer because of the timeline they had given me.  At that point, I had no idea if I would receive another offer, but I still felt like I made the right choice since it was my choice and accepting would not have been.

Another factor for me was that before visiting my order of preference was School 2, School 3, School 1, and School 4.  This order was confirmed by my visits, though there were some aspects that made School 3 preferable to School 2.  I received an offer from School 3 on Tuesday of week 4 while on my way to School 4.  They wanted a decision by early the next week.  Thursday morning I called School 2 and was told that they were “pretty unlikely” to offer me the position.  That, coupled with the higher teaching load at School 4, sealed the deal for School 3 and I called them on Monday of week 5 to accept after negotiating via e-mail.

Other than having to turn down an acceptable offer, the strangest thing about this experience was that I felt incredibly pressured by School 1 when they actually gave me more time to decide than School 3.  Because School 3’s visit was near the end of my interviews, however, I felt like I was in a much better place to make a decision.  I’m not sure how I would have responded if the order was reversed, though I might have been more inclined to accept an early offer from School 3 because of the lower teaching load and better resources.  In the end, I guess everything worked out for the best!

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