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I am a bad ass and The Candidate is not.

I briefly popped over to campus this week to help put an end to someone’s career in academia.

One of my colleagues has come up for tenure, and because I am now Senior Faculty, I had to serve on the committee. Although The Candidate’s case was clearly a BIG FAT NO, it was still sickening when I had to vote. I kept my mouth shut while more experienced folks had their say, and then reported that I had nothing to add, and then we voted. On little pieces of paper. And it was unanimous, and I was like OH SHIT THAT HAPPENED.

I hope that things go smoothly from this point on, and that somehow things magically work out for The Candidate, and that The Candidate is not surprised, though it seems like The Candidate always is, despite the fact that This Particular Candidate has been TOLD that this was very likely…but in addition to all these things, the experience gave me some insight into why it is that I DO have tenure.

Members of the committee kept bringing up the fact that The Candidate had so much promise and was so bright, and finally the one I respect most said, Every hire at Mediocre Institution is very bright, and has great potential! All of them have to get through an incredibly tough and competitive process in order to be hired. Despite my humorous remarks about my obvious brilliance, I have never been able to think of myself as particularly smart, so hearing this made me take a beat and think, Hey! That applies to ME!  And seeing the process from inside the room also highlighted the fact that getting tenure is, when all is working as it should, a simple matter. Not easy, mind you, but simple. I did what was required, and that’s all it is. I actually looked at my CV while other people were nattering on, and saw it through the lens of my committee. Instead of seeing the fact that all my publications were not as great as they could have been, and remembering how THAT one had been submitted to a better journal initially, and the mean things Reviewer 1 had written about THAT one, etc., etc., I just saw what the committee presumably saw: an appropriate quantity of scholarly output.

While I doubt that the committee that met to decide MY fate spent the time talking solely about how great I am, I think I might finally be convinced that they weren’t just taking pity on me, or accepting the low standards of Mediocre Institution. It’s much more like Can we check this box? Yes we can!

I will be sure to dispense this wisdom to my junior colleagues.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh. Wow. As much as the tenure process SUCKED for me, I am really not looking forward to being on the other side. Err, this side, that is.

    September 21, 2012
  2. Jen #

    I fled academia before ever having to serve on a tenure candidate committee, but I did serve on the admissions committee and remember how easy some of the acceptance and rejection votes were, and then how hard some of the on-the-fence decisions were. I felt sure we were turning away qualified people on occasion because of stupid things like a GRE verbal score. But then I also felt we let some through because they had spent a summer entering data for some faculty member who wrote them a nice letter. Bah. But seeing some of the candidates matriculate and then thrive, that was cool. (Seeing the rare few who flunked prelims or failed core classes, that sucked donkey balls. Because I knew which ones I have voted for/against admittance. So I was either wrong about their potential or smugly right, and there’s not much actual satisfaction in that.)

    But let there be no doubt, tenured profs are smarty-pants. Now you know for sure, insider.

    September 21, 2012
  3. that sure seemed like a worthwhile pop over to campus amidst breastfeeding, tantrums and food tossing. I love that you were given the opportunity to stare at the truth: YOU ROCK! It’s plain and simple, like checking a box.
    Smiles and clapping for Bunny, the senior faculty, who rocks.
    What can I say. I’m a fan.

    September 21, 2012
  4. Jennifer #

    I wonder if there was a community of support for The Candidate at mediocre Institution, or if s/he was left to sink or swim, publish or perish? I’m a new tenure-track faculty at a teaching university, 4 weeks in. There are already SO many workshops, opportunities for intra- and extramural grants, opportunities to connect with seasoned faculty, ways to contribute to my field (publishing), teaching excellence, and service. It’s like following a recipe, ya? I wonder if The Candidate did these things, if your Chair helped along the way, if they felt isolated, if it wasn’t a good match to begin with? Maybe The Candidate is relieved, just like your department sounds to be.

    It’s certainly a two-way street.

    September 21, 2012
    • Congratulations! I commend you on securing a tenure track position, and hope all goes super smoothly. But yes, I’ve certainly thought about this…There’s plenty of official and unofficial support at MI, plenty of opportunities. But, like with anything else, you have to be proactive. TC and I were hired in the same year, and I tended to take advantage of these things, while TC tended to reject them. On the other hand, did everyone involved do everything he or she could have for TC? Nope. Like you say, a two way street.

      September 23, 2012
  5. It’s always a different image when we can see ourselves through other people’s eyes.
    And you are bad ass. 🙂
    And have it all now! Hmm… You’re suddenly not all that likeable, if we put it like that, but still bad ass. 🙂

    September 21, 2012
    • But…I’m really TIRED. Does that count for anything?

      September 21, 2012
  6. Ana #

    Its nice to get that kind of perspective, but come on, we’ve all known all along that you’re a bad-ass. Me, I’m definitely an imposter. Not a syndrome, an actual fact. hopefully I can continue to fool everyone (laughs maniacally)

    September 22, 2012
  7. BUNNY! and bunlet and bun bun! this is the world’s most belated congrats, but CONGRATS on the bunlet!!!! 2 tiny people, both so dang adorable. I am reading you and loving you from afar. Life has been nuts, someday I will post (ha!), but know that I am thinking of you and so so so so dang happy for you. And sending you alllllll the power reserves in the universe. b/c MAN, toddlers are INTENSE…and newborns are MORE INTENSE. I don’t know how in the world you do it all, but you are DOING IT!

    you are doing so amazingly awesome. xoxoxo

    September 22, 2012
  8. Bunny you are totally bad ass smart. And funny. And witty. And Tenured! And now you’ve seen the other side of that in your colleague. I know that voting someone “out” even if you don’t believe in their ability to do the job still sucks in its own way. I hope it makes you feel super great even though you are tired as shit.

    And you were correct. After eating a total of 8 sweet potato pancakes he now chucks those too! We will freeze and come back in a few days!

    September 23, 2012
  9. So does this mean that you are finally accepting your tenure as a real accomplishment and no longer as just as a ‘eh, no big deal’ kind of thing? Sounds to me like you are finally gaining some perspective on your own awesomeness.

    September 24, 2012
  10. I’ve sat on those committees and voted under similar circumstances, and it’s hard. Sitting in judgment of someone else is hard. And ending (quite possibly) someone’s academic career is hard. And at the same time, you are right about the boxes. There are rules. They apply to everyone. And though it sometimes sucks (when someone is clearly an outstanding teacher, for example, but can’t muster the output), the rules aren’t personal (for lack of a better word).

    (Though I do think you deserve more of a pat on the back than ticking the boxes…it’s more than just ticking them…it’s JUGGLING them).

    September 27, 2012
  11. mandski #

    Random comment from someone whose husband forgot to submit his paperwork for the promotion from associate to full professor this year (“What kind of idiot does that?” you ask. Mine, apparently). Anyway, I’m commenting to tell you that a bunch of SRB’s readers are holding a virtual shower for her, and if you want to participate, you can email me at my commenting email. Hope you’re having a good day.

    October 31, 2012

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