Friday, July 10, 2009

The Tenure Binder

Well, I cleaned my office the other day and while I cannot say I'm joyous, I do feel less like a giant rock is sitting on my soul every time I sit at my computer! Thanks to everyone for encouraging to just take the time and do it. Of course, after the cleaning, the grant writing flurry hit high speed and now I need to buy a can of grant-be-gone. Part of my funk this summer is that while I'm not mole-whacking, I am not spending my time the way I wanted. Everything I'm doing right now is super important and relevant to my career, but it's not the same as doing science, which is - afterall - why I got into this biz.

An example of my conundrum is the current albatross hanging around my neck: the tenure packet.  Obviously, this is something that has to get done, regardless of my preferences. Here, we submit a binder, and it has been sitting in my office staring at me like this:


Like Harry Potter's Monster Book of Monsters, I strongly suspect some of the destruction in my office is due to it running around shredding my shit.

I have a number of frustrations with my Monster Binder. My main angst comes from the self-assessment letters. I have to write a letter assessing my qualifications for tenure. I have to write a statement assessing my research program. I have to write another statement assessing my teaching program. All of these are separate 2-page documents that I need to generate that are apparently "super important". Dude. The thing I find funny about all the self-assessment letters is the implicit assumption that I'm trustworthy to assess my own worth. Does anyone really write self-assessment letters that say: "I'd love to get tenure, but you and I both know from my current record that I would immediately stop publishing, only show up to teach classes and be a pain in the ass in faculty meetings, and generally spend the remainder of my time investing in whatever hobby actually brings joy to my life"?

Another frustration is with assembling all the damn documentation -which often comes with weird and esoteric explanations/demands from the higher administration. For example, I need to document that my students "learned" in my classes. However, grades don't count. I need to show "product". I teach a 170 person lecture class with no TA help. My "product" for that class is 170 scantrons X 4 exams X 3 sections. The spiteful, petty part of me wants to simply hole punch 2,040 scantrons and shove them into my binder.

My final frustration stems from the fact that I've talked (off the record) with everyone from my PNT committee to a member of the central committee (faculty don't vote here on tenure), and I have been told that as long as my student evaluations aren't horrific, no one will even look at all that stuff....but it better be there. What?! You mean I could spend 4 hours hole punching my 2,040 scantrons and no one would even look at them? Shocking.

Ah well, enough complaining. Those scantrons are not going to hole-punch themselves!


Phagenista said...

Can you get Gen Disarray to write the first draft of your self assessment assays and vice versa? :-)

yolio said...

Self evaluations are annoying to write. It is like having to draft a letter of rec about yourself, awkward. But also a good opportunity.

A self-eval should show that you know what the important criteria for success are. It is also a chance for you to put your personal spin on this. No two scientists are exactly alike, etc, and the best criteria for judgement isn't the same from scientist to scientist. There are probably various professional goals that you have had and met that the committee won't know about unless you tell them. Think of it as your chance to tell the committee what you think is important about your job.

Anonymous said...

At least tenure is an option. If all I had to do was put together a folder with all the cool stuff I already do and they would give a job for the rest of my working life in reward, I'd have done it already.