October 4, 2008

A few important streets on the road to tenure

Creating a tenure file is a daunting task, which is made more overwhelming if you're not prepared. Here is a thread (shared here with permission) from the listserv of one of my faculty coaching groups, between two professors who have each had their tenure approved by their respective departments this month. (Hurray for Profs J and L!)

Prof J:

Here's my advice for those who still have a few years left before tenure. It is all obvious stuff but somehow it escaped me:

  1. Buy a large three ring binder (or possibly three binders). Buy some divider tabs. Optional: buy a bunch of sheet protector thingies that are meant to be put into a three ring binder (they are punched with three holes).
  2. Divide the notebook into three main sections: teaching, research/publication, service (using the tabs).
  3. Get a hold of the published document identifying the criteria for tenure. Hopefully they will provide more specific criteria for each of the three main criteria. Subdivide each of the three sections according to these sub-criteria.
  4. In the time you have left, make sure that whatever you do is somehow related to those sub-criteria. And make sure you have the right mix of these things as well. You'll probably need some guidance from someone who knows something about the tenure process to tell you what the right mix of things is. That person may or may not be your chair.
  5. Make sure you have documentation for everything that you do. Put the documentation in the appropriate section in the notebook.
There will always be ambiguity about whether you have met the criteria for tenure. But at least you will be in a position to say: "you said I needed to do A, see tab 1 for documentation that I did A", "You said I needed to do B, see tab 2 for documentation that I did B."

Prof L:

I ended up relying on electronic docs in the end.

I like the standing magazine stands. They sell the cardboard ones at Ikea. Just slap a label on and shove your stuff in there and then put them on the bookshelf.

Prof J:

I like the idea of storing everything electronically--you just need to have a scanner and remember to back-up your files.

In the end, the mechanism isn't nearly as important as attending to criteria for tenure and then filing your supporting documents in a system that mirrors those criteria.