Saturday, August 18, 2007

T & P stands for tenure and *paranoia*

So I'm putting together my tenure file -- writing my narratives, gathering stuff for the supporting documents, polishing my CV -- and I keep sweating the details, the petty stuff. And each time I do, I keep imagining some faceless person I don't know on the college or university level saying, "But she hasn't done enough of X," where X is something that should be inconsequential at my stage of the game by my U's standards (for instance, serving on university-level committees) and isn't something anyone should be judging my case by. In fact, at my university, we have a pretty transparent and fair process that involves annual reviews that go all the way up through most of the levels that the tenure and promotion file will go up. (This is something I want to write about in more detail later, because it's how I think all tenure and renewal processes should go.) In all of those I've gotten good reviews. I have every reason to be confident. Not cocky, but confident.

So what gives? Why am I so paranoid and anxious? Is it just me or is it a larger cultural thing? Does the anxiety cloud that forms around tenure in academia in general cause me to pick up on that even though I don't have any reason to be so anxious here at Rust Belt U?

10 comments:

~profgrrrrl~ said...

I think it's the combination of uncertainty (even though you rationally feel in good shape, we've all heard the stories ...) and high stakes. I'm going through the same thing right now.

Dr. Virago said...

Funny you should be the first to comment, PG. Moments before I wrote the post, I was having a little freak-out and Bullock said, "Have you been reading Profgrrrl?" I think he thought maybe I'd picked up your anxiety! But I think mine's my own, though I sure do empathize with you!

What Now? said...

Not irrational -- this is the moment when you retain enough agency to prepare your case but then turn over control of part of your life to other people. And even if everything *should* go well, you've still handed control over, and that is an anxiety-producing act. But it doesn't last all that long, and then it's over!

How long does the process take at your school? When do you get news? At St. Martyr's, we had a good system in which applicants got news back at several intervals; we found out about the departmental vote, and then we got a formal letter from the T&P committee, and then we got the official word. So there were reassurances along the way, and the whole process only took four months, I think, from application deadline to tenure announcement. But I know that at some schools, one simply hears nothing at all for months.

Dr. Virago said...

WN, our process is long -- an entire academic year -- but we hear from all the steps in the process. There's the department and the chair, the College committee and the dean, the University committee and the Provost, the President, and then, finally, the Board of Trustees get to weigh in. Bullock didn't get his final approval until May last year, and he turned his dossier in Sept. 1.

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

As far as I can tell, the T&P process is designed for the purpose of inducing paranoia. If you're not paranoid, you're not doing it right!

The Pastry Pirate said...

sorry, but from the line "'but she hasn't done enough of X'" on, all i could think of was "she could use a little more cowbell."

you're anxious because this is important but also because it's who you are. i've never known you to be indifferent or underprepared for *anything* you've ever done.

and i for one have tremendous confidence in you and in the process. hoist the colors and sally forth.

Dr. Virago said...

OK, let's review:

- Paranoia is normal and even expected, so I'm doing something right, or at least my reaction is understandable.

- More cowbell!

Te-hee! Seriously, thanks for all the encouraging words, everyone!

And Pirate: you've now challenged me to think of something I was indifferent or underprepared for. I know there must be *something.* I was kind of underprepared for the Boston Marathon this year, but I don't think that counts given the relative meaning of "underprepared" there!

Horace said...

Let's trade encouragements: You're going to get tenure, hands down. period. no question.

If someone tells you that you need more committee work, hit them over the head with your book.

Rob Barrett said...

Could be worse, Dr. V. It could be a little over a month before the department vote on your tenure, and you could *still* be waiting to hear if the press board has approved your contract.

What, me worry?

Dr. Virago said...

Oh crap, Rob, I thought they'd said yes! Surely they will, won't they?! Keeping my fingers crossed for you!