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Author Topic: Tenure-track colleague who is ... Blah?  (Read 25470 times)
polly_mer
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« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2012, 7:35:06 PM »

So, OP, have you and your department been looking at revising what constitutes the tenure standards so you won't be in this position again?  In particular, will you put in wording about the kind of service that includes recruitment activities and other contributions to a lively department?
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oldfullprof
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« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2012, 7:59:25 PM »

I get irritated by "peppy," and I smell ageism here.  Maybe not.  You have to tenure this person, or fabricate.  Welcome to academia!

(I wonder if it's today's job market-- with more loose [perhaps better] candiates-- that's driving this.)
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2012, 8:04:44 PM »

I get irritated by "peppy," and I smell ageism here.  Maybe not. 

Without more details, we don't know what an absence of peppy is.

Refusing to participate in recruitment activities or do more than the absolute minimum departmental not-9-to-5 service is different than being at most events, but being a low-key personality.  The second person deserves tenure; the first person may be slacking in ways that ought to have been quantified in the tenure process.
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oldfullprof
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« Reply #18 on: February 04, 2012, 8:08:58 PM »

I agree.  I live out of state, and do much more service than many in my department anyway.
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lizzy
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« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2012, 8:18:22 PM »

Long-time listener, first-time caller...

  Hu is checking all the boxes needed for tenure: decent (but not stellar) research, decent (but not stellar) teaching.  The same goes for service.  

According to our university and departmental criteria, they are tenurable at this point.  

It looks like service is OK (though not great). It looks like everything is ok, if not great.

According to the OP, it also looks like the person can't be denied tenure on the basis of the big three categories.

If the OP is on the departmental evaluation or P&T committee, s/he could work to get his/her concerns into the official reports. If there's nothing in writing detailing departmental concerns with the person's performance and s/he is denied tenure, would the dean, university committee, president (or whoever else weighs in on the decision) go along with a negative recommendation from the department? At my place, they very well might not. Which would lead to someone who is tenured and at odds with the department.

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cousin_oliver
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« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2012, 9:38:52 PM »

OP here.  Thanks for the replies; I appreciate it.

Definitely not ageism.  The person is about ten years younger than I am.  And for lack of a better word, It's not just that the person isn't "peppy" enough (even though I have to admit my bias here - that is probably one of the criteria I value, where that's fair or not).  Still, the students seem to like the person a lot.  That's obviously a HUGE plus.  And yes, we don't need a department full of clones of each other, so the comment on the importance of different personalities is a good one.  When I think back to my favorite professors as an undergraduate, they weren't necessarily the ones who were fun and spunky.

What has raised red flags for me and for a few other colleagues is this person's almost complete lack of initiative.  They will do a task, and do it ably, but only after being told 1) to do so and 2) HOW to do so.  We do have clear departmental and college critesria on what constitute good teaching, service, and research.  And indeed, this person was pretty harshly admonished in last April's departmental review for being lackluster in this area.  Now they are stepping up, but you get the distinct sense that they are stepping up only because of last year's warning.  This leads me to believe that the minute they get tenure, they'll downshift back to their pre-tenure baseline level of (in)activity.
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lucero
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« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2012, 9:50:34 PM »

You could be right, OP. Or there could be other factors that have nothing to do with work that are affecting this person's performance, and once getting tenure and feeling more secure financially, might free him/her up to contribute more. 

Also consider the way politics are in some departments, a lot of young faculty who are either not TT or TT but not yet tenured are unable to be themselves and walk on a tightrope outside the classroom. I know that is how I feel and also have heard that from others. Rather than rock the boat, we will just wait for directions. Maybe that's not the case with your colleague but I know a lot of junior faculty that have a lot to say and would do more, except they are afraid of stepping on someone else's toes and play it safe instead.
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janewales
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« Reply #22 on: February 04, 2012, 9:51:47 PM »


Now they are stepping up, but you get the distinct sense that they are stepping up only because of last year's warning.  This leads me to believe that the minute they get tenure, they'll downshift back to their pre-tenure baseline level of (in)activity.

It's hard to see how this person could win with you, though; if s/he hadn't stepped up activity after the first review, then you would also be disappointed.

It is possible that you hired a dud; that this person is indeed doing the bare minimum and has every intention of backing off again once tenure is secured. If that is the case, you might be able to do something based on the earlier years, or you might not. But what you've actually said is that this person is now performing well, so long as s/he is given clear instructions, and that students value this person. Those are good things, or they can be, if you look at them the right way.

Isn't it possible that this person was lost for his/ her first few years? Many people struggle to find their feet when they first start on the tenure track. Some are so nervous about doing something wrong, that they don't do anything at all. Consider how often new faculty are counselled on these boards to STFU. It's not advice I like to give, myself, in part because it does often produce the impression of disengagement. Many departments, like yours, hope that new blood will bring new energy, but you have to remember that the new blood takes time to figure out what is expected, and what is allowed.

It sounds to me as though this person will get tenure. That being the case, it would be better to spend the next few years assuming the best rather than the worst, and encouraging and supporting the person's newly-raised level of performance. It doesn't hurt to be positive, whereas if you treat the person with suspicion, s/he could well detach from the department after tenure. If you react to the improved performance with praise and pleasure, you might encourage that person to make a habit of it.

On preview: what lucero said.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 9:52:20 PM by janewales » Logged
cousin_oliver
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« Reply #23 on: February 04, 2012, 10:04:07 PM »

janewales, lucero:

Yes, and yes.  You have both brought up really good points.  Especially the part about perhaps feeling a bit inhibited their first few years here.  Looking back, I didn't really get vocal about things until I had been tenured.  So I guess I shouldn't expect anything less from this person.

I'll try to give this person more of a chance.  And yes, after being warned, they could just as easily have gotten into a snit and turned difficult, but they seemed to sincerely absorb the warning, so that's to their credit.  I can't say I would have been as mild-mannered about it.

If I promise to chill, may I add one last observation?  I've been in charge of several service-oriented things in our department since arriving as a beginning AP.  My thoughts were "this is the kind of stuff tenure-track people do, so that we can lay a groundwork for ourselves."  Upon getting tenure, nobody else stepped up (and in fact  the person in question begged out of one task), so my new motto (for the exact same tasks) was "this is the kind of stuff tenured people do, so that the tenure-track people can focus on their research."  So which is it? 
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southerntransplant
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« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2012, 10:06:15 PM »

Is the person lacklustre in one area or all areas? One of our full profs is world reknowned in a particular area of research but barely passable as a teacher and someone who shirks all responsibilities in service, even though he reaps the bennies. One of his service tasks is to do the lions' share of the accreditation documentation; for this he gets a course release during the year this has to be done. He either delegates the bulk of this work to everyone else or does nothing about it until it gets to be so late that everyone has to pitch in and do it. He, however, does manage to bind the final report and sign it.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 10:07:39 PM by southerntransplant » Logged

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glowdart
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« Reply #25 on: February 04, 2012, 10:30:01 PM »

So, what happens if you spin one of those service projects off and give this new person some ownership of it?  That might actually allow them to flourish (or flop) and allow you & your colleagues to see whether this person has it or not. 

And, please, don't give them a project that will have them running at windmills or mired in campus politics. 
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cousin_oliver
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« Reply #26 on: February 04, 2012, 10:38:48 PM »

So, what happens if you spin one of those service projects off and give this new person some ownership of it?  That might actually allow them to flourish (or flop) and allow you & your colleagues to see whether this person has it or not.   
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« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 10:39:36 PM by hey_boo » Logged
voxprincipalis
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« Reply #27 on: February 04, 2012, 11:11:09 PM »

If I promise to chill, may I add one last observation?  I've been in charge of several service-oriented things in our department since arriving as a beginning AP.  My thoughts were "this is the kind of stuff tenure-track people do, so that we can lay a groundwork for ourselves."  Upon getting tenure, nobody else stepped up (and in fact  the person in question begged out of one task), so my new motto (for the exact same tasks) was "this is the kind of stuff tenured people do, so that the tenure-track people can focus on their research."  So which is it? 

No, this is the kind of stuff *you* do. When you were TT-but-untenured, you rationalized doing it as being necessary for your future. You assumed that everyone else in your position would want to be doing the same things. When you got tenure, you waited for the people who were then in the position you were in before to take up those tasks, again on the assumption that "what you thought you should do" is the same as "what everyone who is TT-but-untenured thinks they should be doing."

Amazingly, they appear not to think the same things you do. Holy applying-your-expectations-to-others, Batman!

Now, you are continuing to do those things, but you have re-rationalized it as "things that tenured people do." Do you think that those same people who are currently TT, and who do not currently subscribe to The Hey_Boo Philosophy of Service, will suddenly change their minds and decide to subscribe to it upon receiving tenure?

Any attempt to deny tenure based on "they don't think the way I think they should" or "they don't do the things I did when I was on the TT, and so they're slacking" is bound to go nowhere except Trainwreckville. Based on this, I wonder whether it is really true that "it's safe to say that many, if not most of us, regret the hire." Do you know this for a fact? Or are you assuming, again, that everyone thinks the way you do?

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cousin_oliver
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« Reply #28 on: February 05, 2012, 12:02:19 AM »

Vox,

I mentioned the service tasks because our department offers tenure-track people a limited number of service opportunities.  Nothing massive or contentious, a la glowdart's reasoning.  The TT person in question has little interest in them.

As far as assuming that I'm assuming (this could turn into a fun word game) that others regret the hire, the last conversation I had with a few of my colleagues ended with one of them saying "I regret the hire," and the other one tending to agree. 

If the tenure vote were tomorrow, I'd certainly vote for the person.  I'm fair.  But I'm still allowed to grumble.
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larryc
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« Reply #29 on: February 05, 2012, 12:07:18 AM »

You just don't like the guy and are turning over rocks looking for a reason.
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