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Writing Across the Curriculum

 

Holloway Hall

Do They Like Me Enough to Give Me Tenure?
Brent Fedorko
Health and Sport Sciences

It may not be something you immediately think about, but it’s eventually something every new faculty member faces – it gives you flashbacks to elementary school when you wondered “Do they like me?”. But now It’s not based on what type of snacks you brought in or the toys you had to share, but things like “Did I get enough publications?”; “Was I on enough committees?”; “Who was that one student who gave me that bad review”. These are just some of the thoughts that pop into the mind of a new faculty member when the time comes and he has to stand in front of his peers and be told whether he has done enough to stay around forever or if he must go away tomorrow. This practice of promotion and tenure is a process that can either make you or break you.

As I look of my calendar to see if it’s time to go teach one of my courses of a 20 credit course-load or advise time one of the over 100 students assigned to me, I think about that publication deadline that is due in a few days. Do the “higher-ups” know how much I do for this department? Does it matter – do they like me? The pressures an assistant professor faces trying to please everyone are great. I try to get advice from these committee members – some who have been safe for the last 30+ years and others who I just finished eating a piece of cake with celebrating their recent acceptance into career security. Now I look and I’m running in a committee election against another one of these promotion and tenure committee members – will he get mad at me if I get more votes? Wow another flashback - just like when I was picked ahead of my friend for the team in recess and he didn’t talk to me for a week. All pressures I think about. Now that I think about it, maybe this pressure is the cause of my high blood pressure!

As my deadline approaches, I start thinking - “why am I worrying?” I’ve gotten positive reviews every year from everyone; they love being colleagues with me (or I think they do). Did I say “hi” to everyone today? I’m curious as to what the CVs and portfolios of my fellow colleagues who are also going up for tenure and promotion soon look like. I wonder if those cookies in the faculty lounge were from one of them. As I prepare to go through my process, I can’t help to think to myself “Were these guidelines as strict twenty years ago?”

While I know there are not many guarantees in life, one such guarantee in the life of a new tenure-track faculty member is the stress that accompanies the promotion and tenure process. The process of deciding whether my teaching, service, and research have been enough to contribute significantly to the university is of great importance – it’s all or none and there is no in-between. I just hope when my committee comes together to decide my fate - that they liked the snacks I brought to the table. Hopefully if all goes well, I’ll be one of those “higher-ups” sitting back on the other side of that table one day and if so remember – I like chocolate chip cookies the best.
 

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