Article on Women and Tenure
n.morrison at garvan.unsw.edu.au
Thu Oct 28 02:50:15 EST 1993
In article <29poam$stc at vixen.cso.uiuc.edu>, mcwg9235 at uxa.cso.uiuc.edu
(Marsha Woodbury ) wrote:
> From the University of Illinois:
> Press ? for Help, q to Quit, u to go up a menu Receiving Information../
> Page 14, She got tenure...may she rest in peace
> Features Column by Marsha Woodbury, 10/05/93
> Let's talk about epitaphs and tenure, topics which belong together like
> asthma and pollen.
> My epitaph/tenure train of thought began at Oak Woods, a cemetery in
> Chicago, where we visited the grave of a great, old-time baseball player,
> Cap Anson (whose stats you'll find below). The cemetery sits in the South
> Side of Chicago, surrounded by a run-down, largely African-American
> neighborhood. There's some irony about the locale, because Cap refused to
> play against a team that had an African-American player.
> "He was a bigot of the first water. He is generally credited with starting
> the segregation that existed in baseball until Jackie Robinson," reported
> Charles Hargrove, graduate student in archaeology at the University of
> Be that as it may, on Cap's tombstone, beneath crossed baseball bats, the
> raised granite letters say, "He played the game."
> That warmed up my benched mind. I wrote a few more epitaphs--for a
> housewife, you could say, "She did the wash;" for a corrupt politician,
> "He took the bribe;" for a drunk, "He hit the bottle."
> My friend Rendi Mann-Stadt, law student, said her tombstone will say, "She
> never went to a Tupperware party."
> And for a dead professor, the epitaph will be, "She got tenure."
> Before going any further, let's define tenure, which is a right granted to
> the holder of a position that protects him against dismissal under most
> circumstances after a probationary period, usually in a university or
> school. (The Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition, uses "him" because it
> got tenure and can say what it damn well pleases.)
> Tenure, like baseball, has mystique. Once you are hired as an assistant
> professor, you have six years to make the team.
> "Everyone wants tenure because it's the mark of being part of the chosen.
> Kind of like circumcision," explained Deni Elliott, Mansfield Professor of
> Ethics and Public Policy at the University of Montana.
> Who coaches the novice, particularly the female and minority profs, about
> the tenure track rules? I found that out at a seminar called "Everything
> You Always Wanted to Know about Tenure but were Afraid to Ask." The
> Department of Women's Studies presented six female professors, all
> tenured, on a panel chaired by Marianne Ferber, emeritus professor of
> The women shared tips and strategies for surviving the process with your
> physical and mental health and dignity intact. They should know--four of
> the six were denied tenure but won it eventually. Here's my distillation
> of their accumulated wisdom:
> 1. Miss the process completely. Start out at one school and get hired
> half-way through by another school that wants you badly enough to give you
> tenure automatically (this happens more often than you poor devils going
> through the process want to know about).
> 2. Get published in reputable journals. Publish early and often. Everyone
> gets rejection slips--quickly resubmit your articles. Remember, there's no
> correlation between the quality of the journal and the quality of the
> work. Eventually, someone will publish it.
> 3. Find out the tenure time table. Request tenure "roll backs" (time o
> for solid academic reasons in the first few years.
> 4. Assume you are in a litigious environment and put every agreement and
> promise in writing. Department heads can leave, colleagues can forget:
> protect yourself. Make it hard for the University to deny the appeals
> 5. Monitor your own professional development. Make a large chart of where
> your research will go, have a plan for it.
> 6. If you are denied tenure unjustly, don't stop doing your research. Use
> the appeals process, file a grievance if necessary, do some creative job
> 7. If you co-author a paper, watch out. Your name won't come up in
> citations (when someone cites your work as a reference). Believe it or
> not, they count.
> 8. Don't publish with the same person all the time.
> 9. If you cite someone, send your paper to them. Send your papers to
> referees who will be recommending you so they know your work.
> 10. Get a strong champion. A champion can make a case for you during the
> decision process.
> 11. Make sure the outside referees come from prestigious institutions. And
> you'd better not use too many women (sad, isn't it?).
> 12. Develop a Zen detachment. While part of you is paranoid, part is sane,
> watching the process.
> 13. Have a friend peek in your files to see if anyone has put anything
> nasty about you in there. It's not cool to ask to see your file, although
> you can.
> 14. Get Academic Communication No. 9 It gives the University criteria for
> promotion and tenure.
> 15. Keep exact records of your lectures, professional appointments,
> service. You have to fill in all the categories on the forms, so make that
> easy for yourself later on.
> 16. Have I mentioned teaching and committee work? No. Are they important?
> Unfortunately, no.
> Marsha Woodbury, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
> marsha-w at uiuc.edu
> "A simile is like a metaphor."
-- A very interesting string of advice for anyone looking for tenure,
regardless of gender. Point number 2 really means be good enough at your
job to justify tenure. You have to publish at least as much as your review
board. If you publish the same amount they will describe your record as
excellent. If you publish more they may be threatened and want to get rid
of you. If you follow point four, assuming a litigious environment, you
might be viewed as an argumentitive disagreeable person that few people
warm to and although you may gain tenure by legal challenge you might just
have a miserable time, even with your tenure, constantly defending
yourself. Does anybody really want this? Its probably better to search
for tenure outside your institute and obtain tenure as part of your
contract before you move, than attempt to convince your superiors within
the institute. The old saying of familiarity breeding contempt may well
apply, especially if things dont fly in the first years. Point number ten
sounds a bit like toadying to someone in influence. If you react badly to
authority you will have real problems with this. Aligning youself to a
champion may backfire in the political jungles of academe. It might be
better to be polite, helpful and friendly to all, and respectful of those
above you. That is obviously very difficult for most of us. In the end
they will grant tenure if they respect your achievments and will allow a
lot of slack if they actually like you. What I cannot readily see in this
article is how the advice of Marsha Woodbury would specifically enhance the
chances of female academics obtaining tenure in an area suspected of having
a male bias. Thank you, for an interesting and helpful article.
Morrison, Garvan Institute of Medical Research,
St Vincents' Hospital, Sydney, Australia.
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