Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sitting at the grown-up table

It turns out that I don't have much to say about the process of going up for promotion and tenure. Partly this is because it got subsumed in the larger craziness that was my September of wedding-planning, house-furnishing, team-teaching, and lecture-series-organizing, and partly it's because RU does a five-year review, too, which means I already had the vast majority of my materials assembled, three-hole-punched, and organized into neatly tabbed and labeled binders.

But it's also that RU has a pretty transparent and humane promotion system. I don't know that I'll get tenure, and of course I'll have nagging doubts until I get the final letter from the president or the chancellor or whoever sits at the end of the long series of approvals my file has to go through. But I've more than met the standards for tenure, and in my time in the department seven or eight people have gone up, all of them successfully.

Moreover, the tenured Flavia just isn't going to be greatly different from the Flavia of today. I experienced joining the tenure track as a radical shift in my self-identity, and one that it took a while for me to come to terms with--as the early years of this blog indicate. But we have such a young department and such a mutually supportive one that I've never felt that being untenured made me a kid, waiting to be invited to the grown-up table; I was already chairing a major committee in my third year on the job.

But I'm looking forward to what it might mean to have a bigger, official stake in my institution and in my community. RU is a healthy institution, and one that is genuinely committed to the humanities (English and History are the college's two biggest majors, have the strongest faculty, and together we're getting the first new academic building to be built on campus in decades--how many institutions can say that?). Our students are an interesting mix, and it's my impression that the best students we get are better every year than they were the year before. Being tenured at RU would mean really committing to this city and this region, its students and its workforce--and as someone who just bought a goddamn house here, I've already started thinking in those terms.

I don't know that I'll be at RU forever. If Cosimo can't get a job in the area, we'll start looking for places that might want both of us. But I'm comfortable committing to RU and this region--if RU wants to commit to me!--for a goodly while to come.


life_of_a_fool said...

>"I've never felt that being untenured made me a kid, waiting to be invited to the grown-up table."

I feel like this as well, maybe partly because of the institution and partly because of my personality. But, can I say it frustrates me to no end that probably-more-than-not of the junior faculty *want* to be the kid for a few years longer? Both because I think it's a flawed attitude and because I'd much prefer to work in a department in which everyone steps up and acts the grownup?

(though in my department's somewhat less humane approach to tenure review, I now feel like the kid waiting for the approval of others. Maybe it would have been better to feel like like a kid all along so it would be a little less unnerving now.)

phd me said...

You know, I feel rather similar about my P&T situation. I've done what I needed to do; the process is out of my hands now; and, while it's stressful in the waiting, the everyday ins and outs haven't changed.

And I don't imagine I'm going to change much if and when I get tenure. I am who I am, personally and professionally, and I've never been very successful at playing it safe, so I doubt there's going to be any big shift in the future.

So, here's to making it to the grown-up table!

Flavia said...


Yeah, it's frustrating, isn't it, how often this profession seems intent on infantilizing us well past the point that it's reasonable to do so? Doesn't happen so much at my institution, but I have friends at schools where the faculty (not just junior faculty) are routinely patted on the head and told some equivalent of "you'll understand when you're older." (And this was, of course, my major experience of grad school.)

Here's to all of us getting the affirming head-pat of tenure, however~~