Saturday, January 29, 2011

Untenured faculty should not accept administrative posts (and tenured faculty shouldn't ask them to)

An untenured woman in my department has been asked to fill in for a year as interim director for an area studies center while the director is on sabbatical.  She really wants to do it, that is clear.  I think she feels flattered to be asked.  And it would be a new title, new responsibility.  She gets a one-course release for the year, and (maybe) summer salary. 

BUT she is not tenured!  And she hasn't finished her book--she says she'll have it finished beginning of summer (but 6 months ago she thought she'd have it finished by this past winter break).  If her book was in-press or published, she'd be fine.  But the manuscript isn't even finished, much less out for review.

She knows that I think she should decline (I'm her mentor).  Her focus should be on research, publishing (her teaching evals are great--she's fine there).  There'll be plenty of time to run centers, etc after tenure.  Also, running the center will not get her any points toward tenure.  Though it will certainly be blamed if her publication record is borderline.

Will she listen to me? Probably not.  She's practically starry-eyed when she talks about it.  I'm not being heavy-handed with her about my advice.  But I just dread the idea of her not getting tenure.  Or even just squeaking by with tenure--I had two friends who turned into very sour and resentful academics when they got tenure with about 1/4 of the faculty voting against them.

Happier news:
I had a great ski week this week. Went 3 times!  On my ski days on the weekdays, I work from 5 or 5:30 to 8:00, then get ready and go skiing, and get back to work 1:30 until 5.  I always work a couple hours in the evenings, so it comes to at least 8 hours of work.  Plus, I get to ski!  Have I mentioned before that I think I'm addicted?  It really brings me joy, especially when I ski with my son.  Great exercise too.

No, I don't tell people at work.  They wouldn't understand. 


  1. I love the sound of your ski days! It's things like that (among others) that make me want to be a professor. :)

  2. Agree entirely, I saw so many non-tenured faculty accept admin posts when they absolutely shouldn't have. But the sticker was that there was always pressure from certain members of the department, and pre-tenure, most people are terrified to say 'no'. For good reason, as no one can deny that certain types will hold grudges all the way though tenure hearings...but still, protecting your time by saying no is a necessary skill.

    @Banshee Flexible schedules are increasingly the norm in the outside world too...

  3. @Banshee: I do like the flexible schedule. Helps with a job that is 50 hrs/wk, especially with kids. But my partner works 9-5 and then is DONE. Sometimes I'm jealous.

    @WoPro: The art of saying "no" is crucial to learn--so true and so difficult. Grudges, pressure, etc. Downside of academia.