Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tenure Time

At this time of year, a number of faculty hired a few years ago approach their "tenure time"—the date in the academic calendar where their tenure is approved, or not, by the Board of Trustees.

Old hands will remember a time in the thankfully distant past where the tenure process was vulnerable to political pressure and petty vendettas of personality. Some may recall its nadir which culminated in a dramatic standing room only Board of Trustees meeting and almost cost us a fine colleague. Over the years, our union leadership labored to reform the process to make it meaningful and to protect the faculty as well as the institution.

Recent hires have expressed the predictable concerns one might expect and have been reassured that the institution can now distinguish between those worth retaining and those not. Of course, this is also the result of reformed hiring processes as well.

Today the district is, of course, more risk averse than ever. One wonders about the lawsuit that might have been had Mathur and company prevailed that March evening and denied the tenure of that faculty member in question.

For the play-by-play of that unforgettable evening see: Mathur Goes After Jeff for Naming a Greenhouse (aka "Hello Mr. Chips"). Yes, it's all true. You can't make this stuff up though some would really like for us to forget it all. But we can't do that either. We're too academic. Plus, it's way too entertaining and instructive. Was the instructor almost denied tenure despite his excellent teaching record? Yes. As the then Chancellor Sampson said, "His teaching isn't the issue." Again, one wonders about the lawsuit that might have been. 

Of course, even the reformed process is only as sound as the good faith of all its participants.

Let us know how it goes out there.

• The infamous “greenhouse” affair, part 1 - Feb 29 2000
• The infamous “greenhouse” affair, part 2 - Mar 20 2000
• Tales of Snafuery - Sep 07 2006
• Some Mathurian tales of pettiness and ruthlessness - Jan 04 2000



Anonymous said...

At my college, as part of the decision-making process, the faculty member up for tenure is able to submit a portfolio of work, student letters, etc. for the Board to review as the Board is the entity ultimately legally responsible.

I think the tenure process in the community colleges varies widely. I'd be interested in knowing what exactly your district does and the strengths and weaknesses of the process you have.

Anonymous said...

I welcome seeing this topic on the blog.

Anonymous said...

Even the best processes can be undermined by a determined strong personality (with well-placed allies) who wants what wasn't got (the hiring of a friend) in the original hiring process. THAT lawsuit will be a doozy.

Anonymous said...

It's a better process than before but every process is only as good as the people involved.

Anonymous said...

One senses there's a larger story here...

Anonymous said...

The tenure review committee (made up of faculty members and a dean) is supposed to be the model of integrity. If you have a school who's dean keeps changing - this can be a problem. Add in a faculty member who is not above personal personality vendettas and well, a sad story.

Anonymous said...

Of course there IS a larger story...I hope people do the right thing. I don't know how some live with themselves....

Anonymous said...

A savvy person could easily compare the case of someone denied tenure with those who receive it -and the reasoning and evidence behind each decision to see what kind of mischief is afoot. People are certainly watching.

Anonymous said...

Is Carol Sobel still at work? Does anyone know how to contact her?

Anonymous said...

All practicing lawyers are listed on the state bar website, along with their contact info.

Anonymous said...

Carol's office is in Santa Monica.

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine a court case where tenured faculty with, uh, say OBVIOUS issues, are presented as evidence? Ha ha ha.

Of course the sad thing is that decent, hardworking people are drummed out while the imbalanced and poorly trained are kept on...

Let us know what happens!

Anonymous said...

Still amazed at the tales I hear about admin who know better but won't stand up to this kind of shit. There's a special place in hell, that's all I can say.

Rebel Girl said...

I think it's a very crowded place.

Anonymous said...

Bad people are doing bad things and other people who know better are letting them do them.

Anonymous said...

This will be an eyeopener for some of the trustees. I do hope they open their eyes.

Anonymous said...

Reading through the links to the old stories makes me pleased that the tenure process was reformed - but as some have pointed out, even a reformed process can be abused. This is especially true with, as you say, so many bullies around. Surely there can be some kind of appeal or redress before making such a grievance into a costly court case, yes? What roles if any do other play in this process? VP? President? Vice Chancellor? Chancellor?

8-14: do you regret all the lying?

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Goals and Values and Twaddle

blather: long-winded talk with no real substance*
The whole concept of MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the latest fad in education is somewhat akin to the now discredited fad of the '90's, Total Quality Management, or TQM. Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
In the summer of ’13, I offered a critique of the awkward verbiage by which the district and colleges explain their values, goals, and objectives —aka SOCCCD'S G&V (goals and values) blather.
I wrote a post each for the district, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College efforts. (See the links below.)
This verbiage—stated in terms of “values,” “missions,” “goals,” “visions,” and whatnot—is often badly written. It is sometimes embarrassingly trite.
It occasionally communicates something worthwhile.
No doubt you are familiar with the usual objections to jargon. Higher education, too, has its jargon—an irony, given typical college-level instruction in writing, which urges jargon eschewery.
Sure enough, SOCCCD G&V blather is riddled with jargon and with terms misused and abused. For instance, in the case of the district’s dubious blather, the so-called “vision” is actually a purpose. Why didn't they just call it that?
As one slogs through this prattle, one finds that "visions" tend to be awfully similar to “missions,” with which they are distinguished. The latter in turn are awfully similar to “goals,” which must be distinguished from “objectives.” But aren't goals and objectives pretty much the same thing?
These perverse word games will surely perplex or annoy anyone armed with a command of the English language. In fact, readers will be perplexed to the degree that they are thus armed. Illiterates, of course, will be untroubled.
Here's a simple point: the district and colleges’ G&V blather tends to eschew good, plain English in favor of technical terms and trendy words and phrases (i.e., it tends to be bullshitty and vague). Thus, one encounters such trendy terminological turds as “dynamic,” “diversity,” “student success,” and “student-centered.” Even meretricious neologisms such as ISLOs and “persistence rates” pop up, unexplained, undefended.
Does anyone see a transparency problem with all of this? Shouldn't the public, or at least the well educated public, be able to comprehend statements of the colleges' goals and values?
In the case of the district, to its credit, all it really seems to want to say is that it wants to teach well and it wants students to succeed. Admirable!
So why all the ugly, common-sense defying, buzzword-encrusted claptrap?

Districtular poppycock: our “vision” and our “mission” and our tolerance of twaddle - July 31, 2013

THEY BUZZ: Saddleback College's "Mission, Vision, and Values" - August 4, 2013

IVC’s vision, mission, and goals: nonsense on stilts - August 5, 2013

THE IRVINE VALLEY CHRONICLES: no ideas, just clichés & buzzwords - Sep 30, 2013

*From my Apple laptop's dictionary