Seven days later….
Among the things I’ve learned in the week after tenure rejection: 1) It’s good to have the blog. I very much appreciate the thoughts expressed in the comments section — the depth of the response has been overwhelming, a nice salve on what remains an open wound. [Yeah, but you expected the kind words, right? ...
Among the things I've learned in the week after tenure rejection:
Among the things I’ve learned in the week after tenure rejection:
1) It’s good to have the blog. I very much appreciate the thoughts expressed in the comments section — the depth of the response has been overwhelming, a nice salve on what remains an open wound. [Yeah, but you expected the kind words, right? That’s why you posted, right?–ed. The primary reason I posted was that I knew the decision would slowly ripple through the very small world of IR scholars. Since a decent chunk of that world peruses the blog, it was a quick and easy way to avoid repeating the following kind of awkward phone conversation:
DAN: Hi. COLLEAGUE OF DAN: Hey there. How are you? DAN: I’ve been better. I just got denied tenure. COLLEAGUE OF DAN: Oh, dear, that’s terrible! DAN: Yes, it is…. (awkward pause) COLLEAGUE OF DAN: Uh….. er…. wait, did you hear that? [Sound of phone hanging up.]
2) It’s good to read other bloggers as well. I have been most grateful for the sentiments expressed across the political spectrum. More importantly, a number of scholar-bloggers have made some excellent contriutions on the murky relationship between blogging, tenure, and scholarship — see, in particular, Juan Non-Volokh, Ann Althouse, Sean Carroll, Timothy Burke, and Michael B?rub?. 3) It’s good to have small children. Despite the occasional impulse to curl up into a fetal position and sleep most of the day, children do not really understand the concept of “having a bad day.” So you have no choice but to go about your day, which is a useful check against lethargy. Plus, without getting too mushy about it, a hug from the one-year old is worth a hell of a lot more than the collective opinion of my tenured colleagues. 4) It’s good to go on a 24-hour fast soon after getting denied tenure. Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. A significant aspect of the Days of Awe that lead up to the holiday is asking for forgiveness from those you have wronged over the past year. An equally significant aspect, however, is forgiving those who have wronged you. Now I’ll grant that forgiveness was not at the top of my list of emotions a week ago, but after some reflection, it’s been creeping up. Among the many pieces of intelligence I’ve been picking up about my decision is the idea that there was little display of malice or pettiness in the discussion of my case. So I (obviously) think senior colleagues made the wrong decision — but I can’t say they made the decision in a fit of pique or envy.
Yeah, that’s about all that I’ve learned. [Wait just a friggin’ minute. There’s been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere — and in the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Sun, and Inside Higher Ed, and the Chronicle of Higher Education — about what (if any) role blogging played in the decision. Now that you’ve got some more intel, do you want to fan those particular flames?–ed. Well….. I don’t want to violate any confidences, and there are some things that will remain “known unknowns” no matter what. That said, let’s just say I found myself nodding unconsciously when I read these paragraphs by Sean Carroll with regard to his own case of tenure denial at the U of C:
There?s a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is “No, it?s not blogging that prevents you from getting tenure; it?s because some people in your department (or the dean, or whatever) didn?t think that your research was good enough.” The blog was not a hot topic of discussion in my case, and I?m pretty sure that many of my colleagues don?t even know what a blog is, much less have a negative opinion of mine. The longer answer must deal with the issue of why someone doesn?t think your research was good enough. (You might wonder whether teaching and various other forms of service are also relevant; at a top-tier research university like Chicago, the answer is simply “no,” and if anyone says differently they?re not being honest.) I think my own research was both solid and influential, and Dan?s looks pretty good from the perspective of a complete outsider; certainly neither of us had simply sat around for six years. But these are judgment calls, and a lot goes into that judgment. Like it or not, if you are very visibly spending a great deal of time doing things other than research, people might begin to wonder how devoted you are to the enterprise. To first order it doesn?t really matter whether that time is spent blogging or playing the banjo; some folks will think that you could have been spending that time doing research. (At second order it does matter; some people, smaller in number but undoubtedly there, feel resentful and jealous when one of their colleagues attains a certain public profile on the basis of outreach rather than research.) Of course nobody will ever say that they voted against giving tenure to someone because that person spent too much time on public outreach, or put too much effort into their teaching. But getting a reputation at being really good at that stuff could in principle make it harder to have your research accomplishments recognized ? or not. It?s just impossible to tell, without access to powerful mind-reading rays that one can train on the brains of the senior faculty. Blogging may very well be a contributor to this image of not being perfectly devoted ? although, given the lack of familiarity with blogs on the part of most senior faculty, it?s very unlikely to be playing a major role. But even then it?s not blogging per se, it?s the decision to make an effort to communicate with the public. Blogging is just a technology, not a fundamentally new activity.
I can knock down simple strawmen on the question of what happened. I wasn’t denied tenure because of my politics, for example. At a deeper level, however, it’s just impossible to parse out well-justified motivations from poorly-justified motivations. And the sooner you and I accept that fact, the better for our emotional health.]
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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