Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tenure Dreams

Over the last few weeks, I have been waiting--increasingly anxiously—for news of my tenure decision. Early last week I was told that my case was signed but not yet sealed, and I would know the news on Friday. Friday came slowly and went by even slower, and at the end of the day I still had no news. And then there were the dreams.

Dream one: I came into my office early in the morning to work, my son with me. Spread out on my desk were twelve piles of paper; each pile was topped by summary comments of each of the members of our University-wide tenure committee. Comments were widely variable: “Great Job! Certainly deserves tenure”; “No tenure, because she knows nothing about quantum mechanics” [Not true!! I remember thinking in my dream]; “Too creative”; “Too many things going on at once”; “Too focused on the technical”. And my favorite: written on a flaccid piece of popped blue balloon: “Her research is just not my thing.” Just those summaries; no decision. I woke up very very anxious, and it lasted all day.

Dream two: I discover the reason I did not find out about my tenure case on Friday. Here’s what I piece together, through various surreal sources of information: My department had voted positive, but with some negative votes [this is true in real life], so the tenure committee takes an extra hard look, and decides that my case is not strong enough. Since their conclusion differs from the department’s, they assign a review committee, which determines that I do deserve tenure after all. But then, everyone is concerned that my dossier elicits such inconsistent results. How unscientific! So they decide to continue reviewing and reviewing until they converge on a decision, but the decision never converges, it only oscillates back and forth. That would be bad enough, but in the end my dossier (or, “me”) is blamed for the lack of convergence. I remember yelling in my dream: “It’s the people who are examining the dossier who are the problem, not me!!” I woke up infuriated, and it took a while to get back to sleep.

You might ask, why do I not know the outcome of my own tenure decision?

Perhaps in a future post I will expand on the reasons, but for now, here’s a brief list (with commentary).

1. A female faculty member has never been ushered--successfully--through the ranks in my dept. (Yet.)

2. My dept. does not follow established university guidelines for processing tenure cases. (It will from now on.)

3. I have received consistent low-level hazing from my various people in my dept. (I will do my best not to let this happen to anyone else.)

4. All of that (and some more) is exacerbated by a few of my own persistent insecurities. (Hopefully these will continue to be ironed out as I mature.)

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