In two days, we find out if Mr. Geeky gets tenure. It’s been a 10-year saga for us. Five years in one job and five years in this one. For Mr. Geeky, since the beginning of his Ph.D., it’s been 18 years. After 18 years, he gets assurance that he can keep his job (or not). Shouldn’t he be retiring by now?
To people outside of academe, tenure seems like the weirdest thing ever. Some might be familiar with K-12 schools who grant tenure solely based on time worked. And there are the David Hororwitz’s of the world. Many have asked me what Mr. Geeky’s chances are and it’s hard to answer. To me, they seem good. He’s published the right amount. He’s got good evaluations and his service is outstanding. But you never know. And that’s what gets people–even those in my department who’ve been around for a while and should know. Well, what could happen, they ask? Something might not be good enough. And, as Dean Dad pointed out a long time ago, sometimes people get denied tenure for lack of fit. Maybe Mr. Geeky’s work is too much like someone else’s. Who knows.
Personally, I don’t like the tenure system. I believe in the academic freedom it bestows on people post tenure, but I think the system is extremely flawed. At the MLA convention, a panel proposed changes in the tenure process which represented a realization, in part, that one size does not fit all. In other words, what might be appropriate for tenure at Harvard isn’t necessarily appropriate at State U. The ratcheting up of requirements has been problematic across many disciplines. In fact, that’s primarily why Mr. Geeky left his first job. During his time there, leadership changed and they decided they wanted to aspire to something bigger, changing the requirements for tenure midstream.
Though we definitely feel good about Mr. Geeky’s chances, it’s still weird to think that in two days, our whole life could change.