Friday, January 18, 2008

Apres-tenure Glow

A younger colleague was recently awarded tenure and is of course very happy about this. In his case, tenure was not such a sure thing, adding additional anxiety to a process that is stressful anyway, and, now that tenure is assured, accentuating his feelings of relief.

This colleague is still basking in the relative security and prestige of associate professorship. One aspect of his basking is to decline to help with some activities that he formerly did as an assistant professor. Recently, if one asks him to help with something, he typically says "I don't have to do that. I have tenure." or "Ask X to do it. He's an assistant professor."

I am happy for him, but I find these comments obnoxious and I hope he gets over this particular phase soon. I don't think he was particularly burdened with university and professional service tasks as an assistant professor, so I attribute his recent behavior to post-tenure exuberance.

That's fine, but his refusal to help with some tasks means more work for others, tenured and non-tenured faculty alike. And if he keeps doing such things, at some point he will no longer be a happy tenure puppy but a slacker tenure dog, and that's not nearly as cute.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can see that you would find your colleague's comments to be obnoxious, but from a distance, they're rather amusing. I know that when I received tenure, I had a great urge to develop an annoying personality quirk, such as always referring to myself in the third person (a la Bob Dole), or constantly muttering when being addressed. What could anyone do? I was tenured. Fortunately, common sense prevailed over my warped sense of humor, and I have not yet alienated my colleagues. I do hope your new associate professor realizes he is in danger of doing so and sees the light.

Anonymous said...

But that's the system's fault, not his. He is only being honest ..... and doing what profs with tenure do.

Those who claim that they don't become lazy and irresponsible after getting tenure should try being honest with themselves - it's always hard to do that, and easy to convince yourself of otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the other anonymous. There's too much pressure on faculty pre-tenure, and not enough pressure on faculty post-tenure. The upshot is a lot of pre-tenure stress fractures, and lot of post-tenure dead wood.

okham said...

It's kind of interesting actually, I have not been able to find reliable statistics on the success of tenure bids nationwide. Here and there some figures emerge: for example, it is claimed that at Iowa State 91% of all faculty applying for tenure in 2007 received it (see here, for instance); at University of Toronto the figure is apparently 95% (here). My experience at the two public institutions where I have worked as a faculty is certainly consistent with such figures, and I would not be surprised if, except for maybe 20-30 top ranked institutions, the average success rate for tenure bids were something embarrassingly high, which would put the entire thing under a somewhat different light :-)

As for the claim that those who get tenure "become lazy", I would be interested to know on what basis it is made (I suspect none but, whatever). This is not really a matter of "honesty", it is something that can easily be measured by looking at publication rates, for example.

Anonymous said...

6:26pm, please don't project your own laziness onto "the system" or assume that others behave as you apparently do. In my department, the tenured faculty take on all of the major service responsibilities. We do this in great part to protect the time of our junior faculty, who will be tenured (or not) on the basis of their research and teaching, not service.

Anonymous said...

Just a question: Are there any penalties for post-tenure poor performance?

Anonymous said...

Universities take advantage of the non-tenure because they know the Asst. Profs cannot say no. I think you get this kind of behavior in direct proportion to the amount of prior abuse. Smart universities send their newly tenured Associates on sabbatical immediately after the decision. I squeaked through my tenure decision after a nasty appeal and I doubt that I will ever be nice to any faculty member again, but I'm sure that too is just temporary. Cut this guy some slack. The problem is not this guy but how you treat the people who have no recourse.

Unbalanced Reaction said...

This happens all the time at LargeU, so it's just a cycle that goes on and on... Assistant Profs get dumped on, so once they're tenured they start dumping on the younger profs, too. Hope this doesn't happen to me!

Female Science Professor said...

In my department, assistant professors are discouraged from major service activities (department, university, and professional). Service work is not dumped on them because they can't say no. The majority of time-consuming departmental service is done by tenured faculty.

Also, this post about service has nothing to do with pre- vs. post-tenure research activity.

okham said...

Tenured faculty can be dismissed, due to poor performance and other reasons (here is an example of an actual university policy statement to that effect). It may be rare, but it does happen.

Also, almost all post-secondary education institutions have post-tenure evaluation procedures (just type "post-tenure evaluation" in your google window), which normally will affect someone's annual salary, but can also be utilized to initiate a dismissal procedure, in cases of demonstrable gross incompetence.

Andrea said...

It sounds like things are very different at different universities and that many of us make a common mistake which is to assume that our experince is typical experience. At my university, service work is dumped on new faculty and it never lets up. We don't have tenure but associate profs get a three year rolling contract and more and more will be heaped on you until you finally either crack (we have made an only somehwat facetious list of cracking signs, first goes the makeup, then the cute clothes, then bathing, then the twitches start etc..) or you learn to set your own boundries. But it doesn't seem like my school is the same as others. It is interesting to see how much things differ at different institutions.

Ms.PhD said...

This was an interesting discussion. I've worked at places that have Tenure and places that don't have it at all.

I'm going to put my comment on my own blog, because it got to be really long...

Abel Pharmboy said...

I continue to suffer in my career after having left my first faculty position in one of the most idealistic departments I have come across.

There, a full professor once told me that the tenured faculty felt a need to take on the bulk of committee work and teaching so that the junior, non-tenured faculty could focus on establishing their independent research programs. Nowhere I have been since has provided that degree of support.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I loved reading this in conjunction with your "Deadwood" post. I have a colleague like this in my department: flaky in the extreme while pretenure, we expect him to go into complete shutdown now that he's tenured. Which is fine in a way, because he couldn't be relied on when he did commit to something.

Problem, of course, is that everyone else has to deal with the extra work. He's managed to slack his way into a position of complete non-responsibility.

sandyshoes said...

I think that kind of post-tenure behaviour is endearing for about, oh, half an hour. Longer than that and it just proves his detractors were right, if his case was iffy.