Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Waiting for the Final Word

At many universities, the tenure evaluation year may actually take most of a year, starting with the soliciting of external evaluation letters (perhaps in the summer, with due dates in the fall), and then proceeding through all the various stages of votes and decisions, from the department on up to the overlords. Although there are exceptions, most of which are terrifying, it's typically the first few decision stages that matter. If you've got positive votes all the way past the dean, the grand vizier, and up to the czar and/or the ruling junta, you're probably going to get some good news in the spring or early summer.

Even so, many tenure candidates are anxious all the way through to the final stages and don't feel comfortable counting on tenure until the final official step. By that point, though, celebrating seems somewhat anti-climactic because of the protracted process and because others considered tenure a done-deal at some earlier stage of the process, so it might be hard to get anyone but your mother and maybe your dog excited about the final final decision.

I remember wanting to know the results on the day of the final final decision, but all those who could actually tell me the result thought I was being weird and in fact had no plans to find out the result. According to them, the results, which would surely be positive, would be announced eventually, so why worry about it? Why?: because it was really really important to me and I wanted to know. I wanted the whole process to be over, officially over.

If you have been through the tenure process (successfully), when did you celebrate (if ever)? Did you celebrate after each intermediate step, did you celebrate only after the decision stage(s) that you considered to be most crucial, or did you wait until the very end? By the very end, did anyone else but you even care?

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

I celebrated after the initial department vote, and after the final confirmation. I was not informed about the intermediate steps, but probably wouldn't have celebrated them even if I had been informed. The final confirmation was very important to me; there is a big difference between definitely having tenure and probably having tenure but possibly having to look for a job elsewhere. My spouse cared also. I don't know if anyone else cared.

mOOm said...

I didn't celebrate and felt depressed about being stuck where I was. I quit two years later.

Anonymous said...

Oblivious students in non-gossipy departments will rejoice with you. During my first year of grad school, I did not that the professor I was TAing for was even up for tenure, so when the final final decision was announced I was very happy for him. Unfortunately my idea for a celebration -- give every student 100 on the midterm without grading them -- wasn't adopted.

Anonymous said...

OMG, most timely post ever... counting off the days until the next meeting of the University Corporation and no way I'm celebrating until who knows how long after that when I'll actually hear anything. And yes, I anticipate it will be extremely anti-climactic.

Wendy said...

I expect my rubber stamp in the first week of July, assuming the trustees get around to it (they've been known to put it off until the following October and then award retroactive promotions). I past the first three hurdles already, with votes in October, January, and March. All told, the process will have been 14 months.

I'll have a party in the summer when I can kick guests outside and have the time and energy to plan it.

Female Bio Prof said...

I went by the mantra that "it ain't over until it's over" so there was no celebration until everybody had signed off on my tenure.

When the congratulatory letter arrived from the Provost (in the middle of the spring semester), it stated that tenure was effective on the first day of the fall semester, so I still didn't feel free to celebrate. Even when I received my tenure medallion and certificate at our Honors Convocation (during graduation weekend in the spring), the certificate clearly stated that it was effective on the first day of the fall semester.

So by the time I actually received tenure, I was way too busy (and exhausted) to actually celebrate the occasion.

Anonymous said...

FSP...please stop posts that preclude us foot soldiers... grad students, postdocs, asst profs, etc. from getting a word in :(

It is bad enough that we are disenfranchised in professional life, we are forbidden to get serious at any stage of dating and plans of having an adult life are in deep freeze; now we have to wait to become eligible to comment on your blog ;)

Okay...now I have given FSP a lot of guilt to carry :)

Anonymous said...

I celebrated at the administrative recommendation stage-meaning before the Board of Trustees. Since my case was pretty straight forward, I was nervous but overall it felt anticlimactic- like, now i have to do this job for the next 30 years, wow.

mathgirl said...

Thanks for the timely post FSP! My chair must be asking for the review letters as I type!

I don't think I will be able to relax until the very end, but I do have a special excuse for this: I've moved between different universities and I'm going for tenure after only a year at the second university...

Anonymous said...

after the departmental vote was made public. it wasn't officially done till months later, but that was the critical stage.

nicoleandmaggie said...

I'm just starting the tenure process-- packet is due this summer, I will find out next Spring.

I'm not actually that worried. I like my job a lot and I like the area, but there are other parts of the country I like better. We have a big precautionary savings bundle so we can withstand a job search, especially with the extra year of employment. I'm not really used to staying more than 6 years at any one place, so maybe that's why it feels natural to be able to move on.

My biggest worry is that I want to look non-embarrassing to letter writers. I'm focused on my national reputation more than my local reputation. At the very worst, I'd like to be able to get a soft money position at Stanford should I have to leave here.

Maybe I'll feel more nervous closer to deadlines. Right now I'm kind of zen. Productive, but zen.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I spent 11 years as an assistant professor, so I was very ready for the tenure process to be over. I don't remember celebrating the final decision, but I did file the letter very carefully.

Mami Ngwa said...

UGH! I have 1 more academic year before I submit for tenure and I'm dreading it! I plan to celebrate like it's the end of the world, but I'll post at that time and see what I actually do!

Anonymous said...

My institution has the truly evil policy of keeping all the intermediate steps confidential. You submit your stuff in June, and the next thing you hear is a final "yes" or "no" the next May.

Anonymous said...

I never really celebrated formally, but certainly felt an internal sigh of relief when it went with approval from the college P&T committee to the Chancellor (This is at a Medical School separate from undergraduate campuses).

The college committee was the last one that sometimes disapproved such applications, mostly from clinical departments who arrogantly put up people who had been here two years and had no publications or grants. It was and is the case that as long as you had no controversy associated with you that approvals would be automatic from the Chancellor to the President to the Board of Regents. I can't think of a case where someone was disapproved at the higher levels.

Historiann said...

I didn't celebrate my tenure decision for all of the reasons you note above--the very many different decisions that go into the process, etc. But, I was also very badly treated by the process at my uni, so I didn't really feel like "celebrating" a screwed-up process that although in the end came out alright for me, along the way it made me alternately depressed, anxious, and angry.

Getting tenure is better than the alternative--but in my experience it didn't feel that much better.

Ewan said...

Wellll...

...after encouragement from Dean, provost & chair to go up early (as agreed in my hiring letter three years ago), and unanimous votes at dept (generally trivial) and college (generally the hardest hurdle) level, the University P&T committee voted me down a couple of weeks back.

So no, I did not celebrate at any level, and will not do so even if this gets overturned until I have the signed letter...

Anonymous said...

I'm a grad student and our whole lab celebrated with a few bottles of champagne the day my adviser got the final yes! It wasn't a big celebration, but it was a good thing for all of us in his lab!

Anonymous said...

I got the (positive) letter 10 days ago. In my university you don't hear anything officially until the letter arrives to the chair's office, so you are in a limbo for the whole year. My colleagues told me informally that everything was fine at the departmental level, but then you truly hear nothing for over a semester. There was a case in my department of a denial at the administration level (i.e. with departmental support), so although I was confident everything was OK I will not deny I felt a huge relief when I got the letter the other day.
Regarding celebrations, I just had a few drinks with my closer colleagues, but I didn't feel as happy as I thought I would be. I was relieved, but a little depressed about the future.
Is "post tenure depression" something that others have experienced?

Anonymous said...

Is the Anon 7:09 comment a joke? I really hope so.

I think 'post tenure depression' is real and relates to the fact that some experiences (like the run up to tenure, especially in the last year) are so immensely stressful that even though you've been working for tenure for so long, it's hard for some to switch immediately into happy carefree mode. I felt really wiped out by the stress, and only slowly decompressed from it. I was relieved, but it didn't feel like happiness right away. But then it did later.

GMP said...

There are three levels of tenure approval at my institution: department (a serious one), university T&P committee (the really big deal one), and then the Regents (a rubber stamp that happens in June). The package was assembled in May, the department went for letters over the summer, I was happy after the unanimous department vote (early fall), and considered myself tenured after the unanimous university T&P vote (early winter). Even this big step (approval at the T&P cte) was quite anticlimactic, more so than the PhD defense for instance. I don't remember if I celebrated, maybe went to dinner with family, certainly nothing big. By the time I received the official letter the following July (14 months after the letters were solicited), it was really 'meh'.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the process of waiting right now. Everything positive so far and the regents supposedly voted last week so I'm waiting on my official letter. I plan to have a party with at least a few friends but yes, it seems very anti-climatic.

Pagan Topologist said...

I did not really celebrate, but I felt relieved at each stage. I was turned down for tenure the first time I was nominated. We could not self-nominate in those years; it was necessary to be nominated by a senior colleague. Typically, although not always, this was the department chair. I was granted tenure the following year, in 1974.

It has been a long time, but as I recall I was approved at the Department level but narrowly rejected at the College level and then more strongly rejected at the University level. The Provost, whose decision was de facto final then rejected me saying that it would be premature.

Anonymous said...

I went for a nice dinner with my spouse when I got the hardcopy letter. And the College hosted a pleasant celebration dinner for the newly promoted. I appreciated it, even if overall it wasn't a big deal. It was really nice for my R1 institution to take the time and $$ and express appreciation and acknowledge celebration. It did help make it more climactic. In principle, all the intermediate steps were confidential, and you kind of gathered that Committee N had met and no news was good news.

I'm intrigued that some people celebrate with their research group -- I never told mine that I was up for tenure, and I'd be curious to know how many people share that info and celebrate with their students. I guess I felt that it was an HR thing on my appointment and didn't want to share private stuff like that; plus, I didn't want them to think there was any risk that I wouldn't be around (which there wasn't much). It wasn't a secret, but I just didn't discuss it.

Finally, re post-tenure depression, it did catalyze a mid-life crisis. Which hasn't resolved...

Oh, and let Anon 07:09's footsoldiers start their own blog!
:-P

Anonymous said...

I didn't feel comfortable celebrating at any of the intermediary steps - I was waiting for the Final Word. But one minute after hearing it was official, I found out I would get no raise, my partner was losing their crappy lectureship in the department, and that there would be no other perk whatsoever. I was pissed and then depressed.

Anonymous said...

@Anon @12:08

Dead men dont talk,honey. That's why junior academics dont start blogs. But apparently, they do hang around like ghosts on others' blogs :)

Anonymous said...

"That's why junior academics don't start blogs"

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Did you just discover the internet and haven't yet had a chance to look around and see that there are bajillions of blogs by junior academics and very few by senior profs? Or were you joking as well.. I can't tell anymore........

Anonymous said...

Well, I do know there are a billion blogs by junior academics...but its not a real blog unless it has an audience... an audience consisting of real human beings...not subhuman junior academics.


Oh...and yes...I absolutely am joking...its called bitter humor; the idea is that you can share in the sadistic pleasure the elders take in torturing you. Laughing at the spectacle of your own crucified self is a challenge. I love kicking myself in the balls baby...numbs me down to face the kicks of others :)

Anonymous said...

I celebrated when I got the draft memo from the dean to the vp academic. No one ever gets turned back at this point. Plus, her letter was thoughtful and detailed and showed that she had read and understood the letters in the context of my field (very different from hers). Given that she has hired the year I went up no one had any idea how she would handle tenure cases.

But she not only supported me (yay for me), she showed herself to be diligent, thoughtful and broad minded and supportive of all her departments (much the opposite of her predecessor) which is great for the faculty.

Having said that, I still don't have the official signed by the university president letter. So, if the government goes broke I still might lose my job ...

Anonymous said...

I had 6 months twins at the time, so I didn't celebrate for even one minute.

Archie said...

I only celebrated at the end since -- to me -- that was the only decision that really mattered. In fact, I think I was called but not in the office and got the message later in the day.

Anonymous said...

The tenure expectations at my university have been changing drastically over the last few years - it was hard to tell what the expectations were leading up to my tenure year, because they kept changing. Everyone was nervous, though I kept being told I was a shoo-in. We also had a new provost, who was flexing his muscles a bit.

In my academic division, seven people went up for tenure at the same time as me. Three of us were granted tenure. You have to understand that no one in the history of my department has ever been denied tenure, so it was a bit of a shock to have so many negative decisions. Rumor has it that five decisions overturned at the provost level from what the departments recommended.... (Four negatively; one positively) So I had serious survivor's guilt and didn't really feel much like celebrating. I felt like I'd survived a war and just wanted to go take a nap.

Anonymous said...

I got absolutely no feedback, good or bad, until the final word came. At our school the President (aka the Emperor) makes the final decision, and there have been a few surprises both ways during his reign.

And yes. there's such a thing as "post-tenure depression", as in, I'm stuck here forever and ever....

Anonymous said...

I got tenure last year, and it was OK, I was glad to get the news (they were more than one month late compared to usual). Weirdly, my group was happier than I was, and somehow it seems to me that they treat me differently... definitely they show way more respect.

To Love What is Mortal said...

I saw an announcement in our email report for "promotions and tenure" and was glad to see my name on the list. My husband made homemade pretzels that night and we both said, well good. Does that count as a celebration?

Anonymous said...

So far I've gotten approval from the department, university tenure committee and the provost and received a congratulatory letter from the dean of my division. Once the corporation meets it will be official, and once I get a reappointment letter I'm planning on having a big fucking party. I've worked too hard at this not to celebrate.

Anonymous said...

My process took 2 YEARS. Depressingly, not that uncommon at my institution. I had a big party when it was all over.

Anonymous said...

The process at my institution takes 18 months:

-the 1st vote (dept. level) occurs 9 months in (we do not hear the outcome of external review)

-we are required to be notified of the college level decision 15 months after submission...I am told after that it's smooth sailing even if the highest level decision is sometimes made retroactively; been know to happen 20 months into the process

-we are officially promoted 18 months after submission

mathgirl said...

Ha! When I first read this post I was starting the tenure process and I hoped to come back one day to answer the question!

Answer: still celebrating today after getting notification by both the chair of the department (by e-mail last night) and the dean (by paper letter today) that the university voted positively on my case. I obviously haven't got the very final report, but the dean's letter looks official enough.

My file only went through 4 committees: internal, department, faculty and university.