Friday, September 03, 2010

Early Birds

Recent discussions about tenure raised some interesting questions, at least one of which is going to result in a poll:

At your institution, are candidates for early tenure held to a higher standard than those being evaluated at the 'normal' time, or is the standard the same? In the former case, is it official policy that early tenure cases are held to a higher standard or is this just how it works (in your experience/opinion)?

And what about candidates who are evaluated for tenure later than normal (e.g., because their tenure clock was stopped owing to childbirth, illness, or other life-interrupting events)? Clearly they are not supposed to be held to a different standard than those without tenure clock stoppage, but, in your opinion, does it work that way?

What is the basis for your opinion?

The poll:

Compared to faculty evaluated for tenure at a 'normal' time..

candidates for early tenure are
held to a higher standard
held to the same standard
held to a lower standard free polls

.. at your institution.


Dave Backus said...

Tenure is often framed as a local decision, but in my experience early tenure is often a response to competition. If you want to keep your best people, terms have to be comparable, and that includes tenure.

Anonymous said...

Early tenure is held to a higher standard, and this is proper, as the tenuring process is supposed to be a prediction on whether the person will be productive enough over the next 20 years to justify guaranteeing them a job. A 3-year burst of activity has to be really impressive to justify that sort of commitment.

A lower standard is used when hiring someone directly with tenure, particularly someone from industry. Many of the less competent faculty I've met have been hired directly with tenure from industrial research or management positions.

Anonymous said...

In the 18 years I have been at this top 25 R1 state University NO ONE has tried to come up for tenure early, and we have considered 15-20 cases. I would be very surprised if someone tried this, as its only a five year tenure clock here, and if you could succeed coming up early, you'll be a slam dunk later. I voted "same standards", as i think that's how we'd feel, but we'd also want there to be a really good reason for it.

We really try to apply exactly the same standards to folks who stop their tenure clock, and I think we do OK in that regard. Our chair, in recent cases, made it clear that we were not to consider this in our decision.

We did have someone come up early for promotion to Full Professor last year. These often involve heading off offers elsewhere, and this person is a star whose tenure letters said, unsolicited, that he should come up early, so it was easy to make that argument three years later. He exceeded our usual standards for full professor (he certainly is more productive and prominent that i was or am)

Mark P

Average Professor said...

I've been on my departmental committee twice when there was a candidate for early tenure. Both were probably the most contentiously debated out of all the candidates I've been part of evaluating.

My university provides language for evaluating early tenure cases, but it's hard to interpret. The standard is that an early tenure candidate must demonstrate "extraordinary" performance. Then everybody is left to wonder if regular tenure candidates are just ordinary, and if being ordinary in a shorter amount of time it itself extraordinary, or if everybody has to be extraordinary and the early tenure people have to be extraordinarily extraordinary.

I think at the departmental level, there was a feeling that the intent was probably the last thing, but that evaluating early tenure cases is much easier if you just hold them to the same standards as regular tenure cases.

My department has yet to handle a clock-stoppage case, so I'm not sure if there will be any debate about how to do so (I would hope not, since the whole point of stopping the clock is to actually stop the clock; ie, when it's your time to go up, you had the same 'time' to prove extraordinariness as everybody else did).

Anonymous said...

Mmmm..... I think that in my institution, the reason one would come for tenure early is if something exceptional happens like getting a prestigious award, writing multiple high profile papers, or getting an job offer somewhere else. Also, since we have several steps at the different levels of professorship (assistant prof I, II, III,..., associate prof I, II, etc), if someone is hired at a high level of assistant professor, he/she may come up for tenure early but I don't think the requirements would be different from other people's.

end of summer said...

In my opinion: early birds in our department are held to a lower standard.

My department put me up for early tenure. This was on the basis of having gotten two large grants; our normal requirement is one large grant. But I only had two publications from my tenure-track work at the time, and a third under review. (Along with a strong publication record as a grad student and postdoc.) I was rather surprised they were willing to put me up for tenure without more publications from their institution. But my school is trying to grow our department, we're not at a super-top-tier location, so I think they were also worried they might lose me to a better place.

Anyway, I got tenure, and have done quite well afterwards, justifying their faith in my future promise. And I'm still in the same department.

Anonymous said...

The one case I know of was approved on the expectation that the candidate's current record would continue forward at the same rate, but if it had not been early the case would've been closer to the gray area. So I'd say that's a lower standard.

Anonymous said...

Policies here only allow for early tenure when it's negotiated at the time of hiring. Typically someone who's been in a tenure track position elsewhere will get a one year reduction - two years in very rare cases. The standards really are the same, and we consider the same 5 year period we would for other candidates.

Monisha said...

our institution/department has two 'paths' to early tenure although neither is frequently used (only one case in my 10 years here). one is 'extraordinary' performance, and clearly involves a higher standard of performance/time, relative to the standard 6-year clock. The second is a 'credit for prior service elsewhere' standard, and can be used when we hired an assistant-level person who had already spent a couple years at another institution - it essentially treats their initial years at the other institution as 'counting', and applies the same standards applied to people who go through the entire clock in our department. We will see the first case of the second type this year. The first type hasn't happened in a long time, and i have heard (it was before my time) that it was highly contentious, perhaps because of the unique psychological dynamics of having a group of 'ordinaries' (by implication) having to acknowledge an individuals' 'superiorness'....

Anonymous said...

I voted higher standards: the only one i've seen was exceptional, and even so, the whole process was spurred by an outside offer.
There have been a couple in other depts, typically foreigners hired after habilitation at the assistant prof. level. So one might argue that they should have been hired s associates, with or without tenure.

Unbalanced Reaction said...

At my primarily undergraduate institution, there is no early tenure.

We also have a very low retention rate of exceptional young faculty. Not surprising, huh?

Anonymous said...

My department plays favorites and moves the standard flexibly on a case-by-case basis. Some who are allowed to go for early tenure (because the key players in the dept love them) aren't really that good. Outside letters weigh less for these "dept. favorites". And some who go for tenure at the regular time and are in fact outstanding, the dept doesn't think are great. Outside letters that talk glowingly of this person weigh less! Clearly it is a "flexible" standard depending on the how well liked (personally NOT professionally) the person is!
It is pathetic.

Female Science Professor said...

What happens at higher levels of the administrative tenure trail? Do the various committees, Deans, Provosts, VPs or whatever go along with the department, even if there is an apparent discrepancy between record/letters/vote?

GMP said...

At my university, letters are everything, especially at the university level. Plus, early tenures are held to a much much higher standard so only people who are about to be snathced (another offer, with tenure, in hand) even bother to go up early.

Anonymous said...

Just to amplify on my earlier comment, I had not included folks who came up "early" because they had been in another tenure-track position for several years. We have had 2-3 such cases, all came up at a point where their aggregate time as an Asst. Prof. was the same as our standard, or one year longer to help acommodate the slow-down that accompanies the move, and all not only received tenure but have continued to be highly productive afterward, as we had bet they would when we hired them.

Mark P

Female Science Professor said...

I wouldn't count those either. I don't consider myself as having gotten "early" tenure, even though I came up for tenure soon after arriving at my new university.

Heather said...

I think early tenure are only given to people who have exceptional performances or acquired some prestigious award,that's the usual reason in our institution.
Or else,SOMETIMES... You may have a connection in the high-ups=)

Anonymous said...

Our provost sent a letter to junior faculty at my R1 state university a week or two ago stating that only truly exceptional cases should come up for tenure one year early, and that you should win a nobel prize or equivalent before thinking about putting in for tenure two years early.