Tenure has been in the news a great deal since a group in California has been attempting to end (High School) Teacher tenure through the ballot box, elected officials, and court cases. I don’t know what the tenure process is at other institutions, but I know how it works at mine.
After a four year review process (that is fairly intensive), we are granted tenure. After being granted tenure, every three years we are reviewed to make sure that we are still up to the mark. I actually think this system is pretty good. It is not an endless string of paperwork, and it still maintains a check to make sure that instructors are doing their job.
I don’t think our tenure process is flawless. Prior to teaching in a tenure track position, I was a staff member of another teaching institution. As a staff member, we went through an annual performance review. This was a lower work process, but had some advantages over our tenure process.
For our tenure process, we provide two rather involved documents. One is “Personal Growth” which is essentially a bullet point list of all the good things I have done beyond basic requirements since my last review. Here I list things like conferences attended (or presenting at), shows designed beyond my contract (i.e. publishing), committees I served on, and other special things I have done. The second document is essentially proving that I have fulfilled my contract. I have to state (demonstrate) that I maintain accurate student records, that I can use a computer, that I can…… whatever else. (The questions I have to answer are listed in our contract).
The last part of the tenure review process is student surveys in addition class room observations and/or an in-depth discussion about educational issues with one’s review committee. This is also sensible.
Where I think my annual performance review process had advantages over the tenure review process was a two sided discussion. The whole tenure review process, as I experience it, is me proving to the school that I shouldn’t be fired. There is no discussion about challenges I am having in the job. There is no real ability to cover anything beyond those contractually covered categories.
Am I unhappy and frustrated in my job? No, I’m not. There are a couple of campus processes that make my job more challenging than it ought to be — but those processes are not part of the contractually mandated questions. My (admittedly minor but very much on my mind at the moment) issues are far bigger than me. They are likely far bigger than my division. They probably need to be addressed in a bigger forum. But I don’t know what that is. And frankly, I’m so busy with my work, I don’t have time to find out.
My biggest feeling is that in the college’s and union’s desire to level the playing field for all evaluations they have eliminated an actual conversation — some actual dialogue. I don’t want my review to be a complaint session (either complaints by me, or about me), but I’m really feeling that my performance reviews from when I was a staff member were more productive. There we discussed some of the challenges I was facing (which my supervisors had not considered) and solutions were found.
What to do? Well, I could go on a crusade through the academic senate and the teachers union. I could write a memo about the things that are bugging me (and sound like a complainer). I could do nothing, and decide that in many ways I’m treated far better here over all than I was at my last gig. (BIG NOTE: At my last gig, the group I worked with personally treated me very well, but the University’s attitude towards its staff was not what I would call the foundation a great work environment)
So, tenure review. I’m going through it. I hope I have a job on the other side.