Hey Now What You Doing

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, January 10, 2011

If its early-January, it means that many college professors and students are on winter break. It also means that it is the heart of tenure and promotion season. Untenured faculty are busy preparing to submit their application in the hopes of gaining that next step in their academic career.

For most schools, the tenure and promotion is one and the same. At the school where I work, this decision is decoupled....you may earn tenure before being promoted from assistant to associate professor.

So, what is the process and what is the criteria to earn tenure and to be promoted? Lets first look at the criteria.

According to our faculty handbook, the criteria for tenure and promotion falls into five categories:
1. Academic Preparation - Does the individual have a doctorate or similar terminal degree in their field?

2. Teaching Effectiveness - Does the individual demonstrate effectiveness as perceived by the candidate, students and colleagues? Evidence to support effectiveness involves student evaluations, inviting colleagues to observe their efforts in the classroom, as well as efforts to be current in the course content.

3. Student Advisement - Does the individual regularly meet with students and advise them not only on their class schedule, but on their job/career choice after college? In addition, the candidate may serve as an advisor to one or more student organizations.

4. Scholarship and Professional Activity - Does the individual demonstrate professional competence in his or her discipline and show promise as a scholar committed to continual growth? Evidence may include, but are not limited to, things such as research projects, creative activities, convention or workshop participation, presentation of papers, and publications (preferably peer-reviewed; preferably in a higher "quality" journal).

This is often the major delineation in a faculty's career path. You may earn tenure at our institution by showing scholarship potential, but promotion often hinges on turning that potential into production (while maintaining continued competence in the other criteria). Promotion from associate to professor would require sustained competence over time in all criteria.

5. Collegial Activities - Does the individual provide evidence of effectiveness in meeting the collegial expectations of the College? This may include such activities as productive participation in one's discipline, serving on an array of college committees, as well as activities that promote the stature of the applicant and the College.

In meeting these expectations, the individual should reflect upon and articulate how these accomplishments meet the mission of the College.

For tenure, individuals typically can apply after their fourth year, and must apply within 7 years of starting the position. This "tenure clock" can be affected by whether you had worked at another institution, or had earned tenure elsewhere. For promotion from Assistant to Associate, you must have worked 7 years as an Assistant Professor, with at least 2 years at our institution. For promotion to Professor, you must have worked at least 5 years as an Associate with 3 of those years at our institution.

What does the tenure and promotion process entail? The candidate must submit an application to the Academic Dean that includes:
1. An updated curriculum vitae
2. Letters from colleagues, both within and outside the candidate's discipline, that address how the candidate has met the criteria
3. An application essay (which can run upwards of 50 pages) that details how the candidate met the criteria, and how they will contribute in the future.
4. Other supporting documents (teaching evaluations, publications, syllabi, etc.).

The materials are submitted to a Faculty Personnel Committee who will review the materials and render a decision. The decision is forwarded to the Dean who also renders a decision. If there is disagreement, the Chair of the Committee and the Dean will meet with the President to discuss the decision. If all agree, the President will forward the recommendations to the Board of Trustees for approval. If the Committee does not recommend tenure, the recommendation is not submitted to the Board. There is a Faculty Review Committee available for appeal if individuals who are denied tenure feel the wrong decision was made. If a person does not earn tenure, and has no more opportunities to apply, they are given a one year terminal contract. At our campus, candidates for tenure are reviewed in the fall and candidates for tenure are reviewed in the spring. Promotion to Associate Professor does not require approval by the Board of Trustees, while promotion to Professor does.

How does your organization make promotion decisions? Is it this detailed? If not, would you consider adopting such a process?

Run Wild

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, January 4, 2011

With the MegaMillions jackpot reaching $330 million tonight (208.3 million if you take the cash option….nothing to sneeze at), it is very tempting to reach into one’s pocket and take a stab at winning. However, knowing the odds of winning may temper your enthusiasm of putting any more than a few dollars toward that chance.

According to the MegaMillons website, to win you must match 5 out of 56 white balls, and 1 out of 46 yellow balls. It is much easier said than done. The odds of accomplishing the above task are a little over 175 million to 1.

Sometimes it is hard to put into perspective what a 175 million to 1 shot might be. Take getting struck by lightning? It has been calculated that getting struck by lightning is 587,000 to 1. In comparison, you are more likely to be struck by lightning several times than winning the MegaMillions jackpot. Obviously, this will be influenced by a number of factors such as the time of day, your geographic location, and the month of the year.

What about the chances of fatally slipping in the shower or bathtub? Oddsmakers place it at 3,333 to 1. You would have to slip over many times over to match the chance of winning the MegaMillions (but, given that it is fatal, you only slip once).

What about catching a foul ball at a baseball game? Certainly it depends on where you sit or how crowded the stadium might be. But, the odds are 776 to 1. You are just as likely to catch more than a handful of foul balls as you are of winning the MegaMillions.

Tax season will be upon us soon. I hope you have kept your records straight, though the odds of getting audited by the IRS are 180 to 1.

So, go ahead and put a dollar or two on your favorite numbers, and dream about what you would do if you won $330 million dollars. Just be realistic about your chances.

If you did win....what would you do with the money? Would you use any of it to make HR better?