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Chair, Personnel Committee #1

Jared Johns: Case #1

Characterization of Institution

Research II, State University

Characterization of Department

Ph.D. granted in English Studies
M.A. granted in English
M.A. granted in Writing
B.A. granted in English

How would Jared Johns’ case turn out in your department?  At your university/college?

It would be a very close decision, but I think Johns would not be tenured in my department.  If the department did recommend tenure, I’m fairly certain that the college committee would deny tenure and the provost would support that committee.

What are the Department Chair’s responsibilities toward Johns?  Which did she/he fulfill?  Fail?

The chair’s main responsibilities are to provide a very clear sense of standards for tenure, promotion, and merit evaluation and to give Johns input on how well he was proceeding.  The chair also has responsibilities for the overall quality of the department’s programs, making sure that courses are being taught and faculty are performing professionally in accordance with the department’s mission and curriculum, policies, and procedures.

The chair seemed appropriately to intervene with the earlier warning signs about undergraduate teaching, though he could have set up a more formal mentorship during the second or third year; it’s unclear if the department has a WPA, but that would be an obvious colleague to serve as mentor.

The chair did not seem to give very clear guidance regarding Johns’s publishing record.  The end of four years is too late to be telling someone they’re publishing in the wrong places.  If Johns even reported annually where he was sending things for consideration, the chair could provide some guidance.

The chair and DGS appropriately conveyed to Johns that he was doing too much thesis and dissertation work.  Given this amount of teaching (and such work is a form of teaching) and given the pressing demands of the department computer facility, the chair might have explored a further reduction of course load.  This would be further warranted if Johns is spending a great deal of time consulting with his colleagues.  Coordinating 30 volunteers in the computer facility with what appears to be a very limited budget is a demanding position.  The chair has responsibilities to pursue additional funding for that facility.

Finally, and minorly, the chair handled the parent complain to the President inappropriately, I believe.  The chair should have written to the president to explain pedagogies in the course, and he should have invited Johns to write as well.  The president could choose or not choose to share that correspondence with the parent.  I note that—since Johns’ teaching has been described as outside the local conventions for the course (even if the course does not include “teaching grammar”)—he is in a weaker position than he might be.

One other responsibility of the chair.  Upon hiring or during the first year, the chair should determine whether the nature of Johns’ duties qualify him for the same criteria as other faculty members or whether the MLA Guidelines in “Making Faculty Work Visible” or the WPA guidelines on “The Intellectual Work of Writing Administration” ought to be invoked to modify the general guidelines.

What are the Personnel  Committee’s responsibilities toward Johns?  Which did they fulfill?  Fail?

The PC’s responsibilities are much the same as the chair’s, though the chair has more agency to act.  The committee did not seem especially qualified to judge Johns’ work, though I would tend to agree with their assessment.  To their credit, they got outside reviewers.  Their advice to Johns’ seemed appropriate even if arrived at sort of bumblingly.

As with the chair, I’d say that the end of four years is fairly late in the game for this kind of feedback.  Three years would be better.

Given the questions about teaching, the PC might recommend a teaching portfolio so that Johns’ can make the best possible case for his teaching and the committee can make a more informed judgment. From the sketchy things provided, I think the committee is right to be concerned about teaching.

What are the responsibilities of the Dean?  Which did she/he fulfill?  Fail?

The Dean is not very obvious in this scenario nor necessarily does she need to be.  She ought to help departments and faculty acquire the resources needed for their work (and the computer facility seems to be lacking), and she ought to make certain that department and university guidelines for P and T are being followed.  She ought, finally, to advise the chair whether any special profiles for a tenure and promotion case are available for someone like Johns.

What are Johns’ responsibilities?  Which did she/he fulfill?  Fail?

Johns needs to understand the department’s mission and curriculum and its policies and procedures for tenure and promotion.  He needs to be able to represent his work in teaching, research, and service to his colleagues in ways that they can understand and value.  He also has responsibilities to his own students and to the profession at large.

Clearly Johns has worked hard and in ways that suggest someone vitally involved with the profession and committed to advancing technology and writing issues.  He has not always been astute in how he deploys his time, and he needs to listen to those who advise him to back away from certain projects at least until he has built the kind of scholarly profile that stands him in good stead.

What went wrong?  What went right?

There have been review processes that provided Johns feedback on his performance, and these have come before the tenure decision.  Good.  Perhaps they could have come even earlier.

Also, the chair needs carefully to analyze Johns’ service load; if circumstances just do not allow additional modifications of load or evaluative criteria, the chair needs to convey forcefully the consequences, for example, of “I just can’t say no to graduate students” for Johns’ future.

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