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Department Chair #2

Jared Johns: Case #1

Characterization of Institution

Research I University

(For 4th year review, research expectations are that candidates have at minimum a completed book manuscript of high quality (it doesn’t have to be accepted at that point; by 6th year it does); teaching expectations are that candidates be “excellent”; service expectations are that candidates do their assigned service well and that they participate in the life of the department beyond their minimal assignments.)

Characterization of Department

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

(Although all the degrees are in English, students can—and do—specialize in Composition/Rhetoric at all levels.)

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

A lot would depend on the department’s qualitative evaluation of the on-line book. On-line publications count in our department, though we want them to be refereed. The status of the review process for Johns’s book would need to be clarified.  Finally, though, if most people agreed with the report of the external reviewer, then the recommendation would be positive.  Johns, however, would be given warnings about the need to improve the undergraduate teaching—both by adjusting the syllabi so that his courses achieve the department’s general goals and by increasing his effectiveness with the range of students who sign up for those courses. We would praise his graduate teaching, and we’d talk with him about whether he was carrying too heavy a load of advising.   We would also praise Johns’s service, which seems extraordinary, though we’d encourage him to see if someone else could take over as manager/moderator of the Technology and Pedagogy listserv.

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

The Chair needs to be sure Johns understands the tenure expectations and how his choices and his ongoing performance either match or don’t match with those expectations.  He also needs to communicate what’s involved in Johns’s administration of the computer facility—to what extent is Johns responsible for technical support and to what extent is Johns responsible for promoting research and instruction with technology.

The Chair did well in the first conference with Johns—the advice was clear and appropriate—but then the Chair failed by not continuing to communicate with Johns except to tell him to write the letter to the unhappy parents of his student. The Chair did not do well in communicating with Johns about the position of computer-facility administrator.

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

The Personnel Committee’s responsibilities are to examine Johns’s record in relation to the established departmental criteria and standards in research, teaching, and service. The Committee doesn’t seem to be fulfilling those responsibilities very well, since they instruct the Chair to tell Johns to publish only in refeered print journals, when the department is on record as recognizing “electronic publication,” if peer-reviewed. The message should have been to ensure that electronic publications are peer-reviewed.

Furthermore, the question of whether the book will count—and for how much–needs to be answered much more definitively and in clear reference to the departmental criteria and standards. Does it not count at all because of the questions about peer-review?  Does it count as the equivalent of 2-3 refereed articles?  What are the quantitative expectations for Johns between now and the tenure review?  The Committee and the Chair need to make that clear to him.

A related point: whether the poetry should count seems one that should be handled in reference to a general policy about publication outside the field for which one is hired rather than by the Committee’s judgment in John’s case.

The Committee also seems not to be giving Johns sufficient credit for his service or his graduate teaching—but again it would be helpful to know more about general criteria and standards.  The assessment of the undergraduate teaching seems OK in some respects, troubling in others. Concern about Johns being below the departmental standard for his courses is appropriate, and the concern about whether the innovative assignments were fulfilling the goals of the course seems fair. But, other parts of their assessment seem questionable: the lack of conventional argumentative work shouldn’t by itself be bothersome unless the unconventional work doesn’t produce relevant argumentative skill; not reviewing the visual argument assignment because one’s machine doesn’t have a Java plug-in seems lame.

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

The Dean has the responsibility to ensure that the Chair is giving appropriate and regular guidance to the junior faculty.  S/he also might have taken steps so that the University would identify technology-rich courses in the catalogue.  (Someone should have done that for the sake of both students and instructors.)  In any case, since the Dean doesn’t figure in this narrative, the inference is that the Dean didn’t carry out these responsibilities.

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

He’s responsible for carrying out his teaching, research, and service assignments as effectively as he can.  He is also responsible for knowing the objectives of the department’s courses and for knowing the criteria and standards for tenure. He’s also responsible for his own career, and in that respect, he needs to make sure that his colleagues know enough about the nature of his work for them to judge it appropriately.

He seems to be a very conscientious worker, and it’s clear that he’s made good contributions to his department. But he’s also made some mistakes. He, too, could have done a better job in the communication about his duties as administrator of the computer-facility.

He should have asked more questions about the publisher of his book, and, indeed, about whether he should pursue that publication or focus on journal articles.  He should have been wiser about the amount of time he devoted to service. He should have adjusted his teaching of the undergraduate courses. He should have taken the advice of the Graduate Studies Director.

What went wrong?  What went right?

What went right is that Johns passed the review.  What went wrong is that there was not enough recognition on the part of the department and of Johns that he was not the standard junior faculty member and that everyone needed to make some adjustments as a result of that—even as the department could maintain its basic criteria and standards.

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