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Department Chair #1

Teresa Thomas: Case #2

Characterization of Institution

“Research Intensive” institution (the new name for what used to be Research II, I think).

Characterization of Department

Ph.D. granted  in Rhetoric & Witing
M.F.A., granted in Literature
M.A. granted in Literature
M.A. granted in Tech Writin,
B.A. programs, full array

How would this case turn out in your department?  At your university/college?

The departmental recommendation would be positive, I believe.
This is partly because the department is quite diverse (grad programs in Comp & rhet, TESL, tech writing and creative writing as well as lit); because the Rhetoric & Writing PhD program emphasizes writing pedagogy; and because there has been a track record of strong non-print publication by at least two faculty whose cases were not as singlemindedly non-print as in this case.

Given questions and demands for back-up documentation when the department has recommended people heavy in non-print work, I’d expect “TeresaThomas” to have a much tougher time with the College Personnel Committee than with the Department.

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

The chair seems to have assummed too much: that “Teresa” would draw the same meanings she did from the mid-term report, that she would act on that meaning by getting some things in literal print.  And the Chair seems to have had one non-directive conference and then let the matter go for (what?) two years.  The first failure is being inexplict, both in the conference and in not having written recommendations.  The second seems to be lack of follow-up.

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


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


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

Teresa Thomas” probably fulfilled all her responsibilites–strong teaching, good research and publishing, even grants–AS SHE UNDERSTOOD them.  If the Chair failed to be explict about finetuning those responsibilities for her, she seems to have failed to check her understanding against other things in the department.  Given the split view of non-paper publishing in the three evaluations and given the Chair’s general words about a few print publications, she should have had some questions about her understanding and she should have asked questions.  And, over the next couple years, she should have initiated some contact with the Chair about what she was doing with her publishing.

What went wrong?  What went right?

…[I]t isn’t clear that anything is wrong: the non-print record “Teresa” has by the last paragraph could be so strong that department skeptics are convinced.  But it could go the other way too:  those who were dubious about non-print publishing two years earlier might take her paper-free record of scholarship and teachhing as evidence of rebeliousness and uncollegiality and see “Teresa” as a good person not to have as a tenured-faculty colleague.

My approach as a Chair would be to take a cautious approach: to assume that things might be sticky for the candidate and to be more proactive on her behalf.  So…, I’d suggest that this candidate and chair read a couple chapters about the matter in Academic Advancement in Composition Studies (Erlbaum, 1997):

“Preparing Yourself for Successful Tenure Review”  117-27)

“Mentor and Evaluator: The Chair’s Role in Promotion and Tenure Review (147-65)

See <> for information about:

Academic Advancement in Composition Studies: Scholarship, Publication, Promotion, Tenure (Erlbaum, 1997), edited by Richard Gebhardt and Barbara Genelle Smith Gebhard

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