Sherry Richer: Case #4
Characterization of Institution
Research I University, State University
Characterization of Department
Ph.D. granted in in English (Literature/Rhetoric & Composition)
M.A., granted in in English (Literature/Rhetoric & Composition)
M.F.A. in Creative Writing
B.A. granted in English (literature, creative writing, English education)
How would Sherry Richer’s case turn out in your department? At your university/college?
This case would not go forward.
What are the Department Chair’s responsibilities toward Richer? Which did she/he fulfill? Fail?
At my institution the Department Head would undoubtedly say that Richer was doing commendable teaching and professional service with her list-serv, her involvement with professional organizations, and her TA training work on campus, but that her ethnographic research needed to lead to significant book-length publication that would be viewed by her peers in the writing community as cutting-edge work that significantly impacted the field.
He would remind her that three years of her probationary period had passed and that she had in effect only two and one-quarter years left to complete her book manuscript and get it accepted by a major press. He would tell her that the department strongly supported her because of her record of service and teaching and the potential of her research, but that, unfortunately, the university was determined to enforce stringent tenure standards and that only a well-reviewed book plus evidence of a developing second project of great promise would be sufficient to make her case.
He would urge her to apply for relief from teaching duties from the university’s released time program, to cut back her service commitments, and to concentrate on finishing her manuscript. If she did not, he would say, she would need to begin looking for a position at a university with lower publication standards where solid teaching and service to the profession, along with a modest publication record, were sufficient for tenure.
What are the Personnel Committee’s responsibilities toward Richer? Which did they fulfill? Fail?
What are the responsibilities of the Dean? Which did she/he fulfill? Fail?
What are Richer’s responsibilities? Which did she/he fulfill? Fail?
Richer may have done many things correctly, but if she could not also demonstrate scholarly excellence through major publications, she was not competitive enough to meet the university’s standards.
What went wrong? What went right?
I do not agree with this one-size-fits-all approach to tenure decision-making, but if it in fact the norm here, and it makes it especially hard for the university to find people who can provide essential service in untraditional, but needed areas.