When former President Mary Papazian took over SJSU, she instilled in the entire university a new way to codify and value different forms of research, scholarship, and creative activity (RSCA). Every tenure-line faculty member who was already pursuing a RSCA agenda could apply and be awarded a course release each semester for 5 years (with renewals) as long as they make progress on their agenda.
This opportunity came up in Fall 2018 while I was on sabbatical. I proposed an ambitious project that also rolled my Digital Humanities, and now Public Humanities, expertise into a literary-period specific research project while also highlighting my ongoing Digital Pedagogy work. The output or remnants of that project used to be “what did you publish?” Now, with the metrics being determined each year by our faculty-led College Committee on RSCA, we have been able to define the terms of what is “scholarship” or “research” ourselves. The metrics are revised each year by this committee in consultation with faculty in the college. And, I have to say, this has been quite successful!
In addition, SJSU has a wildly effective shared governance Academic Senate. About 15 years ago, the Committee on Professional Standards started trying to change the retention, tenure, and promotion (RTP) guidelines. We are unionized. So, once those new rules were passed in 2015 (finally!), we are locked into them — S15-8 was triumphant, but also constantly open to revision as necessary. As the Chair of the College RTP Committee, we took our roles seriously and stuck to the language of the policy in all of our decisions and written reviews. Candidates achieve a particular level in each of the 3 primary categories: Academic Assignment (which is more than teaching); service, and RSCA
Since 2015, we’ve added Amendment E to validate “The Scholarship of Engagement“:
2.3.5 Scholarship of Engagement. Similar to professional achievements, the scholarship–ENACTED FALL 2021
of engagement requires the application of expertise and/or talent grounded in the
candidate’s discipline or interdisciplinary fields. Achievements that do not require such expertise and/or talent shall be evaluated under the category of service. This form of scholarship engages significant problems, needs, issues, and reforms in the professional, academic, local, or broader public/global communities.
And this year, our incredible team on the Committee for Professional Standards acknowledged the work of many of our faculty to create a more equitable environment on our campus and crafted Amendment G “To include within the category of Scholarly/Artistic/Professional Achievement, activities that specifically enhance inclusion, educational equity and achievement in the surrounding and broader communities” – an amendment that has been approved & signed by SJSU’s Interim President, Stephen Perez on April 13, 2022 and to be enacted Fall 2022.
In Fall 2021, our College RTP Committee reviewed 21 dossiers — some were requesting tenure and promotion to associate professor, others promotion to full professor, and others were submitting their third year review for feedback and retention as assistant professor. TWENTY-ONE.
It doesn’t seem like a lot for eight committee members to review, but each of these digital dossiers is jam-packed with years’ worth of career progress, all of which we read very closely. Our Committee, in an effort to move away from quantification of student evaluations or number of publications as a way to articulate success, conforms to S15-8 requirements in writing 3,000-word holistic reviews of these dossiers. We don’t have to author 3,000-words, but considering that our RTP culture is shifting slowly and some levels of faculty review still rely on quantification, we find it necessary to be so bold and recognize everything that the faculty member offers (and identifying where there might be some lack in order to help).
I learned how to do this, this style of value metrics, from a generous HumetricsHSS workshop in Fall 2018. That workshop not only gave me a method for voicing the value of my own multi-disciplinary work , but also emboldened me to take a path to value SJSU’s S15-8. The workshop (and its leaders) influenced me to not only serve on College RTP, but also to Chair it to ensure that we (College of Humanities & the Arts) were truly valuing faculty contributions according to S15-8….which, really, is a mirror for what HumetricsHSS teaches 😉
Haven’t even posted anything since last year’s #dayofdh2021 and reading #academictwitter has fallen to the wayside while I work on funding strategies, community engagement, and crafting Public Humanities (with a heaping mound of Digital Humanities) for the College of Humanities & the Arts with a wonderful team of colleagues and community partners.
Everyone once in awhile, I catch someone requesting on Twitter a model for all of what I’ve described above. And, I keep responding that SJSU has a venerable and enviable position as a unionized, state university with an admirable (now) RTP policy that has built-in plasticity.
We’re also building a new NEH-funded Digital Humanities Center that’s more than “humanities.” I personally went to every event I could during the pandemic to hear about faculty RSCA projects — and I amassed a spreadsheet of those projects and queried those who do some form of digitally-inflected RSCA or pedagogy to invite them to list their work with our library’s faculty DH page. In one year, we amassed more than 60 projects by SJSU faculty, students, and staff. SIXTY!
This is a massive feat for one reason: There’s way for SJSU or even California State University DHers and DH-adjacent to find each other. So what do we do? We build those pathways ourselves. There’s 2000 faculty at SJSU. Give us some time.
Even more exciting: Stay tuned for news about a CSU DH-wide initiative! Can you imagine it? TWENTY-THREE CSU campuses of DHers coming together — massive!
The irony is that I’m proofing an article co-authored with Rebecca Frost Davis for one of the Debates volumes about the rigors of doing Digital Humanities in an under-resourced university. With the pandemic, the article has been floating around in various forms of draft for the last 3 years. Rebecca and I write from our own positions instead offering a one-size-fits-all DH. The pessimism I express in this article has inspired me, though. I’ve always taken to heart: “Be the change you want to see.” (Thanks, Graduate Center, CUNY for that lesson!) So, I did. I dug into the red tape that was holding back DHers and others who are doing really interesting, engaging work and ran straight into the bowels of university muck. It’s not pretty in there, but I found others who are doing fantastic red-tape slashing work on my campus. And voices are being heard to make change.
Go ahead – take a look.
It’s the university I wanted to work at in 2005.
I’m very happy to be contributing to our potential for anyone we bring on, hire up, and advance forward.
– Very happy –