Each semester, faculty all over North America dread the student evaluation, especially since many of the evaluation platforms have moved from in-person, bubble-filling, penciled sheets to online surveys opened to students during the last weeks of the semester. At San Jose State University, we moved from the paper version to the online version with much consternation in 2013. Slowly, over the last 5 years, the scores in student evaluations and the comments have become somewhat unusable — for me at least — as students grapple with end of semester angst that seems to temper their comments.
Since I received tenure 7 years ago, I look at these student evaluations not because I fear for my job or the over-reliance placed on the ratings by our various tenure and promotion committee members, but instead because I’m looking to revise my curriculum according to the shift in student learning styles. But, when the evaluations are peppered with insults, exclamation points, and ad hominem attacks, well, I take a deep breath and try to suss out the underlying request for change to the course. Admittedly, I enjoy a privilege as a tenured Associate Professor: privilege that the statistical scores are not being used punitively by administrators to decide about hiring me again next semester; privilege that I can take a step back and work through them carefully; privilege that I don’t have to react to “below norm” statistical scores by letting go of my core pedagogical values. Read more…
This was a BIG WEEK!
I’ve spent most of the Spring semester organizing events to celebrate the Frankenstein Bicentennial. With the help of my Dean, Shannon Miller, and students in my lower-division, general education Great Works of Literature course, we really took off with all of these events. The students produced several in-class events, along with a Film Festival, and culminated in a student poster session with students from other classes for Deep Humanities.
Also, this same week, on the Sunday prior to my SJMA talk and the Deep Humanities event, after 4 months of training, I ran my 2nd open marathon in an attempt to grab a Boston Marathon qualifying time again. (Typically, I race triathlons, but running is my favorite sport of the 3, swim/bike/run.) The last time I snagged a BQ was 2014, the year that I also finished an Ironman and was running my fastest times. Marathon training requires showing up every day, doing the work — and there’s no guarantees that you’ll be faster or as fast as the previous year, previous marathon, or even previous month. The variables range from in your control (hydrate!) to completely out of your control (weather!). Like with marathons, an academic career requires showing up. every day. doing the work.
It just so happened that all of this Frankenstein, Deep Humanities, teaching, and marathoning ended up converging all in the same week. I forgot how hard it is to run a marathon — it feels like I ran 3 all in the same week!
I was delighted to be invited to give a talk at the San Jose Museum of Art, Lunchtime Lectures series in celebration of their latest exhibit, “The House Imaginary” which relates back to our Frankenstein Bicentennial celebrations!
Sound check for my lunchtime lecture @ SJMA!
For the last 6 months, I’ve been busy organizing the Frankenstein Bicentennial along with my student Project Manager and two collegial British Romantics scholars at Santa Clara University and San Francisco University. Since I don’t have an opportunity to teach Romantics very often (it’s been 8 years!), this was a terrific opportunity to celebrate the complexities and cultural legacy of this brilliant and its author, Mary Shelley.
This afternoon, I received the final review from my colleagues in this bid for promotion to Full Professor — the University Retention, Tenure, and Promotion Committee — it was quite exhilarating to read the enthusiasm. And, I’m grateful to all of my colleagues for their extensive service on these promotion and tenure committees.
Now, the entire set of reviews and my digital dossier traverse the campus to land with a kerplunk on the digital doorstep of my Provost and then our President. The President’s decisions about promotion will be announced on Friday, May 25th.
Though all of my reviews have been laudatory, they all note (as did I) that my student evaluation (SOTES) numbers are not where I’d like them to be — but I also note in my dossier that these SOTES don’t represent a holistic view of my pedagogy. Then, I proceed for pages to provide details about successes and failures in my Pedagogy Adventures. I also provide letters from current and former students with details about how my pedagogical choices effected their learning.
The Department, College, and Dean reviews do well to note this holistic perspective. But, from the University committee review, there’s one dissenting vote. Just one, in what has been a series of unanimous votes up until now. I don’t find this so irksome as much as the explanation: Read more…
UPDATE: On May 25, 2018 @ 2pm, President Papazian delivered some terrific and long-awaited news: Full Professor.
After years of hearing in grad school “no one gets a tenure track job,” then getting one; then going through the very stressful probationary years while holding onto what I valued in teaching, service, and research; then the “tenure troubles” of 2010; then puzzling out what to do and how to support others in the profession during my middle years; then getting to that vaunted final step as a faculty member — I’m re-reading this dossier statement for clarity during my sabbatical so I can suss out what I will continue to value and how I can help my profession and my students for this next phase.
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, my alma mater, instilled many of these values into my professional life. My advisors gave me freedom to explore and continued to encourage me for the rest of my career. (A terrific example of mentoring!)
In 2012, I submitted my dossier for promotion to Associate Professor. I received tenure 2 years earlier, but due to shenanigans, promotion (and a raise) didn’t come with that honor. I’ve blogged about that time and the psychological and financial toll that took on my professional career, and I’ve also blogged about my insistence on governing my career with a specific map in mind, not necessarily one dictated by my colleagues or the profession, including a commitment to open access research and scholarship, revising Digital Humanities into Digital Pedagogy, and focusing on History of the Book in my literary field. I also wanted to avoid silo-ing myself on campus and thus took opportunities to serve on college and university-wide committees to get to know a wider swath of my campus’ faculty. In other words, my career has not been haphazard in its trajectory — and everything has been connected.
Two things converged, well, three, no four. Oh hell — everything converged in the last 6-8 weeks. Some of it was real work. Some of it was exasperating returns to 2010.
In September 2010, I went up for tenure and promotion…and was denied by my department despite having stellar reviews each year for 5 years. The committee decision was split and caused some unending reverberations in the department among the faculty who were on the committee and those who were not. The decision was a complete surprise to me. As the year went on, all of the succeeding committees and administrators over-turned that department decision but decided to kick the promotion question back to the department (not wanting to get involved in department politics). I was awarded tenure, but not promotion (i.e., no raise) in May 2011. I called in our union. Many, many meetings ensued. Some lies were told by senior colleagues in the department as CYA. In a strategic move, two years later after the make-up of that department committee changed due to term limits, I went up for promotion to Associate Professor and was awarded that and a raise in May 2013.
Some wounds healed. But, snips and drabs of the conversation from the department decision in September 2010 dripped out. And there’s never a big university meeting where someone doesn’t come up to me to ask if my department has righted itself from the troubles of 2010 and 2011. (In 2011, that same department committee did the same thing to another department colleague who was unquestionably qualified for tenure and promotion.) I can’t be allowed to forget. Read more…