Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Fairly High Profile (Non) Tenure Case

Inside Higher Education profiles the tenure case of Boyce Watkins, an untenured African-American assistant finance professor at Syracuse University. He was recently denied tenure.

What make his case interesting is that he's been quite possibly one of the highest-profile assistant professors at a non-tier1 school I've ever seen. He's got a list of media appearances longer than my arm (heck - longer than both arms), all of which you can see on his website here. His research record has been fairly good (not outstanding, but not terrible), with a couple of solid b-level publications (both sole-authored), and a number of pubs in lower-tier outlets.

My take is that he ruffled feathers. Whether fair or not, most assistant professor are not clear slam-dunks for tenure. Since most are therefore somewhere near the margin, the non-publishing things end up having a disproportionate impact. So, having a reputation for being a "good" colleague makes a big impact at most schools. This means having at least a few people who will have your back and almost no one who's looking to stick a knife in it.

So, I can understand Dr. Watkins not getting tenure. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I understand it.

And yes, this is one of the reasons I blog under a pseudonym. Maybe after tenure, I'll change. But for now, I'll play defense, thank you very much.