Revolution Lullabye

January 11, 2013

Weiser, Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process

Weiser, Irwin. “Peer Review in the Tenure and Promotion Process.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 645-672.

Weiser’s essay, included in this issue’s Symposium on Peer Review, describes the role of peer review in the tenure and promotion process. Weiser’s explanations, taken from his experiences as a faculty member, WPA, department chair, and dean at two different universities (Purdue University and York College of Pennsylvania), show the variance of the tenure and promotion process at American colleges and universities. Wesier argues that this variance is not a drawback: institutions have different missions, and their expectations for tenure (scholarship, teaching, and service/engagement) need to reflect those particular university and department-level missions.

Weiser organizes his essay through a series of questions: Who is reviewed? Who reviews? What is reviewed (and by whom)? What are the criteria for review? Are reviews (always) confidential?  He spends considerable time in the essay describing the purpose and function of external letters of evaluation, a requirement for tenure that is not universal yet increasing (almost all research, PhD-granting universities require external letters.) He distinguishes between external letters of support and external letters of evaluation, and argues that these external letters should only guide the internal committees who are ultimately charged with the decisions of tenure and promotion.

At the end of his article, Weiser offers a series of questions that can be used as a heuristic for developing clear, objective, and fair tenure and promotion processes.  The questions are addressed to the multiple stakeholders in the process: candidates up for tenure; members of a tenure and promotion committee; external reviewers.

Weiser also argues that the processes for tenure and promotion need to be revisable so that they continue to reflect current expectations, values, and realities.  He specifically cites the shrinking opportunties to publish scholarly monographs, the advent of digital journals and digital publication venues, and the emergence of scholarship of teaching and engagement as contemporary realities that need to be addressed in the construction of tenure and promotion guidelines.

Notable Notes

history of peer review in tenure and promotion tied to AAUP tenure guidelines (1940) and the history of peer review in publication.

“peer” can mean multiple things (654)

the local levels of review are the most important – future committees and levels base their recommendations off of them (653).

Quotable Quotes

“Peer review, both internal and external, serves two important purposes in the academy. First, it provides the opportunity for the work of colleagues to be evaluated and acknowledged for its contributions in the classroom, in the profession, and in the wider culture. Second, through the system of checks and balances that assures that work is being evaluated by numerous people, many of who base their evaluations only on the accomplishments of a candidate and not on their personal knowledge of her or him, peer review provides a level of protection for candidates from personal or intellectual biases. Peer review supports the foundation of tenure: the preservation of academic freedom and the protection of faculty from unwarranted dismissal” (670).

“And it should be clear that variation in policies and practices is appropriate, because it acknowledges the impracticality and unfairness of a one-size-fits-all set of criteria that are applied regardless of institutional mission. Evaluation for candidates for tenure and promotion must be viewed in context of mission, with recognition that different emphases on research, teaching, and service are appropriate” (665).

“There appears to be an increasingly common agreement that faculty are members of multiple communities – communities of engaged teachers whose work can be – perhaps best can be – evaluated locally, but also of communities of scholars whose discursive work is best evaluated by other members of those communities, people who present at the same conferences, publish in the same journals (or edit them), and are members of the same professional organizations” (655).

November 18, 2010

Smith, Louise Z. Smith Responds

Smith, Louise Z. “Louise Z. Smith Responds.” College English 51 (1989): 436-7. Print

Smith argues that a WAC program only works in context, and the challenge of any WAC program is to make it fit in with the individual institution’s needs and goals. She questions the Colgate Department of Interdisciplinary Writing, asking if it is prudent to value “retrained” compositionists from other fields (science, history, etc.) over literary specialists in reader-response theory, hermeneutics, etc., who might be able to bring a foundational understanding of composition theory and then some more.

Notes and Quotes

“Through helping a wide variety of colleges and universities to develop WAC programs, I’ve come to see every one of them as a living entity with a memory and an imagination, with a developing philosophical and political character – and with idiosyncracies, long may they wave! Consequently, I believe that any discussion of administrative models can carry us so far; then we need to think about the fit between a model and the character of the college where we hope it will serve. No model should be called ‘too idiosyncratic’ until thosewho will teach within it have tried it on and either discarded it or let the program director negotiate the tailoring and alterations for what can be used with durability, comfort, and pride, as the IWP clearly is” (437).

interesting connection here to Syracuse – Smith leaves it up to the program director to negotiate the tailoring and alterations, the Syracuse WP gave that responsibility, in part, to PWIs

February 8, 2009

Julier, Community Service Pedagogy

Julier, Laura. “Community Service Pedagogy.” 132-148.

Community service pedagogy (or service learning) became a cross-disciplinary higher education reform movement in the 1980s and was embraced by some compositionists because it answered many of the needs instructors found in their first-year composition classrooms: it gave students a real audience to write for; it increased students’ motivation; it allowed students to work with a variety of discourses, genres, and rhetorics; it encouraged context-driven writing; it had close connections with critical pedagogy and cultural studies; and it brought writing back to its civil, public rhetorical roots. Service learning in composition can take several forms: writing about the community, writing for the community, and writing with the community. Writing courses that incorporate service learning should have students think, discuss, and write critically about the power dynamics inherent in service projects.

Quotable Quotes

A problem with service learning: “The rhetoric of sending stduents ‘out’ into ‘the’ community may, in some settings and course designs, confirm for students an insider-outsider understanding of academic purposes, and replicate condescending models of charity and missionary work that do more to undermine than to advance the goals of multicultural education and social transformation” (142).

Notable Notes

service learning is not located in any one discipline; it is seen as a reform movement in higher ed that seeks to transform the cultures and mission of higher education.

service learning in composition has just recently been more theorized; much of the earlier scholarship told narratives of other peoples’ success stories with it.

service learning has a legitimacy problem. Scholars who devote time to service projects sometimes get docked on tenure and promotion; often it is not seen as an area of research because it is so multidisciplinary and cross-cultural in its appraoach.

Zlotkowski; Adler-Kassner; Crooks; Watters; Stotsky, Connecting Civic Education and Language Education; Jacoby et al; Waterman; de Acosta; Greco; Anson; Cooper; Rosemary Area; Linda Flower (Carnegie Mellon)

negotiate the educational project of service learning with the needs and wishes of the community organization.

importance of having students reflect on their service experience.

February 3, 2009

O’Neill, Crow, Burton, A Field of Dreams

O’Neill, Peggy, Angela Crow, and Larry W. Burton, eds. A Field of Dreams: Independent Writing Programs and the Future of Composition Studies. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2002.

Royer, Daniel J. and Roger Gilles. “The Origins of a Department of Academic, Creative, and Professional Writing.”

This chapter explains the history of the gradual separation of writing and composition duties from the rest of an English department faculty and the subsequent creation of an independent department in academic, creative, and professional writing at Grand Valley State University. Over the course a of decade in the 1990s, the English department hired eight new tenure-track faculty in rhet/comp (in a large department of 40 full-time faculty), and with this cohort of writing specialists, teamed with part-time instructors and full-time, post-doc composition fellows, the literature faculty gradually opted out of teaching the required composition courses. When the administration discovered this imbalance, they told the English chair that until more faculty taught composition, there would be no new hires, as it was clear by their attitude that composition was low on the department’s hierarchy. The faculty then were faced with three choices: give up teaching elective speciality courses so everyone could teach a section of composition, hire new comp/rhet faculty into the department to teach it, or reduce the number of sections by allowing some students to opt out of the course. The faculty, realizing that none of these solutions was desirable, agreed to allow academic, creative, and professional writing become its own department, one completely focused on the discipline of writing studies, able to branch out and make partnerships across campus without having to be moderated by a large English department that wasn’t interested in rhetoric and composition as a legitimate field of study.

Quotable Quotes

“Indeed, separate from English, writing can finally begin to see itself once again within the context of the liberal arts more generally – rather than as a ‘basic skill’ relegated to preliberal education. It can now exist alongside other parts of the liberal-arts whole, rather than beneath them, servicing them, holding them up.” (36).

Notable Notes

A rhet/comp PhD is trained to teach more than first-year composition; advertising for a job that only teaches first-year (because the rest of the faculty don’t want to teach it) isn’t going to attract quality candidates.

Developing the culture of the program – valuing writing as the central organizing concept – is essential for new departments

confidence for making an independent department worked came from developing a successful university-wide writing program and writing assessment/evaluation system.

Agnew, Eleanor and Phyllis Surrency Dallas. “Internal Friction in a New Independent Department of Writing and What the External Conflict Resolution Consultants Recommended.” 38-49.

This chapter shows the problems of a top-down administrative decision to create an independent writing and linguistics department at Georgia Southern University in 1997. The administration decided that the large, 75-faculty member department of English and Philosophy needed restructuring, and the faculty submitted three models for consideration: stay a single department with three program directors (writing, literature, graduate studies); become two separate departments (philosophy and literature, writing and linguistics); become two separate departments under a new school. The administration picked the second model, thus divorcing the faculty from each other and withholding any collaboration and collection that would have come from being part of the same school. The faculty were not consulted about what department they would be placed in, so the department of writing and linguistics inherited several literature instructors with their MAs along with new rhet/comp hires. The diversity of viewpoints about pedagogy, content, research expectations, compounded by different salaries and degrees (PhDs and MAs) created a department rife with internal conflict. An external conflict resolution team came in and suggested structural changes, such as developing two associate chair positions, and joint projects, like the National Writing Project and a new BA in writing and linguistics have united the department somewhat since.

Quotable Quotes

“The faculty in our department were polarized based largely on degree and background – Ph.D’s versus master’s, composition-rhetoric background versus literature background, new hires versus veterans. But we wonder if it is possible that the fighting and one-upping were exacerbated because of the low status, low salaries, and perception as a service department, which both groups have in the whole academic system” (47).

Notable Notes

Warning – don’t go with restructuring just because administration pushes for it. Faculty need to be on board and know what is happening, understand the identities and cultures being made and reinforced.

January 13, 2009

Birnbaum, How Colleges Work

Birnbaum, Robert. How Colleges Work: The Cybernetics of Academic Organization and Leadership. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1988.

The purpose of this book is to encourage and guide college administrators towards improving what they do by thinking about their work from multiple, complex perspectives. Birnbaum does this by providing case studies of higher education administration (through five fictitious institutions) and by showing how multidisciplinary management theories either do or do not answer the unique challenges of a university. Fundamentally, a well-run university is managed by administrators who can identify the organizational patterns (like a pattern language), follow them in their administration, and create new ones when situations arise where there are no appropriate patterns. The book is divided into three parts: the first explains the elements and concepts that define universities and colleges; the second presents the models used to explain higher education organization and management (collegial, bureaucracy, political system); the third combines those models and argues that a college or university is always being developed and reinvented through all these (as possibly more) patterns.

Chapter 1, “Problems of Governance, Management, and Leadership in Academic Institutions,” addresses the challenges to leadership because of the very nature of academic institutions. It centers around governanace, since a university has three different foci of control (duality of control): the board of trustees, the administration, and the faculty. Other problems include different, conflicting goals and missions (teaching, research, service), a disagreement in the type of power and control that works to sway administraiton and faculty, inflexible resources (personnel due to tenure), decentralization of authority among faculty due to academic specialization, and the conflicting goals of cosmopolitan and local faculty. Birnbaum suggests a model based on social exchange leadership theory – that the faculty and the administration are interdependent – should be considered in the development of an administrative plan.

Chapter 2, “Thinking in Systems and Circles: The Structure and Dynamics of Academic Organizations,” explains the difference between closed and open systems and argues that the university is an  open, nonlinear, and dynamic system (which can seem chaotic), since it is comprised of so many subsystems whose intersections are so distant that a major change or failure in one area would not affect the entire system very much and other subsystems not at all. This is called loose coupling, and it allows for a greater sensitivity to the environment and the needs of each subsystem, which would not happen in a centrally-controlled, tight coupling system. Birnbaum advocates nonlinear thinking in circles and subsystems for administrators, arguing that an effective administrator is more interested in understanding the system than ruling over it with an iron fist.

Quotable Quotes

“Administrators with linear perspectives are likely to emphasize making rational decisions; administrators with nonlinear perspectives are likely to be concerned with making sense. Linear administrators think they know how the system works and how to change it; nonlinear administrators are more modest in their assumptions and expectations” (55)

“Effective administration may depend not on overcoming it [the chaos of an open system] but on accepting and understanding it” (41)

“The beliefs held by administrators and others who influence institutional life affect how they behave, how they interpret their experiences, and even what they ‘see'” (xiv)

Notable Notes

the symbolic president of university

Administration is organized around “the control and coordination of activities by superiors”; faculty around “autonomy and individual knowledge” (10) This is duality of controls. “These two sources are not only different but in mutual disagreement” (10)

Create a free website or blog at