Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Professor as Scrapbooker

I hope I don't get a lot of readers who are excited for me to reveal an as yet hidden penchant for scrapbooking, because that's not what this post is about. This post is about the review process for professors on the tenure track. A review process, incidentally, that I knew little-to-nothing about prior to achieving tenure-track employment.

So, at my university, here's the deal. Every year, every single year, one must construct The Notebook. (At many places, one only needs to do this at the three-year point and then when one goes up for tenure. I'm not sure which is worse - or better, if we're being not quite so negative - as the version at my institution means I get constant feedback but the "third year review" version means that a lot less time is spent on scrapbooking activities.) The Notebook is due every year a few weeks into the fall semester. I think the theory is that this is beneficial because people can take time to work on it over the summer. The reality is that there is no good time to have this monstrosity come due, as it's a huge time-suck, and a real pain in the ass. Oh, and I should mention: this notebook is pretty much divorced from all other methods of reviewing faculty performance. Has nothing to do with "merit pay" raises, etc., and so I complete another document a few weeks into every spring semester that relates to all that stuff. And that document has slight but distinct differences from The Notebook, so you can't just copy and paste from one to the other.

So I've been trying to get to work on The Notebook early this year (instead of crapping it together in the week before it's due) because I really need to edit the thing a bit as well as to add some things and to re-organize some things. Partly I need to do all this because I've been crapping the thing together for three years. Partly I need to do all this because the tenure requirements at my university have just been "revised." Are they all that different from what they were before? Nah. And I'm not super-concerned about how these changes will affect me (though if I had been operating under the old system for years and was going up for tenure this fall I'd be pretty freaked out, as there's no grandfather clause or anything). But this is the thing about evaluation in this profession - it requires all of this rhetorical posturing and self-conscious self-presentation in order to justify your employment. And that is... well, tiring. And time-consuming. And a little bit sickening. And even though what is actually required in the notebook (self-evaluation statements, documentation that proves you're performing in the three areas - teaching, research, service - such as emails, paperwork, publications, student evaluations, blah blah blah) doesn't really change that much, the language and organization of that documentation is supposed to be slightly different. Or so it seems. And so I'm spending all this time changing the statements that go with each section and the opening letter that accompanies the whole thing and the ordering of shit to reflect the way that the administrative tides have been turning. And even though I'm not really doing my job any differently, I've got to present what I'm doing differently. And this is a pain. A colossal pain.

And then I wonder whether all of this time spent is really just time spent procrastinating. Does anybody really read this Notebook? Really? Are they really looking for this year's buzz words or do the buzz words really work some sort of subliminal mojo on those reviewing me? And does being selective and careful with what I choose to include help or hurt me, because at first everybody advised I should put in "everything." And did I mention that every fucking thing I include needs to be in a plastic fucking sleeve? And did I mention that I'm not sure if the binder I've got will hold all the things I've got, so I may need to special order a fucking binder because I'm not sure where in middle America to buy that big of a binder?

So yeah. That's what I've been spending last night and this afternoon doing today. At least I've been in air conditioning.

10 comments:

Greg said...

Sounds like a major waste of time. We only do the big notebook-type thing for major reviews and promotion.

Dr. Crazy said...

Well, see, this is true. But if we didn't do it every year, I would have been spending the whole summer trying to track down crap for the Notebook for a 3rd year review, right? The one thing that's more time-consuming about it is the way it has to change because of the revised requirements, but I don't know. I think there are pluses and minuses to both.

That said, I would LOVE to be someplace, now that I know how to put one of these things together, that did NOT require them every year. Hence, the job market thing. But what's sick, though, is that in working on The Notebook I've been getting sentimental about this place and thinking I shouldn't go on the market (but not really). This makes me think that maybe the reason they require the monstrosity is to make people feel like they are really important to the institution when they look at all of what they do, every single year.

negativecapability said...

OK, you just gave me a reason to be glad I'm still a graduate student. That's kind of sad.

Dr. Crazy said...

I do what I can, NC :)

Liz Ferszt said...

sounds like a very involved process. good luck with it.

post-tenure review is gaining more and more of these kinds of processes at some institutions.

Wiccachicky said...

We have a "Notebook" like process as well. And it similarly sucks. I, however, do read the notebooks of the people whose review committees I am assigned to. Most people don't - they just read the justification from the submitter. I am anal like that.

I actually started a file this year so every time I got a piece of paper across my desk that goes in the notebook, I put it in the file. Now that I'm compiling it I am SO glad I did that. Saved me tons of time. Good luck with it!

Cats & Dogma said...

Not only am I compiling mine (due at the end of the month) right now, I'm on the committee that reviews all of them and assigns descriptors (Excellent, good, satisfactory). Talk about a time suck. At least it's keyed to merit pay, so it's valuable...

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I had a notebook due for our tenure process last spring... I'm not sure anybody actually looked at it and I have yet to see any feedback on it, although it was due in April.

It was hard for me because it is a new requirement around here (I don't know what they used before -- tea leaves and student complaints, perhaps??). Nobody had one for me to look at, the requirements were really vague and I'm not sure what weight it was. I should consider myself lucky, as the original requirement was that we do an e-folio... which would have been icky.

MommyProf said...

We do them every year, too. Dr. Competitor's is two volumes...

Dr. Crazy said...

Luckily there is a 1-volume-maximum pre-tenure, so at least there isn't the uber-competition about size of binder. The problem though is that the competition about thickness of the binder early means that you then need to edit it later, which sucks, too.