Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Princeton Rub; Or, How Many Tiger Mothers Does It Take To Eradicate Sexism?

Untenured faculty are always wanting to know what that little extra edge is that will get them tenure.  Be a man and ignore your students, that's my advice.  According to the Daily Princetonian, President Shirley Tilghman suggested back in 2003 that if baby Tigers did not focus so much on teaching they would have a better chance of getting tenure.  According to attorney R. William Potter (no relation to the Radical),

In December 2003, Tilghman advised junior faculty not to focus so much on teaching undergraduates; if they want to obtain the holy grail of tenure they should concentrate on scholarly research, she told them, as their “first and foremost” priority. “Their ability to conduct research and demonstrate excellence in scholarship is the most important thing we look at,” she said, although she added that teaching ability is also “considered very seriously.”

I can't find the origins of the Tilghman quote about tenure cited in the article, but if you go here you get to an article that cites Tilghman's position in 1996 that tenure is a sexist institution and ought to be abolished. Now that's what I call interesting.  But like all successful people, she now says that isn't really what she meant.  She was just trying to be provocative, she explained in 2001, recanting this position after she took office as President.

Is tenure a sexist institution at Princeton?  Maybe not, but hiring is. A 2005 study concluded, surprisingly, that a larger percentage of Tiger women than Tiger men are actually awarded tenure. But that said, only 27% of the Princeton faculty is female, so in real numbers many more men are tenured every year than women.  And shockingly, "Once promoted...women are twice as likely as male senior professors to leave the University — 2.8 percent per year versus 1.4 percent. The report gave no explanation for this phenomenon." 

Puzzling, isn't it.  Readers, can you help Princeton?

22 comments:

Susan said...

Well, for better or worse (probably worse) that's more or less what you're told, especially in the sciences at most R-1 universities. The version at my place is that teaching has to be adequate, but you have to really show the scholarship. One junior colleague was told not to admit that he liked teaching....

frequent commentator said...

I normally post under another name, but since this is my graduate institution, I'll comment anonymously. Not a ton to add, other than the fact that in my six years at Princeton, no woman in my department (in the humanities) has been tenured.

anthony grafton said...

I'd like it better if teaching carried more weight. But my guess is that, as Susan suggests above, this is pretty standard policy at R-1 universities--and in humanities and social sciences as well as sciences. Princeton does some things that its rivals don't, and that impose costs (major effort to lower grades; giving up early decision admissions). But I don't expect to see the university choose not to compete as a research institution.

Why do we have so few women, and why do we lose more women than men? Lots of reasons, from the "pipeline leekage" (nasty phrase, no?) experienced in many fields for a whole set of reasons to our failure to have one of Laurel Ulrich's badly behaved women on every hiring committee to insist on looking at female candidates.

It's better than it was, but far from good.

Tenured Radical said...

AG:

Nice to see you! We in chez Radical have been following you in Perspectives.

Actually, teaching doesn't carry a tenure case at Zenith either, although because of the lack of teaching assistants, we are all more exposed to the slings and arrows of teaching evaluations. We have plenty of successful tenure candidates with all the scholarship they need but small enrollments and rather plodding teaching reps. It's just you never hear folks come out and say that is ok.

I did have a friend who won a teaching award in Tiger Town, and one of his senior colleagues said in mock severity after the awards ceremony, "Now, don't let it happen again!"

profacero said...

I've always been at places where teaching carried the most weight. I'd like it the other way around. Publishing in peer reviewed journals seems reasonable somehow; turning into a pretzel trying to figure out how to get a bunch-o-freshmen liking the required basic course you're teaching and having those evaluation results determine tenure, I find odd.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

What Tilghman said in 2003 speaking as president of Princeton in relation to institutional policy is 100% uncontroversial for any administrator at an elite research institution, and to suggest anything other than that to her faculty would be administrative malpractice. What Tilghman said in 1996--when she was not a high-level administrator and speaking simply as an extremely esteemed and productive individual faculty member--was her personal opinion. Even as president of Princeton, Tilghman certainly lacks the power to abolish tenure, and even if she did, for her to do so would in no way empower her faculty--female or otherwise--to transcend the practice.

In other words, there is absolutely nothing of interest here in relation to Tilghman's two statements, and neither of those statements has the slightest relevance to the situation of women at Princeton vis a vis appointment, promotion, and tenure. When they tap you, TR, for a high-level administrative post, I'm sure you'll tell your faculty the exact same thing as Tilghman told hers, calibrated for the standards of your institution.

Tenured Radical said...

Upon reflection, I think two things as yet unarticulated by me prompted this post. (Note to newbie bloggers: when teaching and finishing a book simultaneously, sometimes posting goes by the wayside, prompting posts that are less cooked than they might have been had one's head not been filled with other things.)

One is that, after all these years, and even at a place like Princeton (whose history department has numerous scholars quite famous for their teachers) we have nothing more creative to say to untenured people about the relationship between developing these two skills than "Do less of this/do more of that." That's true at Zenith as well, where it is even odder really, since the kind of people who teach at Princeton often send their kids to places like Zenith because they know they will be taught in a way to a standard they have less chance of finding at a prestigious Ivy.

I suppose the creativity I seek is more along the lines of "HOW do we help untenured faculty learn to teach well, given the circumstances of their teaching lives, and in a way that supports scholarly production?"

At Zenith they seem to be trying an experiment over in the lab sciences where at least one department is supporting small seminar-type sections for the intro courses. In an informal chat with one student who was in such a course in the fall, she told me what a great course it was, how terrific the teacher was, and how alienating and rote the super-sized section she is in now is. This astute consumer then said: "But you know, it's hard to tell whether this semester's prof is a good teacher or not, given the size of the class and the huge job he has trying to reach that many people."

The second is my dismay that Tilghman's critique -- not of tenure, but of sexism -- seems to have been fully muted by her ascendancy to the presidency. Feminist women and men who participate in these processes of hiring and personnel review know full well how sexist they are, and why she was content to let a report issued under her watch come o no conclusion about Princeton's woman problem is a missed opportunity for all of us.

Science Lurker said...

When one of my grad school PIs won a teaching award at a top R1 institution, he was told not to worry, it would not completely destroy his chance of getting tenure.
Is that why asst profs at Zenith are not eligible for teaching awards?

Some find Ms. Mentor's advice book dated, but I think her basic theme is still good: "get tenure first, then change the world" -- as long as you don't have to drink so much of the koolaid to get the tenure that you know longer recognize the problems you saw before.

Historiann said...

CPP, Susan, and Tony are right that Tilghman's 2003 advice to junior faculty is just reality, and that to suggest otherwise would be malpractice. But, I think the questions TR raises about the relationship between scholarship and teaching are important ones. Why does Tilghman in 2003 revive the dead corpse that research and teaching are somehow dopplegangers who will destroy each other if they chance to meet in the same career, when on TRs blog (and many other academic blogs) and in the humanities at large many of us are in broad agreement that research enriches teaching immeasurably? Most of us see and live it in our own careers, women and men alike. So we might ask ourselves why we continue to assume that teaching is nuturant women's labor, and that research is essentially self-interested intellectual labor for men?

That might be the key to unraveling some of the sexism that goes into hiring and tenure decisions everywhere. And, practically speaking, initiating conversations about precisely how our research has enriched and improved our teaching over the years might be a heck of a lot more useful to junior faculty than blanket statements about prioritizing research above all.

IOW, road maps are more useful than directions alone.

Prepares Future Faculty said...

I suppose the creativity I seek is more along the lines of "HOW do we help untenured faculty learn to teach well, given the circumstances of their teaching lives, and in a way that supports scholarly production?"

You may have more institutional means in mind, but I work with graduate students planning careers in academia, and we talk about this a lot.

Robert Boice has studied new faculty and identified skills that "Quick Starters" (those who do well at both teaching and research right away) have that others struggle with.

This is his piece describing the findings.

Here is a discussion of that piece (in case you don't have access).

This is his book on how to develop those skills (it is repetitive and probably too touchy-feely for some).

The upshot?

Re: teaching
Don't overprepare for teaching--limit prep to no more than 2 hours per class hour (His "quick starters" averaged 90 minutes). Use more active learning techniques to slow down the pace and allow students to absorb more.

Re: writing
Focus first on developing comfort and fluency as a writer. That mean scheduling 30-60 minutes of daily writing. He is a big proponent of "brief, regular sessions" for writing, rather than binge writing (in his book on writing he details research supporting this approach, which also fits in with others who've studied productive writing habits). When one focuses on making the process of writing just something that happens, as opposed to a big deal (as in, "crap, I haven't written all week, I'd better devote Saturday to it and do Something Great!"), productivity follows.


Institutionally, I'd like to see more Preparing Future Faculty-type programs in graduate schools preparing grad students for life as faculty members and more new faculty training programs to fill people in on some of the general realities at their schools.

Anonymous said...

I'm a longtime lurker, but as a former employee of Princeton, I am posting anonymously.

It's also possible to remind ourselves that this is Princeton. Tenure, in the humanities, for junior faculty is nigh on impossible to earn. Teaching a 1-1 load and knowing that in 5 years you will be looking for a new job, wouldn't you be trying to publish as much as possible with the time you had?

Comrade PhysioProf said...

At Zenith they seem to be trying an experiment over in the lab sciences where at least one department is supporting small seminar-type sections for the intro courses. In an informal chat with one student who was in such a course in the fall, she told me what a great course it was, how terrific the teacher was, and how alienating and rote the super-sized section she is in now is.

Our first-year medical physiology is taught in a hybrid fashion: we have both large-group old-d00d-fucke-in-a-labbe-coat-and-bow-tie-standing-behind-a-lectern-blathering lectures and small-group tutorial sessions. The students love the tutorials and get a whole lot out of them, and mostly don't even bother attending the old-d00d-fucke-in-a-labbe-coat-and-bow-tie-standing-behind-a-lectern-blathering lectures.

One of the interesting differences between undergrads and medical students is that the latter are very aware of what they need to learn from the basic science curriculum--the material necessary to pass the first-step boards--and are extremely efficient at allocating their time to achieve that end. Undergrads, to the contrary, have only the faintest idea what they need to learn, how to learn it, and whether they are learning it.

Z said...

Tilghman's advice is reality or is so in many places, but:

1. it's hardly new - I first heard it before kindergarten, in fact, Dad was writing a book to get tenure;

and

2. I doubt those assistant professors at Princeton *are* spending too much time teaching undergraduates. I'm sure they're putting in the time they should and doing a good job and everything, but I really doubt they're overdoing it ... they know perfectly well what the academic world is.

3. Therefore I wonder why so many still say that if someone didn't publish enough (according to some standard) it *must be* because they put too much time into each individual course.

Z said...

Also: is it really a question of research vs teaching, or service vs both?

In the place where I didn't get tenure (my fault, a poorly timed health problem is why I didn't get tenure, not the institution's fault) one had service as a junior faculty person but it did not take huge bites of time and energy from the rest of the job.

In the other places I've worked, service was huge and women couldn't say no and survive, because:
1. students are more critical of women, so one needed a stellar service record to make up for evaluations saying one was too mean or too demanding or something;
2. service was expected of women, it was a faux pas not to do it, very much noticed;
3. service was a way to get to know other faculty, who if you were a woman needed to feel friendly with you to support you, whereas if you were a man they would just look at your work record.

Anonymous said...

Z @11:08PM:

(my fault, a poorly timed health problem is why I didn't get tenure, not the institution's fault)

I've rarely read a better expression of blaming oneself for institutional injustice. (Except, perhaps, the conversations women faculty and their grad students have about timing one's reproduction optimally, so as not to sabotage their chances at tenure.)

profacero said...

@Anon., do you think? I have this tendency but I actually don't think it was them, although perhaps you're right that I don't give myself enough credit. I've had other work problems - heck, I've got 'em now- that I'm sure were and are about institutional injustice, but this place wanted to give me more time.

I: had been doing well, decided to fulfill life dream of going to therapy for residual effects of child abuse, as in, finally liberate myself; got an inexperienced practitioner with a negative countertransference and a few more problems; didn't realize it as I wasn't experienced enough myself in these matters; ended up with disabling flashbacks; stopped being able to work more than 35-40 hours a week; that is, the other 20 hours went into controlling the flashbacks and recovering from them, and trying to figure out how to stop them. I didn't understand well enough what was happening to figure out I should take medical leave, which I could have done.

In an ideal situation, I suppose, someone at work would have figured it out and guided me but I'd say that would have been some excellent stroke of luck, not something they should have done. What they did was say, let's find a way to stop the clock on this, and I said, I know there's no way to stop it for more than a year and it is going to take more than a year to get over this, I can already tell.

So I don't know. Am I really giving that institution too much credit? I'm truly curious -- I don't have any particular investment in defending them, I'm interested in what you have to say.

Northern Barbarian said...

To return to Historiann's comment: we do need to have much more explicit and public discussion of how research and teaching enrich each other, not only to benefit junior faculty members, but to woo back public support for academia and, I hope, to start beneficial changes to academic culture.

Public R-1s are forced into a hypocritical bind, although they also deserve some blame for creating the publishing machine culture. They depend on research grants for money that states don't provide any more, so research must take priority over teaching. But, public universities are supposed to serve the people of their state, and they sure don't with humongous classes taught by TAs and a faculty culture that trains grad students to view teaching with scorn. And I do think it hurts their research when they don't teach broad survey courses for context.

The sexism is in the money-gender nexus: jobs that bring in money are coded masculine and valued. Jobs that merely transform lives or take care of the helpless do not earn profits and are coded feminine. Tilghman must advise her junior faculty to conform to the current culture to survive, but she might be able to address the problem with tenured faculty.

profacero said...

Very good point Northern Barbarian - "The sexism is in the money-gender nexus: jobs that bring in money are coded masculine and valued. Jobs that merely transform lives or take care of the helpless do not earn profits and are coded feminine."

At the individual level I've noticed that some people are upset when women fit the masculine paradigm, even if that's the valued one and the one everyone is advised to. That is where I have noticed that women, pre tenure, have to walk carefully. From what I've observed it's important to produce like a man, but still have a girl type act going on. And one aspect of that is, they expect mo' and betta' service (except at R1s).

Anonymous said...

@profacero:
it's a simple matrix:
man who's good at masculinized job = big swinging dick
man who's good at feminized job = prissy girly man
woman who's good at masculinized job = terrifying battle axe
woman who's good at feminine job = nurturing mommy

profacero said...

@Anon 8:35, yes, I know

Still thinking about this, because this really is the best way to frame the question about teaching/research:

"HOW do we help untenured faculty learn to teach well, given the circumstances of their teaching lives, and in a way that supports scholarly production?"

I've taught in places that actually did that because they had the means. Elements included:
- have enough faculty so that each one can specialize somewhat
- have competent leadership and coordination for the lower division multi-section courses, so there's a smart resource person to go to
- have a decent teaching load
- have an institutional culture wherein it is normal to talk about teaching in a truly collegial way
- don't set new faculty up as competitors with nurturing permanent visitings who are jealous of PhDs and will denigrate them to the administrators they are married to (I've watched several scenes like that and they really are sabotage)

Is that too plodding?

...Boycean advice is fine but I don't understand how people did college and graduate school without already knowing how to work in that way. The problems I see people having are, being in an institutional situation that sets up too many obstacles to their actually working in the Boycean way. And I've seen, too many times, those obstacles set up for women and not (or not so much) men. And therein lies therub.

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