Planning for Tenure and Promotion

Planning for Tenure and Promotion

In this moment of anxiety and uncertainty, it’s natural to feel even more stress about the already stressful tenure and promotion process.  Since we can’t meet in person, we’ve organized this post to include some advice and tools that we would have shared with your in person at our Professional Development Workshop.  You’ll see these tips and tools hyperlinked throughout this post.

First, it is important that you start planning for your tenure and promotion.  We created deck of slides you can use to plan your success year by year.  For instance, your third and fourth year are important moments to show benchmarks in publishing.  Have you published peer-reviewed articles or significant creative work?  Have you identified a list of ideal publishers for your book? Let’s be clear: there will always be bumps in the road; Matt Brim shared his Response to Fourth Year Review that didn’t go as well as he’d hoped.  The moment helped him get clear about what he needed to do to succeed, and he did just that  (Matt just got promoted to full professor and his third book was recently published by Duke UP).  Remember, this is a marathon.  Do not let a setback derail you.

Your sixth year is another important milestone year.  By the end of it, you should have the bulk of your dossier ready to go out for national review.  Its a scary process, so don’t hesitate to ask for advice.  Your department chair and or colleagues who have recently been through the process can share all kinds of insights.

In our experiences, we learned the most from colleagues who were willing to share their candidate statements.  FFPP Mentor Katherine Chen shared an Annotated Tenure Statement that shows the logic she used to draft hers.  Statements like these provide a narrative of your career–they tell who you are, what you value as a scholar and as a teacher, and they provide the language that sets the tone for a review committee’s discussion of you and your accomplishments.  In your narratives, please be sure to describe not just the labor of your work (e.g., archival research, interviews, translations, or grant funding), but also the impact (e.g., citations on Google Scholar, downloads on Academic Works, reviews, or invited lectures).  Think of your work not just in the present–what about your past work?  What about future projects?  Where are they in the pipeline of what will be a long and active career post-tenure and promotion?

Regardless of where you are in your career, its always a good idea to be mindful of the stories you tell about your professional self.  Are you always complaining?  Do you share your good news?  The stories you tell accumulate in your institution’s memory.  Bethany Albertson’s Operation Keep My Job offers excellent insight on this point. “4 Steps to a Strong Tenure File” and Publishing as Strategy by Karen Kelsky also offer insight into how you can organize for the long view of a successful academic career.

Finally, always remember the hard part is behind you.  You got the job–a tenure track job in a highly competitive market!  Now is the time to get over that imposter syndrome and trust yourself.  When you feel unsure, ask for help.  Your College’s Provost’s Office, or its Office of Academic Affairs, has a schedule for tenure and promotion that you should access well before you need it.  It will help you organize. And besides your department chair and your colleagues on your home campus, you have your FFPP Mentor and Fellows–our working groups are always confidential.  The PSC CUNY Union will help you understand your rights, and if necessary, it will assist you if you need to file a grievance.

Please dig into our Commons site for even more resources.  For instance, we posted on CUNY’s March 2020 Guidance Memo that allows tenure track faculty the option to delay tenure and promotion review.  You’ll also find a trove of publishing resources.  Please let us know if you need something and you can’t find it here in our Commons Community.

Wishing you health, safety, and peace in this chaos. May you have tremendous success in your career.

xo, Shelly, Matt, and all the FFPP Mentors

Tenure and Promotion Advice

Hello Fellows!

How are you doing?  As we make our way through all of the challenges facing us in this moment, it remains so important that we all practice Self Care.  We are doing all that we can to stay healthy and sane in this time of isolation.  Have you tried a free dance class with the legendary Debbie Allen?  Or the free 90 day trial from Peleton?  Their an app offers short stretching exercises, yoga and cardio classes, guided meditation and more.

Of course also, we are doing what we can to remain productive.  Some of you may be wondering and worrying about tenure.  And since we won’t be meeting in person on April 3 to talk about your questions and your plans, we’ve curated some good advice for you from “The Professor is In” column at The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Please follow these links for PDFs of “10 Things No One Ever Told Me About Applying for Tenure,” “Publishing as Strategy,” and “4 Steps to a Strong Tenure File.”

And, in case you haven’t heard, given the current circumstances, The University is offering the option to delay tenure for one year.  This option is outlined in the Guidance Memo (March 24, 2020) from CUNY’s Vice Chancellor of Labor Relations.  It states that it is “going to permit faculty whose candidacies for tenure are coming up in the fall 2020 semester to receive a one-year extension, if they so desire.  Such faculty must request a tenure clock extension by emailing their request to their college Provost by May 1, 2020.”

“Going forward,” the Guidance Memo states that “faculty on the tenure track who subsequently want to request a tenure clock extension based on the circumstances of Spring 2020 must apply by February 1 in the year immediately preceding their tenure review…their request will be subject to a fact-specific review, in accordance with past University practice.”

This announcement might be a much needed reprieve for some.

Whatever the case, we look forward to seeing you all at our revised Professional Development Day on Friday, August 28.  Please mark your calendars!


Take care, Shelly and Matt

Tenure and Promotion @CUNY

Tenure and Promotion @CUNY

During FFPP’s Professional Development Day on April 12, we put together a  FFPP TENURE AND PROMOTION PRESENTATION of some suggestions that can help pre-tenure assistant professors plan for their tenure and promotion.  While it is necessary that you confirm the expectations and timelines relevant to the standards at your home campus, this presentation can provide a general guide.

PSC CUNY also provides an important summary of faculty rights during the tenure and promotion processes.  It also published on faculty Personnel Files that came up in our discussion.  You can also find more information and advice about your Personnel File and about your presence on CUNYfirst by consulting the faculty handbook on your home campus.  And as always, your Department Chair and Provost are excellent resources as you prepare for tenure and promotion.

On the Importance of an Intellectual Project

Now that I have reached the doyen stage of my career, I find myself frequently called upon to serve as an external reviewer for junior faculty who are being considered for promotion and tenure. The process begins with a letter from a departmental chair asking if I am willing to give my candid assessment of the candidate’s scholarship. Since my own research and writing are centered on race and ethnicity in American society, I am usually asked to evaluate the work a young scholar whose research is more or less within my domain of expertise. I am mindful of the unspoken fact that I have been thrust into the role of gatekeeper, and also mindful of the sinister role that gatekeepers have played historically in marginalizing minority and radical viewpoints. So I take on this otherwise mundane obligation with a sense of intellectual and moral responsibility. “It goes with the territory,” as my friend Hylan Lewis once told me, when he was the age that I am today.

Some colleges stipulate a mathematical benchmark of how much productivity one needs for tenure. We are told, for example, that one needs one book and four articles, with the caveat that the articles must be in peer-reviewed journals. I find this last stricture to be totally wrongheaded. To paraphrase C. Wright Mills, the peer review system is an instrument for intellectual conformity, since it is so often antagonistic to dissenting viewpoints. Besides, by what twisted logic is the lottery of a peer-reviewed journal more reliable than, say, being invited to contribute to an edited volume that will reach a relevant audience? Why is it better to have your work subjected to the whim or judgment of anonymous reviewers, and promulgated to disinterested readers of journals that, as is commonly acknowledged, “nobody reads”? This is where pious observance of the false god of objectivity leads us. Indeed, a cottage industry of journals has sprung up, often attached to sections within professional societies, which go through the motions of being “peer reviewed,” in order to meet this specious requirement. Sadly, the pursuit of knowledge has been reduced to gaming the system.

Before long, a package arrives in the mail, whose bulk is the first indicator of the productivity of the scholar, as well as the onus that awaits the external reviewer. Already, the shibboleth of one book and four articles is exposed. If that was the fulcrum for tenure decisions, it would hardly require the intervention of an external reviewer.

My modus operandi in reviewing “the tenure package” stems from my interest in the sociology of knowledge and the history of ideas. I attempt to discern the applicant’s intellectual genealogy based on what I can glean from the cv, publications, conference papers, and other professional activities, including contributions in the realm of public intellectualism. I try to get a sense of the germination and direction of the applicant’s scholarship, and how these disparate elements gel into an original intellectual amalgam, culminating with the dissertation. As we know at FFPP, often these young scholars are making the challenging transition from dissertation to book. Clearly, the dissertation and first book is a pivotal stage of intellectual development, where the neophyte consolidates what I am calling “an intellectual project.” And is a neophyte no longer!

As we all find out, one line of inquiry invariably engenders more questions than it answers, leading to other unanticipated lines of inquiry. Here the intellectual project reaches the next step. Our neophyte gradually develops an expertise and reputation as a scholar with depth and purpose. Hopefully, this intellectual project is predicated on a critical perspective that challenges stale orthodoxy and hegemony within the realm of ideas. This critical spirit is the sine qua non that will infuse your research and writing with energy and conviction, lest promotion and tenure lapse into professionalism.


–Stephen Steinberg, FFPP Mentor and Distinguished Professor (Queens College and the Graduate Center)

writing groups as collaborative communities

I’m Katherine K. Chen. To kick off the 2017 spring semester’s Faculty Fellowship Publication Program (FFPP) blog series, I briefly reflect on CUNY, the academic profession, and how writing communities can support and enhance scholarship.

First, a little about myself: I am one of the newest FFPP mentors, and I am also a FFPP alum-turned-mentor (colleague Stephen Steinberg was my mentor!).  Using ethnographic and other qualitative methods, I study how organizations develop.  I joined The City College of New York in 2008, so I am now approaching almost a decade at CUNY.

As some of you know, CUNY is a higher education institution with an unusual structure, consisting of the Graduate Center, where most of its PhD granting programs are concentrated, senior colleges that offer bachelors and masters, and community colleges that offer associate degrees.  Moreover, CUNY has a long legacy of propelling first-time, minority college-goers into the middle class and beyond.  Despite a crushing burden of working low-wage, dead-end jobs, caring for sick relatives, and intermittent homelessness in a high cost of living city, CUNY undergraduate students persevere in their belief that education matters. Working at the frontlines with CUNY students are CUNY instructors who are vibrant and accomplished. Besides publishing in the expected peer-reviewed venues, some also produce artwork, novels, and opinion pieces in widely read venues.

It’s difficult not to be inspired by the intellectual ferment of CUNY and the surrounding New York City. Nonetheless, universities and academic professions in general face increasing uncertainties as state support for higher education declines.   Meanwhile, neoliberal pressures are increasing, with demands that faculty demonstrate their market worthiness in numbers of students taught and graduated and funding awarded.  These pressures can make the university and academic profession feel alienating, particularly when the rewards structure is skewed.  Often, only one type of the work – publishing in peer-reviewed publications – is recognized in tenure and promotion while much of daily work – teaching students and undertaking service to maintain academic institutions and the profession – is uncounted and unrewarded.

It is easy to get lost when journeying in this milieu.  In particular, navigating the writing and publishing can involve taking a hike into the unknown. While maps exist, the details are often unmarked, requiring local knowledge and constant experimentation. Sometimes a more experienced guide may lead, or companions may join, making the journey lighter (or heavier).  While writing coaches and guides to publishing offer some assistance (my favorites of the latter include Wendy Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks and William Germano’s Getting It Published), people can more fully realize their potential when immersed in an active, supportive community.

Writing groups such as FFPP, where members meet regularly to give feedback on circulated work, offer an oasis of support, collegiality, and generativity.  For me, participating in FFPP and other writing groups has been crucial to advancing my scholarly development.  Such groups have facilitated difficult decisions to, for example, reframe manuscripts and cut out excess material; these gatherings have helped interpret cryptic reviewer comments and modeled potential responses to reviewers’ suggestions.  Moreover, reading other scholars’ works in progress helps us understand common writing and conceptual issues – it is much easier to identify problems and potential solutions in other people’s manuscripts!   Finally, it’s heady to be on the cutting edge of manuscripts that are on the verge of reaching a wider audience, especially given how long it takes for manuscripts to wend their way through the publication process.

With these thoughts in mind, I look forward to facilitating fellow FFPPers’ journey and learning from everyone’s work in the months ahead.  Welcome to spring 2o17!



Welcome to FFPP!

Welcome to FFPP!

The Faculty Fellowship Publication Program (FFPP) is the only university-wide initiative of its kind.  Sponsored by CUNY’s Office of Recruitment and Diversity, FFPP supports CUNY’s institutional goal of a diverse, high achieving professoriate, the cornerstone of CUNY’s scholarly excellence.    The FFPP initiative assists full-time untenured faculty in the design and execution of writing projects essential to their progress toward tenure. Discipline-based writing groups of peers from across the University, facilitated by senior faculty members, provide fellows with feedback on their work, which may include scholarly articles for peer-reviewed journals, books for academic presses, or, in some instances, creative writing.

University Dean Arlene Torres
University Dean Arlene Torres

University Dean Arlene Torres leads the Office of Recruitment and Diversity, and Maryann McKenzie is her Deputy.  Shelly Eversley (Baruch College) serves as Academic Director.  FFPP Mentors and working group leaders for 2016-17 are:  Moustafa Bayoumi (Brooklyn College), Matt Brim (College of Staten Island), Katherine Chen (City College), Bridgett Davis (Baruch College), Carrie Hintz (Queens College), Lina Newton (Hunter College), Debbie Sonu (Hunter College), Stephen Steinberg (Queens College), Anahi Viladrich (Queens College).