Friday, December 17, 2010

Tenure... Or sixure, actually sevenure. But who's counting

Me, that's who.

Do you remember what you were doing in August of 2005? Personally, I had just given notice at work that I would be leaving within a week. I put our house on the market and it sold in under 24 hours. Kerri and the kids had left town a week ahead of me, and I was supposed to clear out the house and close up shop in El Paso, Texas.

For some time I had been seeking a job with a little more meaning than I had found in the commercial real estate industry. It seems I had found out about one such possibility located in a little pecan tree covered town on the high desert of Southeastern New Mexico. Here, nestled along the Pecos river, at a branch campus of New Mexico State University they were starting up a new film and animation program and they needed an instructor. I had interviewed and they liked me, so now in the period of just under two weeks, I was going to be standing in front of 25 big scary college students, armed with nothing more than a syllabus and something called a rubric. (No, I was not the most attentive college student, I don't remember syllabi and rubrics were definitely foreign to me)

That was six years ago. Six... Academic years ago. New years day for me is now August 13 or 14 when school starts each fall. Every job has it's important dates. For college faculty, its the three and six year mark. At three years you apply for promotion from instructor to assistant professor and then three years later you apply for associate professor and at the same time, you are eligible for tenure. That is where I am today, or at least that is where I was until 11:58AM MST, when I finished the three binders each three inches thick and filled to the brim with the totality of my activity over the last six years. As I set it on the VP's desk, I had hoped to hear a chorus of hallelujahs or something spectacular, but I heard nothing but the dull thud of my binders as they plunked onto the desk. Afterwards, I turned and walked back to my office, where I spent the remainder of the day filling out reports on student performance and assessment (and playing a game or two of Deer Hunter 3D on the iPad). Now here it is at ten o'clock at night and it still hasn't really sunk in that I have just completed what is probably the most important document of a faculty members career. I guess knowing that I will have to wait until Spring to find out the results of the committee, dampens things a bit, but I had kind of hoped for the chorus thing to happen.

It is a relief to have that turned in, to be sure. I will not know if tenure has been granted until May at the earliest. The packets need to be reviewed by our local Promotion and Tenure committee and then sent to Las Cruces to be reviewed again by the main campus. Then they will tell our president, who I imagine will in turn, tell me. I hope.

Tenure is not a sure thing, and the denial of it means that I receive a one year terminal contract and then am out of a job. While the kind of job security found as a faculty member is unheard of in the corporate world, it is still a bit unnerving to think that I could be forced to look for work if they don't like this one document. It would mean uprooting my family, pulling the kids from school and selling the little house that inspired the name of this blog.

So, this Christmas, if you are wondering what to get me, if you are seeking that perfect gift and money is no object*, what I really want more than anything else in the whole wide world, would be a prayer or maybe two for favor in the eyes of the Promotion and Tenure committee and powers that be, both here and in Las Cruces.

(* in our house money really is no object. It is more of a concept, an idea, an abstract sort of thing that we can almost feel as it swooshes into our account on payday and then, just as fast it is gone.)

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