May 17, 2016

Tenure Denied - Dartmouth College

At Dartmouth, an Asian-American professor receives unanimous English department backing and is rejected at higher levels. The same happened to a black historian at the college. Many see a disturbing pattern. Tenure denials happen all the time, and they’re most often accepted by fellow professors and students as an unpleasant byproduct of the tenure system. But sometimes such denials rock an institution.

That’s what’s happening now at Dartmouth College, regarding the failed bid of Aimee Bahng, an assistant professor of English who faculty members and students alike say deserves a permanent position on campus. Beyond Bahng, concerned professors say the case speaks to bigger questions about commitments to minority faculty members, interdisciplinary research and shared governance at Dartmouth and beyond.

“The issue of faculty governance at Dartmouth is a heated one, and it extends to broader issues than [this] tenure case -- though that has been a trigger for many of the broader discussions we're having now -- and though it is widely perceived as unjust and shortsighted,” said Annelise Orleck, a professor of history at Dartmouth who criticized the tenure decision at a recent town hall about the findings of a campus climate survey. Several hundred faculty members, students and staff reportedly were in attendance.

In addition to the town hall, professors and students have taken their protest to Twitter under the hashtags #fight4facultyofcolor and #dontdoDartmouth; the latter features students and academics advising would-be applicants to avoid the institution. Public details on Bahng’s bid are few, and she did not respond to a request for comment. But fellow faculty members confirmed that she was unanimously approved by the department's tenure committee. Her bid fell short higher up in review chain, which includes the associate dean, the dean of the faculty and the arts and sciences faculty’s Committee Advisory to the President.

Dartmouth says it’s bound by confidentiality surrounding the tenure process, but that unanimous department decisions don’t always lead to tenure. And that’s true -- the departmental tenure committee merely makes a recommendation. Yet at many institutions, it’s rare for a unanimous faculty vote to be overturned. Orleck and others on campus say Bahng’s case is similar to several others in recent years, in which department votes for tenure and unanimous recommendations for tenure by outside reviewers are overruled by deans or the Committee Advisory to the President.

A number allegedly have been faculty members of color who were respected by their colleagues and students. One such case is that of Derrick White, now a visiting associate professor of history. White did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but his name and failed tenure bid last year -- despite the unanimous vote of his departmental peers and outside reviewers -- have been mentioned in many of the conversations about Bahng.

 In short, the most recent case appears to be something of the last straw on a campus that’s already facing criticism for what many see as a lack of commitment to diversity...

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Anonymous said...

Dartmouth is, as the old saying goes, "white and right"!

This is one of the top Ivy League colleges that rates as highly in staff complaints as it does in college ratings!

This New Hampshire town is consequently quite incestuous and full of intra-faculty squabbles over trivia!

However, having taught there briefly, my impression is that there is a "Dartmouth type" which this creaky venerable old institution has in mind for tenure....and a black-eyed pea or anyone outside their very rigid view of a permanent staffer will always have problems getting tenure.... It is less about either covert or overt racism and more about a stereotype that would definitely accommodate an "uncle tom" or two....(so there is no official or unofficial color bar) but which is resistant to anyone who does not fit the "Dartmouth type". That "type" is likely to have a long family association with the college, be patrician and if she cannot be a man, at least not be a lesbian!

In short, one is born into tenure at cannot earn it...

Is that racism? Well Oxbridge in the UK is probably about the sane!

Anonymous said...

for a little more detail on this story see

Anonymous said...

I've long believed that if getting a Ph. D. had anything to do with talent, intelligence, and hard work, most universities would have to close because they can't find enough talent. It's nothing but a political system where toadying and sycophancy pays great rewards.

Getting a faculty position is equally political here in Canada. Every ad has a statement that says that all qualified candidates may submit their applications but, if one reads between the lines, the job requirements clearly say "able-bodied white heterosexual men need not apply".

Canada has two state religions: first, hockey and, second, political correctness. Thanks to the latter, most new faculty that are hired and, it seems, almost always get tenure, reflect the "diversity" of our population. (That thought was reinforced by our current prime minister when he formed his cabinet.) I don't see too many of the aforementioned able-bodied white heterosexual men being given permanent positions.

Personally, I believe the tenure system has long out-lived its usefulness and should be abolished. It's been horrendously abused by many who have it (usually members of the "come late, leave early, do as little as possible" squad) and manipulated by administrators for political purposes.

Besides, in today's economy, why should anyone have a permanent job purely on the basis of how much education one has? If skilled tradesmen can be, and are, unemployed, shouldn't academics be laid off as well?

Anonymous said...

Something occurred to me after I wrote my previous comments.

Considering what the environment on many campuses is nowadays, with all that nonsense concerning political correctness, safe spaces, and speech codes, perhaps being granted tenure is punishment.

I mean, who wants to have a job in which one has to contend with things like that but can't easily walk away from it? If one worked someplace else, without such stressful matters to deal with but with less job security, wouldn't that be more satisfying?