Friday, October 14, 2005

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Seven days later....

Among the things I've learned in the week after tenure rejection:

1) It's good to have the blog. I very much appreciate the thoughts expressed in the comments section -- the depth of the response has been overwhelming, a nice salve on what remains an open wound.

[Yeah, but you expected the kind words, right? That's why you posted, right?--ed. The primary reason I posted was that I knew the decision would slowly ripple through the very small world of IR scholars. Since a decent chunk of that world peruses the blog, it was a quick and easy way to avoid repeating the following kind of awkward phone conversation:

DAN: Hi.

COLLEAGUE OF DAN: Hey there. How are you?

DAN: I've been better. I just got denied tenure.

COLLEAGUE OF DAN: Oh, dear, that's terrible!

DAN: Yes, it is....

(awkward pause)

COLLEAGUE OF DAN: Uh..... er.... wait, did you hear that? [Sound of phone hanging up.]

2) It's good to read other bloggers as well. I have been most grateful for the sentiments expressed across the political spectrum.

More importantly, a number of scholar-bloggers have made some excellent contriutions on the murky relationship between blogging, tenure, and scholarship -- see, in particular, Juan Non-Volokh, Ann Althouse, Sean Carroll, Timothy Burke, and Michael Bťrubť.

3) It's good to have small children. Despite the occasional impulse to curl up into a fetal position and sleep most of the day, children do not really understand the concept of "having a bad day." So you have no choice but to go about your day, which is a useful check against lethargy. Plus, without getting too mushy about it, a hug from the one-year old is worth a hell of a lot more than the collective opinion of my tenured colleagues.

4) It's good to go on a 24-hour fast soon after getting denied tenure. Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. A significant aspect of the Days of Awe that lead up to the holiday is asking for forgiveness from those you have wronged over the past year. An equally significant aspect, however, is forgiving those who have wronged you.

Now I'll grant that forgiveness was not at the top of my list of emotions a week ago, but after some reflection, it's been creeping up. Among the many pieces of intelligence I've been picking up about my decision is the idea that there was little display of malice or pettiness in the discussion of my case. So I (obviously) think senior colleagues made the wrong decision -- but I can't say they made the decision in a fit of pique or envy.

Yeah, that's about all that I've learned.

[Wait just a friggin' minute. There's been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere -- and in the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Sun, and Inside Higher Ed, and the Chronicle of Higher Education -- about what (if any) role blogging played in the decision. Now that you've got some more intel, do you want to fan those particular flames?--ed. Well..... I don't want to violate any confidences, and there are some things that will remain "known unknowns" no matter what. That said, let's just say I found myself nodding unconsciously when I read these paragraphs by Sean Carroll with regard to his own case of tenure denial at the U of C:

Thereís a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is "No, itís not blogging that prevents you from getting tenure; itís because some people in your department (or the dean, or whatever) didnít think that your research was good enough." The blog was not a hot topic of discussion in my case, and Iím pretty sure that many of my colleagues donít even know what a blog is, much less have a negative opinion of mine.

The longer answer must deal with the issue of why someone doesnít think your research was good enough. (You might wonder whether teaching and various other forms of service are also relevant; at a top-tier research university like Chicago, the answer is simply "no," and if anyone says differently theyíre not being honest.) I think my own research was both solid and influential, and Danís looks pretty good from the perspective of a complete outsider; certainly neither of us had simply sat around for six years. But these are judgment calls, and a lot goes into that judgment. Like it or not, if you are very visibly spending a great deal of time doing things other than research, people might begin to wonder how devoted you are to the enterprise. To first order it doesnít really matter whether that time is spent blogging or playing the banjo; some folks will think that you could have been spending that time doing research. (At second order it does matter; some people, smaller in number but undoubtedly there, feel resentful and jealous when one of their colleagues attains a certain public profile on the basis of outreach rather than research.) Of course nobody will ever say that they voted against giving tenure to someone because that person spent too much time on public outreach, or put too much effort into their teaching. But getting a reputation at being really good at that stuff could in principle make it harder to have your research accomplishments recognized ó or not. Itís just impossible to tell, without access to powerful mind-reading rays that one can train on the brains of the senior faculty.

Blogging may very well be a contributor to this image of not being perfectly devoted ó although, given the lack of familiarity with blogs on the part of most senior faculty, itís very unlikely to be playing a major role. But even then itís not blogging per se, itís the decision to make an effort to communicate with the public. Blogging is just a technology, not a fundamentally new activity.

I can knock down simple strawmen on the question of what happened. I wasn't denied tenure because of my politics, for example. At a deeper level, however, it's just impossible to parse out well-justified motivations from poorly-justified motivations. And the sooner you and I accept that fact, the better for our emotional health.]

posted by Dan on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM




Comments:

But there'll still be a duel with the department chair, right?

posted by: ogged on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



You poor, poor guy. I can sympathize.

Today I found out that I am not making partner at my law firm this year, and, if our numbers do not improve, I will never make partner. Which is the slow kiss of death after 8 years of incredible work.

The pain is terrible. It has been decided that I simply cannot get voted into "the club", and no one can tell me precisely why, other than some obscure "numbers" over which I have no control. And, of course, questions rip through me: am I not good enough? Am I too (insert descriptive adjective)?

I can only imagine that you are going through something similar, which perhaps is better, and perhaps is worse. All I can say is (from someone of a vastly different political persuation than you), "Sympathy and Greeting. So have I suffered in my time."

posted by: Cthulhu on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



At the risk of being seen as defending U of C's decision, I'm not convinced that Sean and you were a good fit for Chicago.

More than anything else, Chicago seems to value scholarship and rigorous academic discourse. What it doesn't appear to value is anything else.

Most would consider teaching to be at least half of a professor's mission. Sean and you, however, seem to agree that this is not true at U of C. At most, it is seen as a minor, but necessary role to augment research.

Unfortunately for you both, blogging is more like teaching than journal writing. You get the opportunity to make jokes, try experimental thoughts, and offer a quick opinion...just like in the classroom.

Whether consciously or not, I think you were both treated to Chicago's strong preference for insular scholarship at the expense of public discourse. As a graduate of a liberal arts university whose motto is "pro humanitate," I have a hard time reconciling Chicago's concept of a good professor with my own.

posted by: jeff on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Dan-
I don't want to make the pain of rejection seem, but the mere fact that you had a tenure track position means you are very gifted and very lucky. A position at Chicago is nothing to sneaze about and is a great bump up in your career.

Also, your great and highly visited blog will count in some academic circles. Have you considered looking at Berkely SIMS? IP work, cyber issues, etc. all play well there!

posted by: Eric on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Oh, Dan! I hadn't heard the news yet, even though I'm a loyal reader and fellow junior faculty weblogger, because you began your post a week ago with sports news, and my eyes glazed over.

Congratulations on getting chewed up and spit out by the University of Chicago. You join an honorable cadre of failures there who may have done more good for the world, and less harm, then the whole tenured faculty. Do not regret a moment of your citizen journalism as a weblogger! But, feel free to regret some of the time you spent on the denser passages of your opus, if there were any designed only to impress the narrow-minded savants who failed you in the clinch.

posted by: Parke on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Someone can always make the call that any time you spent playing the banjo or blogging could have been spent doing research. The truth of the matter is that we are not robots and there must be some small amount of time doing things outside of our job that keeps us as "rounded individuals". I believe universities everywhere still spout that when they justify making students take basket weaving or other such elective to keep them around for a fourth year. It applies everywhere else in life. They just didn't see that you were in an up and coming communication medium for the masses. Frankly I would never have read a bit of IR if it wasn't for you and if its any consolation you have improved many lives because of it. And isn't that the point of the whole university thing?

posted by: Ernie Oporto on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Hey Dan, how about the University of Pennsylvania? If you taught here, I'd certainly be taking your courses.

posted by: Zach on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



I think one of the hardest parts of being denied tenure is the apparent view that all of your choices have been narrowing towards this one goal, and now, that goal is gone.

People outside of academia have lots of work-related opportunities that knock them down for a bit--a bad job, a bad boss, a bad project, a bad review, the wrong major, the wrong college, etc. These could have happened anywhere between the age of 10 and 35, and while sometimes those events close some doors, usually there are some other obvious open doors nearby. There are so many opportunities available when you switch majors, jobs, projects, bosses, etc.

Academics who made it as far as an associate professorship basically *didn't* have any of those events derail them. They picked the right major, the right college well enough to excel. They picked the right friends and colleagues to learn about how academia works. They picked the right (enough) grad school advisor to gain expertise in research without suffocating or starving. They leveraged all of the above to have the appropriate summer jobs/internships/teaching creds. They got the right publications. They succeeded at developingtheir ability to work on their own and with others. They did well in their quals and got the right post docs and aced the job talk--heck, they even got a professorship!

And for each of those events they managed to ace, they had precious few set backs (or they would have fallen off this path earlier) and don't see how many opportunities are still open that *aren't* on the academic path--because every step went farther on this path, and seemingly farther away from the real world.

You're going to be fine. The academic world may still be where you belong, and where you want to be. But there are many other fulfilling places to be as well, and failure, while awful, does not make you worse at living than the rest of us. It's quite human. It might even make you a lot better at living.

You have many many options. Getting kicked in the teeth doesn't change that. I hope you will be able to use this as an opportunity to find out what else is out there, too. Good luck,but I know you won't need it.

posted by: anonymous on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



I was thinking about attending grad school at U of C just because you were teaching there actually. I'm graduating from UC Berkeley this academic year and will be applying to grad school next Fall. It'll be interesting to see where you land cause I'll be sure applying to that school. Keep us posted.

posted by: anon on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Sorry you feel bad. I really am. But...
Personally, I think higher education in the USA is somewhat of a scam anyway. Basically huge real estate holders (NYU) who charge too much, enslaving young people into debt for much of their adult life. And tenure? What's that about? The rest of us should get a guarantee of not being fired, no matter how badly we do our job. What an archaic elitist culture. I'm glad you're free of it myself.

posted by: dp on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



If not for a good professor who still values teaching, I would not have chosen Poli Sci/IR as a major. Of course, after reading her sdvisors' books, I was really caught. But, first, that professor hooked me. After years in the private sector, I have returned to grad study, and again it's a teaching prof who has helped me keep the faith to study. This blog, and others like Duck of Minerva and Barnett, help to keep that first interest alive.

Another inspiration, another adviser. He taught part-time at two schools, only had a Master's, but he could argue anyone, including his colleagues into a hole. He was respected for this. Students always asked, why don't you become a prof. he said, my family is grown and successful, I have a schedule I enjoy, and I love teaching. Why do I remember Informal Logic and his cutting conversations so much more than any tenured profs, I have to ask?

In the same way, why do any of us return to this blog? Or, read an article wherever it is?

Some folks have IT, most DON'T. You have IT. Thank you, Professor!

posted by: Infidel on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



If there is any justice, the 19th-century educrats who enshrined the idol of the German research doctorate as the hiring and tenure hurdles for American universities are slow-cooking on a rotisserie in Hell over the glowing embers of dissertations like "Psoriasis Metaphors as Avatars of Cultural Change in Armenian Love Poetry, 1901-1909: A Transcerebrated Deconstruction." (Is this a real or an invented title? If you have to think about it, I rest my case.) One of the best teachers I ever saw in action was a Bowdoin professor of English and published poet who proudly observed that he held "only" an A.B. from Princeton. A graduate degree would have done nothing to sharpen his insights or enliven his teaching. Amazingly, his college recognized that and granted him tenure. But that was 40 years ago. Perhaps your best course would be to spurn the university factories and seek out a school that still values teaching and publication in venues other than sparsely read specialist journals. Good luck, and keep blogging.

posted by: Axel Kassel on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



I second that Zach fellow. Come join us at the University of Pennsylvania. You're guaranteed to have an avid folliwing among at least the two of us.

U of C is a prestigious institution that punches way above its weight because it puts all of its institutional energies towards academic research at the expense of all other aspects of being a university. Which is why it earns its reputation as the place "where fun goes to die," and why I didn't go there--and why alumni donations and freshman retention rates aren't in line with peer schools.

Much like people say Harvard "is a great place to be FROM" (as opposed to "at"), Chicago is a great workhorse from to get data, but heaven forbid one must be mining that data himself...

Come to Penn, drink a highball, bleed red and blue, and live life along the Northeast corridor, where it was meant to be lived. And teach me!!!!

posted by: John Kneeland on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



it is to bad they did not give you tenure.... most of the students i have talked to in the department will be sad to see you leave. With the faculty we have aging, I hate to see the young blood leaving. The world of academia is all about power politics, and although I study IR, it is for that reason that I want to be a corporate raider

posted by: dan kimerling on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Everyone has been raising the question "does blogging hurt one's tenure chances". Perhaps the question should be "does blogging about being rejected from tenure hurt one's future job chances."

All press is good press, but the last thing you want to do is give the impression to highering committees that you will be giving a full pulic airing of grievances about department related issues on your blog.

If you want to avoid awkward conversations with collegues, perhaps sending a short private email is more appropriate.

posted by: Anonymice on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



I agree with Jeff (above):
"Chicago seems to value scholarship and rigorous academic discourse. What it doesn't appear to value is anything else."

Having done my graduate work at the U of C, I feel confident saying that the institution certainly values research over teaching... or anything else, for that matter. Shortly before I skirted back to the private sector (with degree), I had an enlightening discussion with my advisor - also in the PoliSci department. Suffice it so say, he made it clear that in the present day, he would never have made tenure at the U of C (given the department's constituents). He was one of the best professors I have ever worked with.

And Anonymice, please - Dan has been nothing but gracious and polite. He has done an excellent job of not discussing department-related issues (outside of his denial of tenure) in the Political Science department at the U of C. That would take *months* to cover.

posted by: WhenStars on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Daniel,

All I can say is that I enjoy reading your blog, you avoid the partisan bile that can be found elsewhere...

If you have the wisdom to recognise point no. 3 on your list - it's good to have small children - you won't go far wrong. Enjoy the real treasures in your life - Chicago's loss will be somebody else's gain.

posted by: Chris Black on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Sorry about your short-term anguish but I'm sure you'll end up in a great situation.

Any comments about the issue of family and tenure? Kids take up more time than banjos.


(PhD, UofC, 1997, incidentally. Great place for research, maybe not so much for teaching, though the physics for physics majors classes I T.A.'d were excellent.)

posted by: rilkefan on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



This discussion reminds me of the debate that arose as to why Carl Sagan was denied membership in the National Academy of Sciences.

People posited various explanations: that the NAS secretly envied his fame, or they frowned on his spending any time away from research even if for public outreach, or simply that his scientific contributions to astrophysics were insufficient for inclusion.

In the end I think Sagan is now highly regarded by the physics establishment, but only after many decades of very public tension and controversy.

I suspect Prof. Drezner will meet with similar acceptance, and hopefully in a shorter period.

The bigger question to me is: can self-regulated communities ever foster creative personalities instead of resisting them? How?

posted by: Matt on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



" The bigger question to me is: can self-regulated communities ever foster creative personalities instead of resisting them? How?"

Yes, but only at their inception.

posted by: mark safranski on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Now now.... Plugging the Department Chair would only be a passing satisfaction and might tend to get Dan talked about. I think it would raise issues of whether Dr. Drezner can get along with coleagues.... ;)

posted by: Don Stadler on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]




Now now.... Plugging the Department Chair would only be a passing satisfaction and might tend to get Dan talked about. I think it would raise issues of whether Dr. Drezner can get along with colleagues.... ;)

posted by: Don Stadler on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Dan:

As a fellow academic blogger, I feel for you. Having been denied tenure at my first school, I also appreciate the grace with which you discuss it. Venting aboout those who voted us out make us feel better for a while, but being a class act (as you most obviously are) is the way to go in the long run.

In the public arena, you will doubless leave a much bigger footprint than moany of your soon-to-be-ex colleagues. I have no doubt that you'll land on your feet and (even more) thrive in your next position.

I was just at a conference, and the recurring theme among my friends (and that's why they're my friends) was how we initially choose the path set by our advisors (typically the "best/most prestigious/most intense" reesearch school). Sometimes not making it is the best thing that can happen - it forces us to reevaluate what WE (and not our advisors) value. Sometimes , it's another round on the research wheel with renewed zeal. Other times, it's moving in a new direction. In either case, the self-examination probably wouldn't have come until much later without the spur of the rejection.

In retrospect, not making it at my first school was the best thing that could have happened for all concerned. The academic labor market can be inefficient on initial jobs, but it's pretty efficient in the long run - good people eventualy end up where they belong.

Keep up the good work. UC is the poorer for losing you, and we're the richer for having your thoughts, wit, and grace in the public sphere of ideas.

posted by: The Unknown Professor on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Some general comments on tenure, from my view point as an assistant prof in a different field and different ivy league university.

1. As this case demonstrates, if your main priority is lifetime job security then don't choose the academic life. That is, if you finished your undergrad with top grades and want to maximize the probability that you'll always be employed at your profession, desired location and reasonable income, go to med school, law school, business school, anything but grad school.

2. It is impossible for people outside the field to know whether it was a bad or good decision. The parameters for judging good research can't be quantified, and can't really be determined from the publication list or CV (an exception is that it's probably safe to say that if you won the Nobel prize then you're a good researcher)

3. Tenure is about performance and not about effort. Thus, even if you visibly spend 90% of your time playing the banjo or blogging that should hurt your case, as long as you're still one of the top researchers in your field. (And vice versa, even if you haven't left the office in the last 6 years that should not help you).

That said, people (especially if they are not intimately familiar with your work) might be suspicious of your ability to do first-class research in half the time. If you're also visibly very good at your other activity, they might suspect that you're probably not as talented as a researcher. Also, if they feel the research was not first class regardless of effort, it is still pscologically easier to deny tenure to someone that (in their eyes) was not giving it his full effort. In any case, I believe that stellar research and recommendations should dispel all such suspicions and biases.


4. People say that this case or others mean that tneure should be abolished. Like many other academics, I am quite opposed to this. The reason being is that from my viewpoint the system is working pretty well, in the sense that I see a lot of smart people producing great research, before and after tenure. Maybe there is another system that works even better, but I'd like to see it implemented and working in another place before throwing away something that works. Showing a few problems in the current system and concluding that we therefore must throw it away and try something completley new sounds like Marxism to me (and no, most professors are not Marxists).

With hundreds of universities and colleges across the country you'll always find an example of a tenured idiot. In a similar way you'll find idiots that are partners in law firms or CEOs. That does not mean the system does not work.

Also, quoting jargon-full, impossible to understand titles of humanities papers does not mean the system does not work. (a) don't forget that there's a lot more to academia than the humanities and (b) it's not reasonable for you to expect to understand cutting-edge research, even Einstein's papers had somewhat obtuse titles, does it mean they were "junk science"?

posted by: assistant prof on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



You know they realized you were meant for bigger and better things. They spared you the prospect of in 35 years, sitting in the faculty library, freeze-dried in your favorite leather chair, arching your eyebrows at someones arcane comments
as the spiraling pipe smoke disappears into the fading sunlight streaming through the window. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

posted by: Slimintosh on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



My intuition tells me that race and gender were factors here. Maybe they were minimal factors, but they were factors nonetheless. It is no doubt easier for women and black PhDs to obtain positions and be awarded tenure in social science departments across the country. (Anyone who doubts this may change their mind after comparing the CVs of academics of tenured black professors at social science departments around the country to the CVs of tenured whites at those same departments.)

Deans and departments nationwide are often under pressure to recruit and promote more women and blacks as faculty. The fact that you are a white male thus does put you at a disadvantage. Sure, the effect might have been very small. But without knowing any facts of the decision, one could speak as a Bayesian and say a priori that the fact that Dan Drezner is not black hurts his chances at promotion at any secondary educational institution. And yes, I believe that is wrong.

posted by: anonymous on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



A side note: As a former University of Chicago undergraduate, I can say that I never got the impression that teaching was anything other than a top priority for the faculty. Since enrolling elsewhere as a graduate student, I've discovered that I can actually bring a Harvard alum to tears with my accounts of interest, concern, and respect in the vast majority of Chicago classrooms...

Another side note: it may well be easier to get tenure as a black woman. However, that hardly makes up for the difficulty of attaining the necessary academic credentials under the same circumstances! Everyone's heard the horror stories. Statistically, I'm sure it evens out.

posted by: r.a.s. on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



I don't see how dissing academia helps Dan. In fact, it insults Dan. He obviously feels that academia is important and worthwhile and he was a big cheerleader for Chicago. He was just misinformed about Chicago's willingness to keep him. Until he says otherwise, snarky remarks about ivory towers are just attacks on Dan's values and preferences.

As for teaching, none of the top departments cares about teaching. At most, the constraint is that you not be abysmal unless you're likely to win the Nobel. At one Ivy I visited -- and received a job offer from -- one senior prof said, "Not only do we not care about teaching, but if you teach too well, we will probably hold that against you."

posted by: moroz on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



As an acquaintance of Dan from when my husband was working towards his Sociology doctorate at UChicago, I have been lurking in the comments section and observing with much admiration the sympathy, support, and good cheer hundreds have expressed in the past week. But this comment has yanked me out of the shadows:

My intuition tells me that race and gender were factors here...

Anonymous: Invoking your "intuition" to put forward a claim that institutional affirmative action damaged Drezner's career does not substitute for empirical proof. How do you know it is easier for women and black social scientists than for white men to attain tenure: NRC or NORC surveys? Ford Foundation or Spencer Foundation reports? Peer-reviewed articles? And, whether or not your claim can be verified by research, can the alleged practices of a specific department/university (and an elite one, at that) be compared to those of all institutions across the country (public state universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, etc.,)? Finally, since you believe that a comparison of the records of black and white tenured faculty members within the same department would dispel any doubt that Dan was a victim of reverse discrimination, I'll take you up on your invitation: the CV's of Michael Dawson (the author of a celebrated book on Black politics who, after chairing the UChicago Political Science Department and being recruited by Harvard, has returned to UChicago) and Danielle Allen (UChicago Dean of Humanities and the recipient of a MacArthur "genius" grant) shouldn't be difficult to acquire.

In the absence of evidence, your "intuition" is but a heinous stereotype of racial minorities and women as the essential, intellectual inferiors of white men. (BTW: A good Bayesian can acknowledge that not all uncertain variables merit weight.) I can't vouch for Dan's views on race and gender in the academy -- indeed, given his conservatism, I'd rather keep peace within our social network and not ask -- but I'm certain he would not indulge your racist/sexist speculations.

Respectfully,
Elizabeth H. Pisares, Ph.D.

posted by: elizp on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Dear Dr Pisares,

You write:

"I can't vouch for Dan's views on race and gender in the academy -- indeed, given his conservatism, I'd rather keep peace within our social network and not ask -- but I'm certain he would not indulge your racist/sexist speculations."

Here you are implicitly suggesting that conservatism tends to be racist and sexist. It's that type of biased nonsense, conscious or unconscious -and not too surprising from a University of Chicago sociologist- that blackballs conservatives from the academy.

Secondly, your invitation to peruse the CVs of black academics does nothing to dispel the notion of institutional bias in favor of blacks, women, or other minorities, as it is perfectly imaginable that such favoring would have applied throughout their careers, not just come tenure-decision-day. One might call it a sort of institutional 'affirmative action.' Does that ring a bell?

Thirdly, your sounding off about the low validity of intuitions is rather unpersuasive. Most good ideas and research begin as intuition. That is the value of intuition. Nothing more, surely, but nothing less either.

Finally, you seem a bit jumpy in your response, Dr Pisares. Did "anonymous" hit a nerve?

posted by: nosociologist on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



I am barely containing my outrage about the University's actions in this matter. In my own browsing, I came across an inspiring, thoughtful, eclectic blog which had a recent post referring to this event and a range of similarly questionable actions on the part of the University of Chicago. I hope that some of your readers might take a look at this blog: "Solitude and Hope" (http://disembedded.blogspot.com/).

posted by: Patrick Zimmerman on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Dear "nonsociologist,"

It's really a shame that this discussion has degenerated when we should all be singing the praises of Dan, a truly talented and accomplished person. But I do feel compelled to chime in here. As Dr. Pisares' spouse, I'd like to respond to a few things that have been said in the comments:

Here you are implicitly suggesting that conservatism tends to be racist and sexist. It's that type of biased nonsense, conscious or unconscious -and not too surprising from a University of Chicago sociologist- that blackballs conservatives from the academy.

Dr. Pisares said no such thing. She only implied that she and Dan might have some strong political disagreements on race in the academy. Dan is conservative and she is not. Mature adults will admit that they see things from different perspectives. Therefore, it is sometimes better to let sleeping dogs lie.

As her spouse, I can testify that Dr. Pisares thinks very highly of Dan. In our interactions with Dan, he has shown us only warmth, good humor, and respect. He is a real gentleman.

By the way, Dr. Pisares is not a sociologist and did not say so in her post. She said she was married to a sociologist, who would be me.

Secondly, your invitation to peruse the CVs of black academics does nothing to dispel the notion of institutional bias in favor of blacks, women, or other minorities, as it is perfectly imaginable that such favoring would have applied throughout their careers, not just come tenure-decision-day. One might call it a sort of institutional 'affirmative action.' Does that ring a bell?

While it is conceivable that people may receive favorable treatment pre-tenure, it doesn't help in the world of double-blind review. If you look at Dawson's and Allen's CVs, you will see publications in leading journals that employ double-blind review. That means neither author nor reviewer know each other's identities. Yes, it is theoretically possible that Professors Dawson and Allen might have received favorable treatment, but their work has been evaluated in a way to minimize, if not eliminate, such biases.

I should also add that I have served on the editorial boards of two journals and I have served as a grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation. In each of these cases, I can't recall a single instance when a paper or grant was accepted because the applicant was a woman or an ethnic minority. Most of the time, I couldn't identify the persons's race or, if they had a foreign name, gender. When you read dozens of papers and grant proposals, they all start to look alike and you don't care about these things.

If you really cared about race and the academy, you would do exactly as Dr. Pisares indicated: collect data and test hypotheses. Do professors of different races have different CVs? Is there variation in productivity? Unless you do this, you are just spinning your wheels.

When people talk about Blacks getting preferential treatment, I always ask: show me the numbers. Though this is not my area of expertise, I think the following facts are true. About 15% of our nation is black, about 5% of the nation's professors are black,
and about 2.5% of professors in elite schools like Chicago are black. Not evidence in favor of the hypothesis that Blacks are
getting a huge amount of help. There are entire academic disciplines, like Mathematics, where Blacks are practically absent in the professoriate.

My belief is that conservatives focus on a few exceptional cases where Blacks do receive preferential treatment in academic hiring. It happens and it would be dishonest to deny it. However, the average black Ph.D. gets very little help. They face the same uphill battles that other academics face.

Finally, you seem a bit jumpy in your response, Dr Pisares. Did "anonymous" hit a nerve?

I can't speak for Dr. Pisares, but such posts do hit a nerve with minority academics such as myself. Many ethnic minorities are in the constant position of having to justify themselves in ways that others don't have to. I myself had numerous moments in my career where I have had to justify myself while others with fewer accomplishments have been give the permission to pass go and collect $200. Such is life. I can't force people to like me, but at least I can give accurate information about the challenges that people, minorities and non-minorities alike, face in the academy.

Fabio Rojas

posted by: Fabio Rojas on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Plus, without getting too mushy about it, a hug from the one-year old is worth a hell of a lot more than the collective opinion of my tenured colleagues.

It's good to see you have your priorities straight.

Good luck, you'll get it eventually.

posted by: rosignol on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



How about we in this country engage in a conversation about the absurd tenure system which is nothing more than socialist clap trap wrapped in the canard of academmic excellence.

posted by: Joe on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



How about we in this country engage in a conversation about the absurd tenure system which is nothing more than socialist clap trap wrapped in the canard of academic excellence.

posted by: Joe on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



While at it, perhaps we can find out why blog comments areas are implemented so poorly so as to inadvertently allow multiple postings of the same message.

posted by: Joe on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



It seems to me that top-tier schools should pluck top professors from other schools rather than develop them in-house. The other schools are the farm teams for the big powerhouse departments. For junior faculty, it's not really a tenure-track position. Instead, it's a chance to work at a great place with great people and develop a distinct research POV. Unless you're unbelievably great, you get tenure somewhere else, spend 10 yrs becoming the leader in your subfield, and then jump to a tenured position at a major-league school. That's my plan, anyway.

posted by: The Dude on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



@The dude

That has always seemed the best way of doing things to me as well. Harvard works that way. But not all schools do. Many socalled top-tier schools persist in their reputation because of the money they have, not necessarily because of the quality of their people.

posted by: dudette on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



I was somewhat surprised by Dan Drezner's tenure case, but not quite shocked. Sadly, that's just how things work in any top 10 deparment.

Even more 'interesting', apparently that is also how things work in any top 20-25 department. Another political scientist with an apparently very solid publishing record was just denied tenure at Northwestern University (which is probably a top 20 dept).

http://pubweb.northwestern.edu/%7Ejaj347/vitae.pdf

Sadly enough, these two are not the only cases. Which makes me wonder - what did I get into?

posted by: A worried PhD student on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Fabio Rojas writes:

"When people talk about Blacks getting preferential treatment, I always ask: show me the numbers. Though this is not my area of expertise, I think the following facts are true. About 15% of our nation is black, about 5% of the nation's professors are black, and about 2.5% of professors in elite schools like Chicago are black. Not evidence in favor of the hypothesis that Blacks are getting a huge amount of help. There are entire academic disciplines, like Mathematics, where Blacks are practically absent in the professoriate."

What are the stats on the number of qualified black applicants for such positions? Or don't you find that a relevant factor, Professor?

posted by: Patterico on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



I thought social scientists understood the concept of "conditional probability." Apparently not.

Rojas' comments remind me of the OJ Simpson trial: (thought the numbers used here are not likely to be accurate) the chances that a woman is killed by her ex husband in 1 in several million. But, the chances that a woman is killed by her ex husband GIVEN that she's been killed by SOMEONE are 1 in 1.2.
Mr. Rojas seems incapable of understanding that the issue isn't how few minorities are represented in a population, but their relative likelihood of reaching a certain position given that representation.

posted by: anon on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Mr. Rojas didn't claim to prove that there is bias or no bias (positive or negative) w.r.t. black professors. It's not his job to find numbers proving there is no such bias - it's the task of those complaining about such "anti-white" discrimination (U of C should be presumed innocent until proven guilty).

It is true that the fact that blacks are underrepresnted in academy does not by itself prove that they are discrminated against or not enjoy positive discrimination. However, if indeed there are only 2.5% black tenured professors in the U of C, then even if there is 100% discrimination for them, and all of them are unqualified idiots, this could only effect the chances of a non-black such as Dan Drezner by 2.5%

My belief is that elite schools such as U of C do want more minority faculty, but they try to achieve this goal not by hiring unqualified applicants but by working hard
to lure outstanding minority faculty.

posted by: assistant prof on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]



Anyone who has been privy to hiring and promotion decisions in social science departments around the country can see that women and minorities are the beneficiaries of preferential treatment. This is the name of the game with affirmative action. I don't see how this is controversial; affirmative action is normative in social science academia.

The following is a common occurrence. Faculty at well-known departments review the CVs of several job applicants or tenure candidates, one of which is African-American, the other white. Now, people who are not familiar with how the process typically works may believe that black and white applicants tend to have CVs that can be equivalently ranked according to standard criteria. Its unfortunately true that this is usually not the case. Instead, for whatever reason, people evaluating job candidates usually are faced with a more qualified white applicant and a less qualified black applicant. In order to ensure a sufficient number of minority faculty (or minorities), department members must often choose less qualified minority applicants. Obviously, this does not mean that every minority is less qualified than every white. There is merely the tendency for this to be the case. (Some would immediately question, what does it mean to be less qualified? Obviously there is subjectivity here, but there are established standards in political science and other disciplines. E.g. an AJPS or APSR publication would generally receive greater weight than a paper published in a lesser known journal.)

A direct corollary of affirmative action policy is that white applicants (for promotion or hire) are at a disadvantage because of their race relative to minorities. This may be an acceptable downside, given all of the benefits of affirmative action. But we should at least acknowledge this as a cost of affirmative action.

I think I can understand the frustration of Fabio Rojas, who feels as though people may doubt his intellect, and secretly (or not so secretly) suspect that that his success is owed to his ethnicity and not his hard work and intelligence. But I think Rojas's frustration is another negative consequence of affirmative action policies in the academy. Without affirmative action, Rojas would have had the success he has enjoyed, without the downside of the doubts generated by such a policy. In other words, there are psychic costs for AA, often borne by the people AA was intended to help.

AA proponents often argue that AA detractors speak of a pipe dream in advocating "pure meritocracy" because the system is not completely meritocratic, with or without AA, anyway.

Of course not. Meritocracy is something to be strived for, yet never quite fully achieved.

posted by: anonymous on 10.14.05 at 12:00 PM [permalink]






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