Why then, do so many of us want tenure? Security, of course, but also because tenure is the ultimate symbol of inclusion in our profession. It may be fun playing the radical for a while, but ultimately we do all want some form of professional acceptance. Tenure is a way for many departments to claim someone (both their research, writing, and supposedly their teaching skills) as one of their own. They like you so much, the reasoning goes, they now want to keep you forever. Much of the innovative and obviously important ideas talked about at the Computers and Writing Conference would count for very little at tenure time in many universities. For many of us, if we want to receive tenure (and the acceptance that accompanies it) we must often discard most of our ideals about being good writing teachers, while also striving to stay within the confines of traditional English scholarship in our attempts to be taken seriously. Ultimately teaching writing and using computers to do it may be interesting and fun, but it very often doesn't have anything to do with tenure.
At the very least, tenure requirements need to be thoroughly re-examined to see if they even come close to approaching the goals and overall intentions of a "public" educational institution. If providing an innovative way to teach an entire student body how to communicate intelligently through written discourse (by using in-class and on-line collaboration) is not considered worthy of tenure, then something is seriously amiss with the goals of a so-called "educational" institution.
Again and again, both in presentations and in after-hours conversations, the refrain continued to arise -- "Yes, all this stuff is interesting, but my department doesn't really support any of it when it comes to tenure." When applied conscientiously and over a long period of time, computers and computer networks can be one of the best ways to teach students how to write, how to read, and how to think in a careful and logical manner. We all know this, but we still have yet to "prove" this to our departments -- and until we do, tenure is going to remain an elusive goal for many of us.
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