Tenure and Technology: New Values, New Guidelines

A Precis of Previous Work

This document is a summary of and commentary on the contents of a document on online activity and tenure and promotion created by Traci Gardner located at http://www.daedalus.com/promo/promo.html

Discussion on Rhetnet-L, 8 June to 30 June 1995

Discussion topics include the question of where we put online activities on our vitae--where the responses range from, `we create new vita categories' to `we don't put the chat outside the conference session--or even attendance at a conference--on a vita; why include participation in a listserv?'

Another topic is the question of who decides value? Ah! The gatekeepers. But what is the relationship between the value system that the gatekeepers are using and the ways in which the online community awards value to online activities? And shouldn't the standards of the online community be the standards that the gatekeepers are using to evaluate online work?

Mike Keene talks very articulately about how we have to re-theorize our understanding of the process of `discovery' that makes up most of what we do online; he also addresses how to put online work on the CV and talks about the nature of gatekeeping.

Is online discussion different or the same as scholarly chat in the halls or the discussion in a conference session? Some say it is the same and so is not ot be evaluated as `significant' scholarly work; some say it is qualitatively different. I've yet, though, to see someone show how. I tend to agree that it is different; it's something more like keeping current with the field by actually talking to the authors and practitioners on a daily basis, rather than reading their work in the print journals. But how do you show your participation, short of transcripts? And how do you show that your participation has particular value as substantive academic work? Everyone has an academic creative process; what makes the process you go through in collaborating with colleagues online, or participating in a discussion on line, or reading a discussion online, more valuable than the process anyone else goes through sitting in the quiet privacy of their own office? Afterall, no one gets tenure credit for that off-line process. Why should one get credit for the same process if it's done online?

As one response, Marcy Bauman says

Let's not forget that reading and posting thoughtfully all take time, too; you can toss off comments at dinner but tossing off comments here takes a substantially larger investment than that. Tracking a discussion for days or weeks really does require commitment.

Susan Halter offered an analysis different from any that preceded in the the thread:

I haven't done a cv in a while, and attendance at a conference or symposium . . . isn't something I would think of putting on it . . . . I *will* include [my attendance at cwc95-l] in my annual self-evaluation list of accomplishments and in my next application for promotion . . . . I believe that in many ways my attendance on-line was more valuable than many conferences I've attended in person--both are good, but they seem to serve different purposes for me. I got a real education in using computers to teach writing--not just a quick glimpse at what a few people are doing. That's not to put down f2f conferences--just to indicate that this was at least equally valuable to me, hence to my school, and so deserves at least equal consideration in evaluation and promotion.
That last point about evaluation and promotion is significant: it is easier to make the case for participation in an online discussion as faculty development than perhaps anything else.

Paul LeBlanc very clearly makes the point that the burden of innovative work in computers and teaching, writing, and scholarship falls heavily on the shoulders of graduate students. As an "amphibian"--one who has worked successfully in both traditional and online areas--he points out the hypocrisy of the C&W community in pushing graduate students to do work that they will get no credit for under traditional criteria.

Marcy Bauman says

We really need to decide value among ourselves before we try to convince "outsiders." It's not simply a matter of convincing some potentially hostile Other that we're worthy; it's also a matter of figuring out why we value the folks whose work we admire. It's also a matter of explaining what's good about what we do just to ourselves, too. It's a matter of -- dare I say it? -- celebrating and admiring our own community's good stuff.
Eric Crump articulates a path we might follow in revising how we `referee' online work, especially discussion: we may have to develop an approach to "ex post facto refereeing in order to determine the quality of our work and whether it is "substantial effort in scholarly, professional, community and educational work."

The Fifth C: Computers, Special Interest Group Session CCCC, Milwaukee, 29 March 1996, 6:00 to 7:00 PM

Here, Rickly and Gardener make the case that the whole discussion of how work with technology is valued and evaluated should not just include what we conventionally mean by tenure and promotion, but should also include all aspects of "how work with technology influences (or should) academic and institutional privilege and recognition"--from who gets travel money and gets to teach the good courses to how student work with technology will be graded.

The Wyoming Session Report

This page is the crux of the work done at the Wyoming Conference. It includes a list of "responses to the overall question of what work with technology should be valued and how it should be evaluated."

Their responses are placed under the following headings:

  1. Create an accreditation and consulting program, modeled on the WPA Consulting programs
  2. Focus attention on work with computers and writing as applied research--applying research to teaching: this idea is typically alien to literature and composition studies but is a mainstay of social science research
  3. Work in standard-setting has to be consistent and inclusive: "For example, an institution's acceptance of a dissertation on CD-ROM should come to bear on the acceptance of a professor's publication on CD-ROM."
  4. Develop links between the economic value of the work and its value for promotion and tenure purposes: e.g. work that brings grant money into the institution should be valued in terms of that money.
  5. Create evaluative paradigms which explain "foreign" work by analogy to traditional scholarship: basically the line that Seth's department is taking--but these folks point out that we have to be able to state how MOO activity is different from attending a conference; they also note that online activity is more easily documented than conference participation (but again, who's going to actually read MOO transcripts?).
  6. Propose and encourage a system to document work with technology for those in the field: keep a log.
  7. Recommend the local establishment of specific job descriptions which include work with technology.