Monday, June 09, 2003
I noticed that on June 5th you wrote about my tenure case. The five members of Smith's Grievance Committee have unanimously ruled that 2 members of my dept violated my academic freedom during my tenure review. As a result, I will be coming up for tenure again this coming year.Professor Miller is in the economics department at Smith. He later noted that the original vote for his tenure was 3 in favor, 5 opposed and 1 abstaining, so the two votes that the grievance committee found tainted were decisive.
Your article also mentions that you believe I have had 2 articles in refereed journals. I have had 6 academic articles published or accepted. (I certainly don't blame you for not finding out about all of them.) Before I came up for tenure many many people said that at Smith you need 3-5 articles to get tenure.His resume is offered in support. In it he has an online journal publication which is referreed and forthcoming articles in the American Economist and in Public Budgetting and Finance. And it turns out I've read him before but hadn't made the connection; he writes for Tech Central Station. He's written as well for National Review Online (part of the charge of his heresy against academia, I suppose), the Weekly Standard (ditto), and other media outlets. (I see he was once a blogger, but I don't know if he still is.)
Prof. Miller was kind enough to send his letter to his college's tenure and promotion committee after the department voted to deny tenure. Without going into all the gory details, let me make two general observations.
- If you're going to deny someone tenure, leave a paper trail. It is apparent that Prof. Miller was given every indication that he could make tenure by meeting certain objectives like publication count, teaching performance and service to his college.
I was quite concerned about reappointment in April 2000. I had only one academic article accepted, had given only one academic lecture, and for my initials years at Smith had weak teaching evaluations and enrollments. I realized that the department would have been entirely justified in not renewing me. The department, however, decided to make the best possible case for me and voted 11-0-1, strongly recommending my reappointment. Now, six members are doing the opposite. By every objective criterion�publication number, course evaluations, enrollments, papers presented, amount of service rendered�I qualify for tenure, particularly in light of the April 2000 reappointment letter. [Emphasis in original.]It therefore must have come as a shock that he was denied tenure. There is mention of deparment members being concerned about his "tenure rush" of publications. I understand that concern -- in many departments you will find people who publish and work hard at teaching until they make full professor and then shift their time to more leisurely pursuits. But I agree with Prof. Miller that if the department felt he was of that kind of character, they should have let him go right then and there.
- How does one count non-academic writing? Aside the issue of the content of what he wrote, how does one treat someone who writes for print? Publishes on an online magazine like NRO or TCS? (Or blogs?) Different schools can use different standards, I think, depending on how one values the creation of knowledge versus the dissemination of it. I think it's fair to say that non-academic writing has dissemination as its goal. If one works in a research institution, then perhaps weighting dissemination in non-academic writing very lightly is warranted. And if Smith wishes to see itself as a place where lots of knowledge is created, that is their right. Flipping through their departmental faculty roster, I don't quite see that emphasis, however.
- Newer fields are risky for new faculty.Prof. Miller is concerned about how departmental faculty looked at his fields, game theory and law and economics. Yet when the department hired him, those were his fields. His dissertation committee consisted of two of the biggest names in law and economics -- Judge Richard Posner and William Landes -- and Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, no slouch in game theory. The field has been around since at least
the filiming of "A Beautiful Mind"the 1950s. (A Chicago PhD with those credentials, by the way, is very unlikely to be perceived as a liberal by anyone who reads economics. And I believe Prof. Miller isn't the only Chicago PhD in his department.) And when economists start attacking other economists for "oversimplifying assumptions", you have a pot, a kettle, and some name-calling.