Monday, June 09, 2003

Much more on a tenure case 

As I noted on June 5th, there was a tenure case at Smith College that had several bloggers wondering if the academic freedom of the faculty member denied tenure was violated. On the sixth, Erin O'Connor wrote that the college's grievance committee had found evidence of violation of academic freedom and overturned the tenure decision. Last night the Scholars received two letters from Prof. James Miller, the faculty member up for tenure.
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.

The problem, in my opinion, is that the field of economics has become sufficiently specialized (I don't want to use the word "arcane", but you might) that a department that wanted to deny tenure to someone who was "uncollegial" or NOKD ("not our kind, dear") could easily create the type of denial recommendation that befell Miller. It would be true as well in the natural sciences, but there the rules of what is research and what is not are clear, and the march of political correctness goes through worse slop than Funny Cide did. You find you need to rely on the department recommendation because creating an independent assessment takes one out of one's own expertise -- many faculty tell me how poorly they did in economics, which unfortunately doesn't stop them from telling me how bad an idea tax cuts are. So it is hard to fact-check an economics department tenure and promotion committee's ass. In the case of Miller, the grievance committee interviewed every member of his department who voted on tenure. A tip of the cap to them; I doubt this happens most other places.

UPDATE:Andrew Sullivan takes up the case today, and gets the follow-up from Miller as well. No credit given to us or Critical Mass?