Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Help Your Provost Help You During Promotion And Tenure Decisions

Nancy B. Rapoport (UNLV; Google Scholar), Help Your Provost Help You During Promotion and Tenure Decisions, 24 The Green Bag 83 (2020):

This short essay discusses how law school faculty members can help make the case for their tenure and promotion when it comes to university-level review.

In addition to not having a traditional peer-review process, and not having to place articles serially, law professors are generally among the highest-paid members of academia, and they generally teach fewer courses per year than their colleagues in other disciplines. If “know your judge” is the first commandment of litigators, then “know your colleagues” should be the first commandment of those preparing their promotion and tenure dossiers. No one on a university P&T committee intends to be biased against those of us in law schools who might have it easier, but you can imagine the dynamic that can occur when the law school member of the university P&T committee starts off explaining the students-pick-our-scholarship process to someone who has to publish entire books and who is teaching a 3-3 or 4-4 load while paying off educational debt with his or her much smaller salary. It’s better to anticipate objections to the way that law schools evaluate scholarship than it is to wing an explanation during the committee’s deliberations.

One more thought, though: if we really believe that scholarship exists to extend what is “known” about a field, then what should matter far more than where a piece is published is whether anyone has read the piece. There are metrics that can help establish that a work is important in the eyes of those in that discipline. Those metrics aren’t perfect, though. There could be three reasons that people respond to a publication: (1) it’s good; (2) it’s bad, and they want to call out just which parts of it are bad; or (3) it has a catchy title. But if no one in a field is reading a particular piece of scholarship, does it really matter in which journal the scholarship has been published? The issue of a paper’s reach is a topic for another day, but it is time to rethink why we care about scholarship and what best demonstrates that someone’s work should matter.

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