*************Update: Kiese Laymon was awarded tenure*************
Vassar: A Question of Documentation and Process
Kiese Laymon is an assistant professor at Vassar who has written a post on his blog Cold Drank about his tenure review. Colleges and universities have tenure processes developed by the administration in consultation with the faculty and, when applicable, through negotiations with the union. Each institution handles the process in slightly different ways. At Vassar, candidates are reviewed twice before a final tenure review. According to Laymon’s blog post, his department voted 15 to 1 to award him tenure. The next stage of the review with the Faculty Appointments and Salary Committee (FASC) is where things get complicated…
A few weeks ago, Vassar’s Faculty Appointments and Salary Committee (FASC) recused itself from my tenure case. As rumors of my “bullying President Hill to get FASC off of my tenure case” limp around campus, I figured I should make it clear what my responses to FASC have been.
In February, FASC (The Faculty Appointments and Salary Committee) made the unprecedented request of asking for “documentation” on one of my unredacted book contracts, though they had proof of a contract. After giving them the contract, I wrote the following email…
The details he shares are troubling, and a few things about his post set off my “unwritten” alarm. Why would the committee request additional information when a candidate has provided documented evidence that he has fulfilled all of the terms of the contract? Is this common practice? Why was the evidence that was acceptable in his fourth-year review not sufficient for his tenure review?
What happened between the fourth-year review and the moment he recounts in his blog?
I don’t want to put Laymon on trial, and no one else who is not part of his tenure process should either. I also don’t want to put Vassar on trial (as if such a thing were even possible), but my alarm bells are ringing. I’ve heard versions of the “documentation request” too many times.
To be clear, I think institutions are right to confirm the claims of faculty members, but the question I’ve been asking myself for the last two weeks is whether or not Laymon is being subject to additional scrutiny because he’s African-American and/or because he works in a field that is not yet comfortably within the academic tradition. When challenged by Laymon, the FASC recused itself from his tenure review. I’m curious to know if it is common practice for a committee comprised of faculty members to opt out of the tenure review process.
So, I’ll be following this case (I hear it may end well for him). The institution has put teeth behind it’s diversity goals by hiring a significant number of faculty of color, but, as everyone in the academy knows, hiring and tenuring are two very different things.