Guess what? My department unanimously voted in favor of my tenure case today. Hooray!!!
To back up a bit, there are four steps to tenure at my university: the department recommendation, an “advisory” committee of faculty from across the university, the university president, and the board of trustees. In practice, the department and the university committee are the two major hurdles: if you have positive recommendations at both of those levels, it is extremely unlikely (though not impossible) that you’d be denied at the president/board level. It makes sense — after all, your department presumably contains the people on campus who know the most about your research and how to evaluate it, while the other faculty are the ones who can look at the big picture of your research, teaching, and service within the broader context of how the university functions, and keep an eye on any shenanigans that your department might be undergoing.
I knew that my department had to make its decision and give its recommendation to the university-level committee by February 15, but I didn’t know when they were going to make the actual vote until this morning. Since I’m still on parental leave, I haven’t been around the department much (I’m currently making trips to campus about twice a week for a couple hours at a time to meet with my thesis students, and that’s about it). This morning I drove to campus to walk our dog while pushing baby L in the stroller (campus is only 3 mi from our house, and it’s a nice place to walk with actual sidewalks, unlike the area around our house which is on a busy road). As I was loading baby, dog, and stroller back into the car at the end of our walk, my department chair walked out to the parking lot, offered to hold the dog’s leash while I juggled baby and stroller, and nonchalantly told me, “Oh, by the way, the department will be meeting to discuss and vote on your tenure case this afternoon. Is it OK if I send you an email about it afterwards?” I was like, “Um, yes, please don’t keep me in suspense!” Then he cooed at the baby and the baby gave him a chubby-cheeked grin that was totally adorable (good job buttering up the chair, baby!).
I mostly managed to keep my mind off of it for the rest of the day — childcare is a great distraction. I picked up S from daycare at 4, and took both kids to our local children’s museum, which was lovely (L fell asleep in the baby carrier on my chest, leaving me free to engage with S). But as soon as my husband finished working and my kid-juggling responsibilities eased up, I was glued to my phone waiting for the email, which came in around 6:30pm. It was short, just informing me that the department had voted 3-0-0 in favor of my case, saying congratulations, and reminding me that the university committee was the next step. Phew!!! I immediately decided to take the big kid out for ice cream to celebrate while my husband put the baby down for his last nap of the day (and yes, we brought ice cream home for my husband). I texted my mom and three friends to let them know the news, and enjoyed the congratulations rolling in. It sounds like the celebration will drag out a bit, since one friend offered to bring dessert by this weekend to help celebrate, and another wants to celebrate next weekend — since my birthday falls in the middle of the two weekends, I find this a most desirable state of affairs!
So, that’s the news! As I’ve mentioned before, tenure has been this big heavy weight hanging over my head, and it’s such a relief to have successfully cleared the first hurdle. Please send good vibes to the university tenure committee, which will meet to evaluate my case sometime in the next couple of months!