At the 2021 SPSP Annual Convention earlier this year, the Early Career Committee hosted a Professional Development Session entitled, “Navigating Promotion and Tenure in the Time of COVID-19.” We were joined by Kristin Dukes, Dean of Institutional Diversity at Allegheny College; Ying-yi Hong, Professor of Marketing at The Chinese University of Hong Kong Business School; Fiona Lee, Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion & Professional Development at University of Michigan; and Daniel McIntosh, Dean of College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at University of Denver.
The panelists provided invaluable insights for building a promotion or tenure dossier considering the challenges of the past few years, as well as advocating for yourself as an early career faculty member. A primary goal of this panel was to derive insights that were applicable to a variety of professional positions from tenure-track to non-tenure track in the United States to international lecturer positions to positions in departments other than psychology. Some of the most valuable highlights are listed below:
We opened the session by asking panelists to share some of the accommodations that have been made by their universities. Key takeaways include:
- At least two institutions are not requiring teaching evaluations from this past year.
- Most schools are providing a one-year (optional) extension for promotion and tenure using various models.
- One challenge is that research accommodations differ depending on the research area. Michigan created a response team to monitor unpredictable challenges and make adaptive accommodations.
- At least one university is providing a retroactive raise if you choose to take the extension so that there is not a financial cost to taking an extension.
- Another accommodation has been to train tenure and promotion committees on the impact of COVID.
- Finally, the panelists recommended talking to people at other institutions to learn about COVID accommodations at their institutions.
An important takeaway from the session was the advice to tell your authentic story in your dossier, including the impact of COVID. Some schools have incorporated optional COVID statements into their review packet. These statements could include the following: disruptions to work-related travel, how have you been able to pivot research and teaching, how have you not been able to pivot research and teaching. Panelists recommended being very clear about the impact of COVID at the professional level (e.g., extra help for students, impact on research topics) while noting the disparate impact on different populations. For example, additional caretaking responsibilities that disproportionately fall on women and the other pandemic occurring at the same time around systemic racism.
The panelists also discussed the challenges of deciding how much personal information you want to include in these statements and recommended considering whether there are unintended consequences of sharing certain challenges. With that in mind, Kirstin Dukes noted that, “nobody should be ashamed of how strongly they dealt with adversity, those are the things we should be championing [...] if you have to hide your story at an institution, then maybe that’s not the institution for you, if this place cannot value who I am and what I bring to the table under the worst conditions then maybe this isn’t where I need to be. Tenure isn’t a one-way street, this is a marriage, this is a courtship between you as a candidate and the institution. You have agency, you have power, you don’t have to just accept what is given to you, if you’re in a situation and you do the gut check and feel like that institution does not align with who you are authentically as a scholar or educator, then maybe it is not the place you want to be with for your life. There are other places that will be happy to bring you into the fold.”
In addition to COVID statements, the panelists noted the importance of training Tenure and Promotion committees, hiring committees, the board, and upper-level administration on the impact of COVID and other issues on our historically marginalized faculty.
As a response to questions submitted by SPSP members prior to the session, there was an extensive conversation on advocating for yourself. Some of the recommendations from the panelists were to start with the department chair and affinity groups, as well as your institution’s Human Resources Offices and Faculty Senate (or other governing bodies). Additionally, look into ADA accommodations for health and safety concerns surrounding COVID and familiarize yourself with your protections.
One excellent suggestion for preparing for difficult conversations was to practice talking to your department chairs and advocating for yourself with trusted external people (e.g., mentors, peers).
Daniel had the following thoughts about how to best advocate for yourself with department chairs and administrators, “[say] here’s what I need to do what you hired me to do [...] the institution has a stake in you succeeding [...] as a person on the ground doing the work doing the work of the institution, here’s what I can tell you is important for those of us doing the work of the institution. That’s another really compelling way to move forward where your interests are aligned in ways that those with access to resources can see.”
Fiona offered the following perspective on the importance of telling department chairs what you need, “you might think that your chairs know what you’re going through and let me tell you, they don’t know your everyday what you need for your research and teaching. They don’t know how to deal with tenure and promotion in equitable ways because they don’t know the details [...] speak up and let people know what you’re dealing with, what you need, and where the gaps are. You just need to advocate for yourself, your situation is unique, and nobody can intuit the support you need.”
Ying-yi spoke in a similar vein about the role of faculty in making administrators aware of challenges in order to figure out the best solutions, “people in administration are learning too. This is an unprecedented time and they may not have thought through all angles. By talking to them, you are educating them and helping them figure out the best procedures”
The panelists agreed that the pandemic has created an opportunity for us as a field to rethink how people are evaluated for tenure and promotion. Specifically, rather than lowering the standards, it’s important to broaden the standards to include the things we value beyond teaching, research, and service (e.g., doing work to create more equitable spaces), but haven’t previously measured. A silver lining is that the pandemic has encouraged people to be more creative and adaptive in learning new skills, new data collection techniques, and new ways to think about impactful work.
Kirstin shared some excellent insights on the topic of shifting standards saying, if not now, then when should we change the standards? She argued that it is important to think about how the impact affects different populations in different ways and noted that our model in higher ed is changing with demographic changes. Additionally, people are experiencing dual pandemics with systemic racism and COVID, and now is the time for institutions to look at tenure and promotion standards to talk about equity to include things like qualitative and quantitative teaching evaluations, as well as recognition of the invisible labor of BIPOC faculty to just support students in this moment. Finally, Kristin noted that tenured faculty need to push to make this better for folks coming through the pipeline.
Fiona added that this is a great opportunity to recognize activities that we haven’t previously recognized (e.g., invisible labor), and that faculty should tell administrators about the impact of COVID, and the things you do to support students, faculty, and staff that need help at this time.
Finally, there was a conversation about the shifting needs in where social psychology is needed in society right now. Within SPSP and publishing, it is important to think about what types of publications are going to be most impactful. Kirstin argued that we as a society set the standards for what counts as a high impact study, and we can change this.
We are so thankful to the panelists for their time, attendees for their thoughtful questions, and the Early Career Committee for their support in developing this session. If you are interested in diving deeper, the link to the full session is available here.