We’ve mentioned that we are untenured women (who are also bitches), which means we spend a good deal of time ruminating on the best strategies for making sure we get tenure when the time comes. We’ve seen too many of our colleagues (many women, but of course, men too!) be denied tenure. Sometimes the reasons seem relatively clear-cut: at the R1 university, three publications in six years won’t cut it. At the SLAC, failure to demonstrate enough service via committee participation or undergraduate research. All the usual suspects.
We’ve also seen some sort of arbitrary reasons for tenure denial. Crazy deans on power trips. “Too many publications” (I didn’t know that was real). Departments that don’t consider certain subfields to be worthwhile (I don’t even mean just gender stuff, either. Try being a Ukrainian elections person, or in some places, a political theorist). Then the truly whacko reasons, like “took time off to have a baby” or “didn’t like his wife, who teaches in the German department.”
But we must all play to our strengths, and the tenure process is long and difficult. And, because we’re not just Bitches but also Extremely Nerdy Bitches, we’ve provided some strategies for your success*, based on your Hogwarts House.
There are people who might say that Ravenclaws are most well suited to academia, and those people might actually be onto something. If you’re a Ravenclaw, you’ve got a brilliant take on your topic, and your work is novel and insightful. Even if you’ve chosen an obscure subfield, your groundbreaking methods and theory transcend the substantive choice. Publish a lot. Publish really good stuff. Publish in great journals, but publish in mediocre ones too, because even your mediocre work is more well written and better political science than everyone else’s best. Get a bunch of grants, give a TON of invited lectures, maybe start a web series about your little corner of political science. Then, just watch the votes roll in.
So, your work isn’t always brilliant. You won’t be willing any Nobel prizes any time soon. But you’re competent, and best of all, you’ve got a knack for strategy. Pick the field not that interests you the most, but that is the most up-and-coming and sexiest. Write about experiments or social media or something. Make friends with the Dean and with the people in your department who “matter.” Your Slytherin skills should help you identify which those are. Have a backup plan ready to go: maybe a cushy administrative job in reserve. Spend your time claiming just the right amount of credit (not TOO much) for being on just the right university committees (but not ALL of them). Then, if all else fails, Imperius the committee into voting for you.
Never forget that Cedric Diggory was a Hufflepuff, and he… well, he died at the end of the TriWizard Tournament, but let’s not talk about that right now. If you’re a Hufflepuff, do what you do best. Be nice. Teach well. Get amazing evaluations, advise grad students and make sure they put out their best work. Keep your colleagues happy by asking a few thoughtful questions at faculty meetings and always voting with the majority. Never rock the boat, and publish in some lower end peer reviewed journals where you’re likely to get accepted, even though they don’t have the impact scores. At the end of the day, maybe people will feel too guilty to vote no.
There are the Slytherins, who play the game, and there are the Gryffindors, who fight the system. Go ahead. Take on Gender and Politics as your primary area of research. And when the department questions your research agenda, call them on their bull shit. In valiant and eloquent terms, tell them why your research matters, and why equity in political science is so important. Make friends, but stand up for yourself. Don’t let anyone walk all over you at faculty meetings. You probably see the Slytherins as betraying your discipline. Maybe they are (isn’t that a Slytherin quality?) so make up for it by pushing for what’s right! Now, you’d better have some publications and service on your record (Faculty Senate seems right for you), because all this fighting for what’s right might leave you a bit unpopular on the collegiality scale, but the discipline is counting on your courage and tenacity. Pave the way for future scholars! For Godric Gryffindor!!
*Remember, we don’t even have tenure. We have no idea how to actually succeed at this.