Andrea Smith denied tenure

Brownfemipower has taken the lead on reporting the story of Andrea Smith’s denial of tenure at the University of Michigan. Read here and here, and see the report in the Chronicle of Higher Ed here.

It’s a strange case. Smith had been given a joint appointment in American Studies and Women’s Studies at the Ann Arbor campus; ’twas the latter department that nixed her promotion while the former supported her tenure cause. She’s also the director of the campus Native American Studies Center. Few of us are privy to the details of her file, and the Women’s Studies department at Michigan has not commented on why it has denied Smith tenure. But to those of us familiar with Smith’s published work, the decision is inexplicable. Her book Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide is a master-work of both advocacy and feminist scholarship, and is used in women’s studies courses across the country. (It’s on the short list of books I’m considering rotating in to my women’s history syllabus).

At research universities, the proven ability to publish is a critical part of getting tenure. So many assistant professors struggle to get anything notable into print; Smith has already done so by producing a text that is not just interesting but fundamentally ground-breaking. She’s got another book coming up: Native Americans and the Christian Right, which is available for pre-order.

Of course, being able to publish is not the only prerequisite for tenure. Teaching counts for something, even at mammoth state institutions. But the statement released by faculty and students at Michigan (available here, in PDF format) makes it clear that Andrea Smith has immense talents as a teacher and mentor. Her students and colleagues are asking that letters in support of her tenure case (which has been appealed) be sent to

* Teresa Sullivan, Provost and Executive VP for Academic Affairs, LSA, tsull@umich.edu
* Lester Monts, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, LSA, lmonts@umich.edu
* Mary Sue Coleman, President, PresOff@umich.edu
* TenureForAndreaSmith@gmail.com

Anyone who reads the feminist blogosphere is aware that the most painful struggle of the past year, played out in so many places, is over the issue of the intersection of racism and sex. A number of prominent women of color have written, time and again, of feeling marginalized or ignored by white feminists. Whatever your feelings on the issue of race, gender, and intersectionality, it’s disastrous PR to have the Smith denial come at the hands of the Michigan Women’s Studies department. To a community of activist women of color, many of whom are already suspicious of the bona fides of white feminists, the Smith decision can only serve to increase a sense of cynicism about the prospects for real inclusion.

I’ve never met Andrea Smith or heard her lecture. I wouldn’t recognize her on the street. But I’ve read her work and been galvanized by it. I’ve chatted with people who have worked with her and heard her speak at conferences. Anecodotally, everyone I’ve heard from says she’s not merely a competent and inspiring teacher, she’s an extraordinary one. Her more than one-dozen published, peer-reviewed essays, her edited anthologies, and above all, her first masterwork “Conquest“, are building blocks of a tenure file that would put those of virtually any other junior scholar to shame. The Women’s Studies department at Michigan surely has its reasons, but until it makes those reasons clear, the shock and anger and alienation generated by their denial of tenure to Andrea Smith will continue to spread. And that’s bad news for all feminists.

And here’s hoping that if Michigan doesn’t come to its senses, someone else (are you listening, USC?) makes a nice offer. Soon.

0 thoughts on “Andrea Smith denied tenure

  1. While I hate to see anyone lose their job, it’s important to remember that tenure is not a matter of right or entitlement. Regardless of how one spins it, granting or denying tenure to a faculty member is an employment issue.

    Less than a week ago, you expressed your displeasure at an outsider’s attempt to interfere with your employment. Yet, in this blog post, you seem to be encouraging your readers to do exactly the same thing by posting the names and e-mail addresses of administrators at the University of Michigan here. I’m trying to make sense of those seemingly contradictory positions. Why is outside interference in employment matters acceptable in some cases but not in others?

    The University of Michigan and its women’s studies department do not owe any third party an explanation for their decision. To offer explanations, without Dr. Smith’s consent, would violate her privacy. Tenure is not a popularity contest. I would be very surprised if the tenure committee and the women’s studies department had not already considered Dr. Smith’s popularity and esteem among her students.

    It may help to remember that the university was considering giving a guarantee of lifetime employment to Dr. Smith. If they made a poor choice, they, rather than all of the bloggers and e-mailers who are getting so worked up, would have to live with it for decades. It is not for third parties to try to insert themselves into the process and cry, “Foul!” The department and the university obviously thought that Dr. Smith would not be an acceptable candidate for lifetime employment, so who are all these outsiders to second-guess the decision?

    Hopefully, Dr. Smith will find gainful employment at another institution.

  2. Warren, I’m dumbfounded by the comparison between an anonymous attempt to get someone fired and a public campaign to reconsider someone’s tenure appeal. And public institutions DO owe the public who pay their salaries some degree of explanation.

    By the way, if I were actually guilty of some professonal malfeasance, then a member of the public would be perfectly entitled to contact the HR department at my college to complain. My blogging doesn’t constitute that kind of wrongdoing, but I am not automatically against public attempts to influence these sorts of decisions when there are legal and justifiable grounds to do so.

    Throughout academic history, tenure decisions have been influenced by politics, by personal agendas, and by bigotry. Those of us who are familiar with the tenure process, and familiar with Andrea Smith’s work, are eager for an explanation of a decision made by a public entity which we find mystifying. There is no threat to the administrators and tenured faculty involved; merely a polite request to reconsider.

  3. Warren, I’m dumbfounded by the comparison between an anonymous attempt to get someone fired and a public campaign to reconsider someone’s tenure appeal.

    It’s hard to see the inconsistency of our positions sometimes.

    And public institutions DO owe the public who pay their salaries some degree of explanation.

    You work for a public institution, don’t you? Should your employer make the details of your employment file public? It’s the same sort of thing. Unfortunately, to me, it seems that the people who are raising the greatest fuss about this affair are viewing Dr. Smith as an object that is convenient for advancing their own agendas, rather than a human being who deserves respect and fair treatment.

    By the way, if I were actually guilty of some professonal malfeasance, then a member of the public would be perfectly entitled to contact the HR department at my college to complain.

    Since you have already admitted such on your blog (e.g., inappropriate relationships with female students), I don’t see how you can complain that someone has complained to your HR department.

    My blogging doesn’t constitute that kind of wrongdoing, but I am not automatically against public attempts to influence these sorts of decisions when there are legal and justifiable grounds to do so.

    Lots of words, but still pretty obvious waffling.

    Throughout academic history, tenure decisions have been influenced by politics, by personal agendas, and by bigotry.

    In other words, it’s just like any other employment selection process.

    The funny thing about this incident is that all of you women’s studies types are undermining any credibility the U of M’s women’s studies department might have. What happened to the sisterhood??

    Those of us who are familiar with the tenure process, and familiar with Andrea Smith’s work, are eager for an explanation of a decision made by a public entity which we find mystifying. There is no threat to the administrators and tenured faculty involved; merely a polite request to reconsider.

    And you’re not entitled to any of it any more than the general public is entitled to confidential information in your own employment file at PCC.

  4. Warren:

    Hugo’s position has absolutely no inconsistency.

    In the case of Andrea Smith, hiring and tenure decisions at a university do not simply depend on the whims, or the prejudices, of the decision-makers involved. Other faculty, other scholars, students, alumni, and the public all have legitimate interests at play, and therefore the right (if not the duty) to question decisions that appear inexplicable, in the course of encouraging the best decisions made.

    The attempt to get Hugo fired for what he wrote, by contrast, involves a betrayal of the trust that makes a public forum for discussion, such as the Internet, possible. The objection to the conduct Hugo described, that of sending a letter to his employer, has nothing to do with the “private” nature of hiring and firing decisions. It has to do with the principle that in a marketplace of ideas, you put your best argument forward, yo convince everyone who will find your argument convincing, and you leave it at that. You don’t mount sneak attacks on a person’s reputation or employment; you don’t waste countless people’s time trying to get by back-stabbing what you cannot win in open discussion. The analogy you posit here simply does not exist.

  5. I neglected this earlier.

    Warren wrote:

    The funny thing about this incident is that all of you women’s studies types are undermining any credibility the U of M’s women’s studies department might have. What happened to the sisterhood??

    I don’t for a minute believe that Hugo would confuse himself with one of the “sisterhood”. However, as an outsider to women’s studies (but also as someone highly aware of the oppression and violence Andrea Smith has apparently written about) I do have this to say: that as an academic discipline, women’s studies has internal contradictions and conflicts o work out, and it no more violates some sense of solidarity to mention that, than it would violate the community of computer scientists to discuss our controversies and contentions.

    To go further, women’s studies ideally aims to inform the pursuit of justice, and therefore issues of justice within the discipline have considerable import. Papering over conflicts concerning justice, privilege, history, and the truth in the name of “sisterhood” would render the field irrelevant.

  6. Warren:

    Hugo’s position has absolutely no inconsistency.

    In the case of Andrea Smith, hiring and tenure decisions at a university do not simply depend on the whims, or the prejudices, of the decision-makers involved. Other faculty, other scholars, students, alumni, and the public all have legitimate interests at play, and therefore the right (if not the duty) to question decisions that appear inexplicable, in the course of encouraging the best decisions made.

    One could argue that all sorts of “other” people have legitimate interests in any employment decision made anywhere. MRAs seem to have just as much an interest in Hugo’s continued employment as all those other individuals and groups have in a university’s tenure and hiring decisions. Therefore, Hugo’s position most definitely is inconsistent.

    The attempt to get Hugo fired for what he wrote, by contrast, involves a betrayal of the trust that makes a public forum for discussion, such as the Internet, possible.

    It is merely an assertion by someone of his or her legitimate interest in Hugo’s continued employment. No matter how you try to distinguish the two situations, the same interests and issues are involved.

    Nor do I see any “betrayal of trust” here. A public forum for discussion may require certain rules of decorum and civility. However, the viability of a public forum does not depend on a right to be immune from all consequences of what one says in that forum.

    The objection to the conduct Hugo described, that of sending a letter to his emploayer, has nothing to do with the “private” nature of hiring and firing decisions. It has to do with the principle that in a marketplace of ideas, you put your best argument forward, yo convince everyone who will find your argument convincing, and you leave it at that.

    Routine personnel matters at universities should likewise not be subject to the hysterical pleas of interest groups that are trying to foist their agendas upon the school, but Hugo has seen fit to post the e-mail addresses of decision makers at the University of Michigan, apparently in an attempt to lobby for a certain viewpoint.

    You don’t mount sneak attacks on a person’s reputation or employment; you don’t waste countless people’s time trying to get by back-stabbing what you cannot win in open discussion. The analogy you posit here simply does not exist.

    The analogy exists, but you refuse to acknowledge it.

    In fairness, I do not know if there was any “sneak attack” or “back-stabbing” here. Was the letter to the administrators of Hugo’s employer signed, identifying the writer? I can’t imagine that such a letter would constitute “back-stabbing,” unless I assume a number of facts that have not been presented here.

    Furthermore, Hugo chose to make his blog and statements public. What he says here may not be relevant to his work or to employment decisions concerning his work. However, that relevance is for Hugo’s employer to decide, should it wish to undertake such an inquiry.

    Hugo balked when outsiders attempted to involve themselves in private matters related to his employment. I agree that such conduct is unseemly, but so is attempting to stick one’s nose into an employment decision made by the University of Michigan with respect to Andrea Smith. Stirring up an Internet-based mob, based on necessarily limited information, because–oh, heavenly G-d, spare us the horror!–a Native American woman was not hired is at least as bad as the “sneak attack” and “back-stabbing” you complained about.

    Face it, this woman does not have a right to a tenured position at the University of Michigan. The women’s studies department, of all departments, voted to deny her tenure. As long as there was no unlawful discrimination against Dr. Smith, such as on the basis of her race, sex, or disability–and she would have legal remedies available to her if there were such discrimination–it is not up to me, you, Hugo, or any of the angst-ridden feminists who are blogging about this incident to stick our noses into it.

    To stick their noses into the matter is highly patronizing toward the women’s studies faculty at the U of M. It’s implying that the outsiders somehow “know better” than the scholars and administrators at the university in this situation. It says that the women’s studies department really is not competent to select its own faculty.

    It’s easy to do that from a distance. After all, the faculty of women’ studies at Michigan would have to work with Dr. Smith. Again, barring some allegation of illegal discrimination in this case–and I haven’t seen any such claim yet–it is not our place to tell them they must hire someone or give her tenure.

    It’s one thing to debate the hiring decision in a public or quasi-public forum such as a blog. (I say “quasi-public” because this is Hugo’s blog; he can decide who posts here and what they post, and that’s how it should be!) However, it is quite another thing to take the step from debate to trying to influence the decision makers on a personnel issue. Hugo rightfully complained when someone did that concerning his employment. Unfortunately, by publishing the e-mail addresses of U of M administrators, he appears to be suggesting that the same kind of behavior is appropriate in the Andrea Smith. (If that’s not what you’re suggesting, Hugo, then you have my apologies for misunderstanding you, but I can’t imagine a reason for posting the administrators’ e-mail addresses unless you intended for people to use them.) That’s the inconsistency of which I complain.

  7. Warren, you can bloviate until the cows come home, but leave the bit about “angst-ridden feminists out.”

    I think John has already made the distinctions I would have made, and you seem to not be hearing him. We see a huge difference, and have explained why; you see no difference. I’m not going down this rabbit hole with you.

  8. I don’t for a minute believe that Hugo would confuse himself with one of the “sisterhood”. However, as an outsider to women’s studies (but also as someone highly aware of the oppression and violence Andrea Smith has apparently written about) I do have this to say: that as an academic discipline, women’s studies has internal contradictions and conflicts o work out, and it no more violates some sense of solidarity to mention that, than it would violate the community of computer scientists to discuss our controversies and contentions.

    To go further, women’s studies ideally aims to inform the pursuit of justice, and therefore issues of justice within the discipline have considerable import. Papering over conflicts concerning justice, privilege, history, and the truth in the name of “sisterhood” would render the field irrelevant.

    I have not suggested that anyone “paper over” anything. The sense of entitlement and arrogance that so many people have over this matter is shocking, to put it mildly. That’s to say nothing of adopting contradictory positions out of convenience.

    If feminists have a right to be heard and considered by the university administrators in Dr. Smith’s case, then MRAs and their supporters have a right to be heard and considered by the university administrators in Dr. Schwyzer’s case. That is because MRA’s have legitimate complaints about justice and men’s issues, so they have a right to object that Dr. Schwyzer’s chair is being occupied by someone who does not share their viewpoints about men’s rights and that his chair should be occupied by someone who is more sensitive to men’s issues.

  9. Warren agrees with the decision because he sees it as a useful stick with which to beat feminism. I agree with the decision because, absent evidence that U of M was motivated by something improper, it was a decision to deny tenure. You’re complaining because you admire her work and wish she was at U of M. I’m not really seeing “but I think she rocks” as proof that Michigan made its decision for venial reasons.

    I mean: are you really saying that the Michigan Women’s Studies department is full of racist morons, otherwise they would have accepted her for tenure?

  10. Warren, if you believe that the following two actions are in any way similar:

    1. Anonymously contacting the HR department to get a professor fired, not for his private or public actions but solely because of his blogging;

    2. Urging public letters of concern to university administrators to reconsider a denial of tenure for a junior professor with an exemplary record of scholarship

    then the gulf in our understanding of how the world works is so vast that I fear no further attempts on your part to explain yourself will do any good whatsoever. And I am concerned that your further comments will simply serve to push a tired old anti-feminist agenda, something in which I have no interest.

  11. Look, Warren, the Internet depends on an implicit trust that when you read something you don’t like, you won’t try to retaliate against the author personally. If everyone did that, then Internet discussion would come to a stop. And since you participate in this discussion (a discussion on the Internet), you sign onto the same agreement that we all do.

    It is merely an assertion by someone of his or her legitimate interest in Hugo’s continued employment.

    But they don’t have such an interest. Nobody has a “legitimate interest” in shutting up people they disagree with. If such a “legitimate interest” existed, then free speech would not.

    …such conduct is unseemly, but so is attempting to stick one’s nose into an employment decision made by the University of Michigan with respect to Andrea Smith.

    The issue has nothing to do with anyone’s nose. It has to do with the basis of our interest. An “interest” in Hugo’s employment by someone who does not like their blog violates the rust on which the internet depends, and thus has no validity. An “interest” in Andrea Smith’s scholarship, on the other hand, reflects a legitimate public value, namely, the promotion of good scholarship.

    The analogy exists, but you refuse to acknowledge it.

    Ok, the analogy exists, but I can (logically) prove it invalid. If everyone upheld good scholarship (as defined by objective accomplishments), good scholars would have more support. If everyone tried to retaliate against people they disagreed with, then either free speech would disappear (a bad outcome), or else millions of complaints, all ignored, would stuff the mailboxes of HR departments and University chairs (not a bad outcome, but a waste of bandwidth).

    If feminists have a right to be heard and considered by the university administrators in Dr. Smith’s case, then MRAs and their supporters have a right to be heard and considered by the university administrators in Dr. Schwyzer’s case.

    OK, first of all, unless you sent the complaint about Hugo to his chair, then you don’t know who did. But whoever did it, they have no legitimate interest. Wanting to retaliate for what someone writes on their blog, or for their words in any context, does not constitute a “legitimate” interest. And that principle holds for everyone: feminists, men’s rights advocates, neo-conservatives and international socialists. The question here does not relate to who does it, but what they do.

  12. You’re complaining because you admire her work and wish she was at U of M. I’m not really seeing “but I think she rocks” as proof that Michigan made its decision for venial reasons.

    Well put Mythago. The commenters at CHE added some additional, non-contemptible reasons for the denial. Serving two potentially competing departments is problematic. Her additional work as the director of the campus Native American Studies Center and focus of her latest research effort perhaps led the Women’s studies folks to conclude a dimmer star shining mainly in their direction is preferable to a brighter star shining only partially their way.

  13. And if that is the reason, it is totally short-sighted. To deny tenure to someone who everyone seems to agree is a “bright star” in her field and who actively mentors women of color, nourishing and encouraging their interest in feminism is really very very shortsighted. I have chosen not to write a letter, because I don’t know Andrea Smith and have not read her work, but no one seems to dispute that she is a leading scholar in her field. It’s bad publicity, it’s bad coalition building, and it’s hard to believe that it doesn’t have some form of prejudice behind it.

    Also, if that were the reason you’d think the University, which surely has the interests of more than just the Women’s Studies department in mind, might reverse the decision, or decline to follow the Womens Studies department’s recommendation. Presumably the University also has an interest in the American Culture program and the Native American Studies Center flourishing.

  14. It’s bad publicity, it’s bad coalition building, and it’s hard to believe that it doesn’t have some form of prejudice behind it.

    So, again, the only possible explanation is that the University of Michigan Women’s Studies Department is racist?

  15. No one said the “only possible explanation.” What I said was more along the lines of “a very plausible explanation that has not yet been refuted in any way.” Again, we are dealing with a person whose scholarship, by all accounts, is first rate. If her scholarship was not first rate, then that would be the most plausible explanation, but since her scholarship is first rate, racism becomes, to me at least, the next most plausible answer.

    And I think we all know that “soft” variables, such as personality or “willingness to contribute to the group” or whatever are highly subject to internal prejudice, conscious or not. Women who take charge are off-putting, men who take charge are seen as good leaders. The same type of subjective evaluation of “soft” variables goes on with race. I would think that’s pretty uncontroversial in this forum. Why wouldn’t one think that’s going on in this situation? Especially since the usual measures associated with tenure, quality of scholarship and teaching, appear to be, in this case, first rate.

  16. Emily,

    CHE = Chronicle of Higher Education.. the link is in Hugo’s original post.

    I think the next most plausible answer is simply an organization looking out for its own interest as opposed to the “collective” interests. John Nash got the Nobel in part for showing that a cooperative outcome, because it is not an equilibrium, is going to be unstable in ways that can make cooperation difficult to maintain, especially in a non-repeating situation. You want the Women’s Studies Department to “take one for the team;” they passed. That decision is not surprising, especially if tenure positions and resources are zero-sum.

    Hugo wrote in a different post that “Though sociology, history, philosophy and literature departments can and should incorporate feminist ideas into their own particular disciplines, doing so doesn’t make the study of sex and society as a primary subject any less vital for the academy and for the global community.” Why shouldn’t the Women’s Studies Department want the same primacy commitment from its professors? Perhaps UM should learn that saying joint appointments are “tenure track” is problematic

  17. Um, how is granting tenure to someone who actively mentors women of color, encouraging and nourishing their interest in feminism, and who writes extensively on the situation of women of color in American and global society “taking one for the team”? Presumably these are goals/interests of the women’s studies department. Would the women’s studies department rather have the Native American Studies Center run by someone who has no background in women’s studies, and no understanding of feminist scholarship? How does that benefit the women’s studies department?

    I don’t see how a woman who appears by all accounts to be a first rate scholar, whose work is focused on analyzing the situation of women of color, and who actively engages women of color students and brings them into the women’s studies department can be denied tenure for not giving her “all” to women’s studies. If that is what they believe, then they have a rather narrow view of women’s studies. And if their view of women’s studies is that narrow, it is probably because of RACE AND CLASS PRIVILEGE.

    If the reason is “not giving your all to women’s studies” that likely comes down to a definition of women’s studies that denies the importance of race/class analysis WITHIN women’s studies. Which is problematic for women of color scholars, for women’s studies generally, and for actual women of color whose experience is denied by women’s studies theories that do not concern themselves with these women’s experiences. Prejudice in the definition of what counts as contributing to women’s studies.

  18. What I said was more along the lines of “a very plausible explanation that has not yet been refuted in any way.”

    So again, we’re assuming the most likely–excuse me, “plausible”–explanation is racism, and we should so assume until the Women’s Studies Department talks us out of it.

    If there’s evidence the department has been racist in the past, that racism was a factor in their decision, or something else other than “well they rejected a woman of color!” I’d be interested to hear it.

  19. They didn’t just reject a woman of color. They rejected a woman of color with excellent credentials in the areas that are usually thought to be important to tenure – scholarship, teaching and service (I did go read the CHE article); a woman of color who appears (to me, from what I’ve heard at this point) to be a leader in her field. If you can show me that other people with these excellent credentials who are leaders in their field have also been denied tenure at UM, and that at UM other variables are more important, then racism becomes less plausible as a reason.

    I am basing my plausibility analysis on an assumption that scholarship, service and teaching are the usual variables considered for tenure, and that people who have excellent records in those areas are generally recommended for tenure, and that Dr. Smith has an excellent record with respect to scholarship, service and teaching. If you have a problem with any of those assumptions, please let me know which.

    I further assume that “soft” variables such as “does not play well with others” or “doesn’t express dissent properly” or other possible explanations for the tenure decision are likely to be influenced by unconsious prejudices (with respect to race, or with respect to anti-establishmentarianism, which also tends to correlate with not being a member of the establishment, which correlates with being a member of a group that has previously been excluded from the establishment).

    So, I am not suggesting it’s explicit racism – we don’t want a woman of color. Certainly not. But “we don’t want someone who spends all her time on women of color issues” or “we don’t want someone who brings rancor to the group” or “we don’t want someone who challenges our pet theories” or whatever it may be, are all, to my mind, suspect in that they are likely to be based on race and class privilege/prejudice.

  20. ““we don’t want someone who challenges our pet theories” or whatever it may be, are all, to my mind, suspect in that they are likely to be based on race and class privilege/prejudice.”

    That’s a huge leap of logic. From the looks of the Michigan Women’s Studies website, almost half of the professors are women of color, and there’s plenty of attention to race and class in their scholarship. In fact, the two books highlighted on their webpage are by women of color about nationality/race issues: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/women/

    What’s much more likely than racism is that the Women’s Studies department undervalues Dr. Smith’s non-scholarly contributions (activism and mentoring students). That’s a problem with all of academia that has nothing to do with race — as any student who’s sat through a semester with a brilliant, asshole, tenured professor who obviously hates students can tell you.

  21. I only went throught the “Faculty – Budgeted” list on the UM Women’s Studies website (and I really don’t know what the difference between budgeted and not budgeted is, but I have to start actually working, so I didn’t go through the second list). There are many women of color. NONE of them, as far as I can tell, are tenured. I clicked on every single one, and all of the women titled “professor” not “assistant” or “associate” appeared to be white. Of course, ethnicity is not always immediately apparent, and one professor did not have a picture on the website, but the number of women of color is not as significant as the number of TENURED women of color.

    Unless I am incorrect and junior faculty get to vote on tenure (possible, though not how I thought it was done).

  22. Two points:

    1) Dealing with racism, no less than with ableism, involves accommodations

    The argument that because a department applies a policy or action to faculty generally identified as “white”, we ought not to identify that policy as having a racist effect only works if we accept the mainstream culture as a norm to which everyone must adapt. But that very acceptance means excluding many people, including (apparently) a particular outstanding scholar.

    In this sense, a multi-cultural environment has a huge advantage: it forces departments and faculty to winnow out accepted but irrelevant habits of mind. In a department that acts as a meeting place of cultures, faculty and staff must concentrate on the academic essentials.

    2) Never treat “color” as a generic category

    From the looks of the Michigan Women’s Studies website, almost half of the professors are women of color…

    First Nations scholars bring to women’s studies very specific cultural traditions, which offer a picture of a society where men and women enjoyed (and enjoy) significant equality.

  23. Well, I haven’t read all of the responses featured here, but of those I have read, I’d like to comment on the position some are taking that excuses the academy under some claim to professional confidentiality, implying even that professors denied tenure are colluding with the institutional powers-that-be to retain the illusion of professional courtesy.
    While I do agree that pr should not necessarily follow cases of tenure review, it’s absolutely critical that university institutions remain accountable to their faculty. IF a faculty member is being denied tenure, or otherwise receiving unfavorable treatment, the university should be able to legitimate their grounds of disapproval, and not with some pseudo-magnanimity or vague criticism. If the tenure review committee, sponsored, of course, by state ideology, sincerely has nothing to hide, then contestation should be met with eager enthusiasm for debate. If, however, the greater ideological appartuses of the state DO have something to hide, then it is our responsibility, as living, breathing, critically-engaged humans and intellectuals (in the sense of perpetual thinkers), to question this void of secrecy. Because if we don’t, we will continue to witness the more-than-coincidental pattern of institutional and ideological state-sanctioned violence against those relegated to a second-, third-, fourth-, et al-class status.

  24. This Warren appears to be a troll.

    It’s hard to guess what really went on, or to figure out whether there was some legit. reason for this or not, without inside info.

    The conservatives are saying that any publication not indexed in Web of Knowledge can’t count. I disagree.

    The best discussion I’ve seen of tenure decisions in general (using her case as a jumping off point) is at slaves of academe:
    http://slavesofacademe.blogspot.com/2008/03/no-cross-no-crown.html

  25. P.S. Deanna, I agree in general but remember that one also wants to protect the candidate from having to discuss things exhaustingly and repeatedly with the public – and from having the exact wording of a negative evaluation exposed to the world when they might rather keep it in a drawer. You know?

  26. The situation at Michigan is NOT only about Andrea Smith. Other five women of color (3 in women studies) have been denied tenure last semester. Is this a coincidence? I don’t believe it is. Nor do I believe it is only departmental inability to understand and engage with the work of women of color. Racism operates in subtle and numerous ways and not being able to value interdisciplinary scholarship because it departs from canonical thought is a form of racism. UM flaunts itself as an emancipatory top-ten university; the department of Women Studies and the university at large have a duty to inform students and other professors about their exact tenure criteria. The hush-hush around tenure cases only encourages cases of racism and sexism.

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  28. Professor Zero: thanks for the sentiment of solidarity. And of course, I understand and completely respect one’s entitlement (although what is anyone really ENTITLED to these days?) to anonymity, what have you. So I’m more redirecting the burden of responsibility to the bureaucratic committees; those [white men]who speak under the guise of justice. And if justice is not being enacted, then it is not only to the subject of review that an explanation is owed, but to everyone, I think. Otherwise without the liberty we are, at least constitutionally (that is to say, contracted on paper) guaranteed, these micropolitics (but really reflective of the greater suprastructures) degenerate into despotic regimes… right? So yes, Karl, it’s not just about Andrea Smith, though I think her case poignantly illustrates the absurdity of tenure review processes. It’s about the attitudes that pervade UM, state institutions, state ideology. And THAT, at the macro level, needs to be changed.

  29. * And I use liberty in its loosest most general sense, but more specifically above as a government accountable to the people it alleges to protect and serve.

  30. Karl, I know, and Donna, in cases like this, sure.

    The people I’ve voted down for tenure, though, had serious problems by any standard. Yet my institution is hard to work for and I am not sure these people wouldn’t have done better in another situation. We hired them, after all, because we thought they had potential. That is why I would not want to publish the reasons for the negative decisions without their express permission – I don’t want to destroy their chances of getting other jobs.

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