Iowa State University responds

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Facts regarding status of tenure case at Iowa State

Partial quote:

Why was tenure not granted to Guillermo Gonzalez?

Dr. Gonzalez was evaluated for tenure and promotion to associate professor by the tenured faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. That evaluation was based on an assessment of the excellence of his teaching, service, scholarly research publications and research funding in astronomy, using standards and expectations set by the department faculty. The consensus of the tenured department faculty, the department chair, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the executive vice president and provost was that tenure should not be granted. Based on recommendations against granting tenure and promotion at every prior level of review, and his own review of the record, President Gregory Geoffroy notified Gonzalez in April that he would not be granted tenure and promotion to associate professor.

4 TrackBacks

There’s been a lot of to-do in the Series of Tubes lately regarding Iowa State University denying tenure to Guillermo Gonzales, he of Privileged Planet fame. You can read about it here if you’re not familiar with the situation. Of Read More

It seems like just yesterday that University of Minnesota biologist P.Z. Myers, who runs what Nature declared to be the #1 science blog, admitted, "I get to vote on tenure decisions at my university, and I can assure you that if someone comes up who cl... Read More

All too predictably, during the past week various Darwinists have been trying to divert attention away from the Guillermo Gonzalez tenure case through a campaign of misinformation about both Dr. Gonzalez and intelligent design. Whether they do so knowi... Read More

Academic Freedom and ID from Threads from Henry's Web on May 19, 2007 8:47 AM

Intelligent Design advocates are trying to make us believe that their struggle is primarily about academic freedom, about allowing a new idea to get the examination it deserves, and about ensuring that people are not persecuted for their beliefs. Simi... Read More

120 Comments

It’s fascinating to listen to those who would otherwise oppose the very concept of tenure whine when one of their own is denied it. That’s especially ironic, because Gonzalez would have has no problem getting tenure anywhere if his specialty were primate origins.

Interesting. The university faculty handbook states in part:

The chair will inform each candidate in writing before the department’s recommendations are submitted to the college, whether a recommendation will be forwarded and, if so, the nature of the recommendation or recommendations. Persons who are not being recommended by either the promotion and tenure review committee or the chair, or both, will be informed by the chair in writing of the reasons. This information should be presented in a constructive manner and, where appropriate, should include guidance for improving performance in terms of the department’s criteria for promotion and tenure.

So Double-G should have known long before it got to the top of the chain that he was not being recommended for tenure. And he should have known the reasons why. It would be interesting to get a copy of that document…

Kevin Wrote:

he should have known the reasons why

Denial, thy name art fundamentalism.

Hey, Clarissa: Don’t judge us all by PZ Myers. Plenty of atheists are “live and let live”. I just object when we’re FORCED to listen to religious stuff in a non-religious environment, such as work. By the way, I was denied tenure too, and nobody knew I was an atheist, my research was cutting edge, and I was bringing in nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the department yearly. Science Goddess

the clarissa-bot Wrote:

My information is that it does NOT.

Got a source for that?

And no, “my ass” doesn’t count as a source.

If the university didn’t send him the results after each of the 5 (if I’m reading it correctly) reviews, that would be grounds for a lawsuit, as they would have denied him the opportunity to correct any errors or omissions. I seriously doubt the university would deliberately expose itself to a lawsuit.

1) Whoever said it wasn’t OK for granting him tenure? Did anyone actually try, or was the out-of-department response overwhelmingly against him?

2) So he was not alone in being denied tenure.

3) Of the 68, most were published (or is that simply submitted?) prior to him coming to ISU - and therefore, they don’t count towards tenure. He claims to have submitted 25 during his time at ISU, but the requirements are for published peer-reviewed papers. Near as anyone can tell, he had at best 17 peer-reviewed publications, and a couple of those are a stretch. So he appears to have barely met the benchmark (one of many) for publication, if at all. The handbook also talks about citations - many of his articles received few if any citations - most of the ones that did were ones that he was not the primary author. And there are a number of other criteria that he didn’t talk about, such as teaching.

Anonymous at #175610:

The petition signed by the more than 120 Iowa State faculty does not urge denial of tenure to Gonzalez. It does not even mention him by name.

From Anonymous:

In addition to that criteria, Gonzalez’s department of astronomy and physics sets a benchmark for tenure candidates to author at least 15 peer-reviewed journal articles of quality. Gonzalez said he submitted 68, of which 25 have been written since he arrived at ISU in 2001.

See here for a review of Gonzalez’ publication record.

In the summer of 2005, three faculty members at ISU drafted a statement against the use of intelligent design in science:

We, the undersigned faculty members at Iowa State University, reject all attempts to represent Intelligent Design as a scientific endeavor. Advocates of Intelligent Design claim that the position of our planet and the complexity of particular life forms and processes are such that they may only be explained by the existence of a creator or designer of the universe. However, such claims are premised on (1) the arbitrary selection of features claimed to be engineered by a designer; (2) unverifiable conclusions about the wishes and desires of that designer; and (3) an abandonment by science of methodological naturalism. Methodological naturalism, the view that natural phenomena can be explained without reference to supernatural beings or events, is the foundation of the natural sciences. The history of science contains many instances where complex natural phenomena were eventually understood only by adherence to methodological naturalism. Whether one believes in a creator or not, views regarding a supernatural creator are, by their very nature, claims of religious faith, and so not within the scope or abilities of science. We, therefore, urge all faculty members to uphold the integrity of our university of “science and technology,” convey to students and the general public the importance of methodological naturalism in science, and reject efforts to portray Intelligent Design as science.

Where does this statement call for denying tenure to Gonzalez?

The request for tenure was denied at all levels. Why wouldn’t the tenure committees along the way make sure that all procedures had followed and notifications given? Those committees are well aware of that small percentage of unscrupulous, bankruptcy-specializing attorneys who will litigate any whacko complaint. “Clarissa” - as usual - is just MSU.

Anonymous #175610:

You should, perhaps, acquaint yourself with what tenure means and how it works.

Tenure does not work like a gumball machine: insert 15 papers in the slot, and tenure pops out. It doesn’t work that way.

Tenure is a form of endorsement by the university as a whole. Your publication record is one part of it, but far from the only one. It also includes things like personal relations, community activity, teaching, grants, quality of ongoing agenda, etc.

Plenty of extraordinary people get denied tenure. A very good professor of mine was denied tenure a while back, despite a publication record far beyond what was required, grant support, etc. Why was it denied? In part, because he didn’t come to department luncheons. And that was a legitimate reason to deny him tenure! To get tenure, you need to demonstrate not just that you can publish papers, but that you’ll be valuable member of the University community. Because he was someone who kept himself in extreme isolation - he taught his classes, kept office hours and and met with his graduate students, but aside from those, no one ever saw him. He didn’t interact with other faculty, didn’t participate in any of the faculty committees, etc. So despite an outstanding publication record, advising a half-dozen PhD students who had successfully defended, and bringing in enough money in grants to more than cover his entire salary plus several students, he was denied tenure for being antisocial.

That’s the way things go.

I know of two other people who were faculty at an Ivy League University. A group of faculty in the department wanted to hire people who did work in a particular specialty. But the department chair thought that work in that specialty was garbage. So one of the two guys I know was hired, stayed for 6 years, published out the wazoo, and was denied tenure because the department chair didn’t like his research area. So the faculty hired *another* person in that area, who stayed for 4 years, published like crazy, and left because he’d been told in no uncertain terms that no matter what he did, he wasn’t going to get tenure, because the chair didn’t like his area.

Unfair? Yes. Legitimate? Yes. That’s the way it goes: you can be denied tenure if someone thinks your research area isn’t good, even though you publish and bring in money. The people who were wrong in the story above are the ones who keep hiring people that they *know* haven’t got a chance of getting tenure.

Tenure isn’t solely a decision of the department. It’s perfectly legit to deny someone tenure even though their department recommends them. Tenure makes you a permanent member of the university community, and so the community has a voice in whether or not you get it.

For example, I knew another professor as an undergrad who ended up not getting tenure. He *did* have the endorsement of his department. The guy was a genius, had tons of students, obscene number of publications, etc. But he was an obnoxious SOB. He was in a CS department, but had an old grudge against math students from bad experiences when we were undergrads. So he used to go to the PhD defenses of math students, and ask the most obnoxiously difficult questions he could, in order to throw them off their stride. So the math department intervened with a letter to the university president asking the tenure recommendation of the CS department to be overridden. It was, and he was denied tenure.

I don’t know why Gonzalez didn’t get tenure. But this endless conspiracy ranting is nonsense. Tenure is a crap-shoot - to get tenure, you need to have the right publications, the right funding, the right research area, the right relations with other members of the university community, etc. Gonzalez clearly didn’t have the right relations with the university community, and if the paranoid rantings of his supporters are any reflection of his own attitude, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a serious problem getting along with the other members of his department.

As I said, I was denied tenure even though I met all the requirements (and then some!) for my department and university. Afterwards, one of the committee told me privately that “we have enough useless PhDs”. They were looking for more MDs.

It’s often a crap shoot, not a conspiracy.

Science Goddess And, yes, I still stayed there and retired last year.

Just going to repeat and expand my comment from Ed Brayton’s thread.

This whole discussion doesn’t have enough facts to really figure out why he was denied tenure, although they are slowly coming out. Astronomy isn’t my field and I wouldn’t be able to tell if his work was good, bad, or indifferent. Other posters have looked at his work and the pattern seems to be steadily declining quantity and quality.

My best guess is that the university had reason to believe that his pseudoscience was going to contaminate his science or it may have already done so. The risk here is that you end up with a wingnut babbling incoherently.….who has tenure. Much harder to fix later on and a black eye for the university. Tenure is not where one wants to take such a risk.

This happens a lot in universities and I’ve seen it many times. Sometimes tenured faculty go inert. Sometimes they turn into wingnuts of various sorts. Sometimes they do both. One recently tenured prof had a major breakdown and ended up joining some esoteric Eastern cult. By itself that would have been no big deal. But he literally never once touched a test tube again. He did spend a lot of time sitting at the feet of his guru and meditating.

If Gonzalez wants to mix pseudoscience and science and promote and work with the reality denying, science attackers at the DI, no one will stop him. But who can blame ISU for not wanting to be unwillingly associated with such activities. It would be like the DI hiring a real biologist to head their evolutionary biology program. Gonzalez will certainly find a place that fits his agenda and beliefs much better.

What Mark Chu-Carroll said. I am another victim of the tenure-decision crapshoot…in my case the department personnel committee decided that grant money trumped all other criteria (the ones actually spelled out in the handbook). I was pissed off–still am–but moved on. No conspiracy. In the Gonzalez case, as in mine, his own department didn’t want him! There are few Deans, Provosts, or Presidents that would overrule a negative decision by the home department.

I looked up the Iowa State info on tenure. In fact 38 were granted tenure this year and 66 were either granted tenure or promoted (not 63 with 3 either denied tenure or promotion as the various articles have been stating). I could find no listing of who was denied tenure. Given that Iowa State has about 60% of its faculty tenured and is concerned that that rate is too high, I find only 3 denials a bit low.

Another source is Regents meeting info on tenure

Mark is absolutely right. However, I think that Gonzalez didn’t deserve tenure based solely on his research record. Tenure is awarded based on an individual’s performance while an assistant professor. Publications prior to taking up a position don’t count directly towards tenure. After all, those papers were what got you the job in the first place - it’s double dipping to use them twice. Why not just give the guy tenure on day 1 if that’s how it works? What is looked for is a continuation and expansion of one’s research and, in particular, that the researcher can carve out a new area of his or her own. Gonzalez had 17 papers while at ISU - some of these were with his previous collaborators/mentors at Univ. of Washington, collaborators at UT Austin etc. So, those papers don’t really count, or count less than output from his own research group at ISU (if any - did he have PhD students?). Other papers were reviews - while writing reviews is fine, it is critical to advance new directions as an assistant professor. Gonzalez didn’t do that; writing popular articles, textbooks, etc., also does not count towards getting tenure. Typically his role statement would be 45% research and writing textbooks doesn’t fall under that rubric. If one is a productive researcher then these things are icing on the cake but they are only icing - you need cake to.

I also checked his funding - now, funding is hard to get but it is a requirement if one is to get tenure. In Gonzalez’s 2005 paper: The Astrophysical Journal, 627:432-445, 2005 July 1 this is the acknowledgment:

“We thank the referee for a most thorough and constructive review of the paper. This research has been supported in part by the Robert A. Welch Foundation of Houston, Texas.”

So the funding was obtained by his co-authors at Texas - presumably David Lambert. Researchers always acknowledge their grant support in papers. I looked at his review in PASP and there is no acknowledgment of any grant support. In fact the only funding I can find that he acknowledges is an NSF travel grant. I haven’t looked at all of his papers but his 2005 Ap article would reasonably have listed any grants that he had obtained while at ISU. The reason one lists funding sources is so that you can use those articles to get new grants - i.e., the articles are evidence of productivity from existing grants and provide a case for grant renewal..

If Gonzalez were not actively pro-ID he would almost certainly have been denied tenure for these reasons anyway - and that’s without considering any other areas of performance. It looks to me that he was hired in with high expectations and failed to meet these expectations either because he was distracted by his other activities or because once the training wheels were pulled from under him he collapsed. I suspect the latter.

In any event, why would one want to remain in a Department or University when your colleagues at every level don’t want you?

This really is a straightforward case - Gonzalez doesn’t have a leg to stand on. It is dishonest of the DI to say that he outperformed by 350% ISU expectations. It is also dishonest to try to make the case that he was denied tenure based primarily on his beliefs. While the latter is possible it only matters when the case for tenure is otherwise watertight. I would support Gonzalez getting tenure no matter what his personal religious beliefs were, provided that he actually met the high standards necessary to get tenure. Otherwise he is blocking a position that a productive researcher could hold.

As far as the “facts” are concerned, it seems that the DI’s press releases are already starting to do its damage since they lack in credibility

(1) There was a big campaign outside his department to deny him tenure. A petition urging denial of tenure was submitted with about 120 faculty signatures. If his record was that bad, why didn’t his adversaries just let his record speak for itself? What is the value of such a petition that includes signatures of people who are unfamiliar with his qualifications? Was not the petition a meddling in the tenure-candidate review process? And why is it OK to campaign against granting him tenure while it is not OK to campaign in favor of granting him tenure?

No such campaign existed, what did exist was a statement by 120 scientists speaking out against ID (http://www.biology.iastate.edu/STATEMENT.htm)

(2) Tenure was denied to only 3 of the last academic year’s 66 candidates for tenure at Iowa State, so the denial of tenure is not routine at that university.

So let’s compare say Martin Pohl, who was given tenure in physics and astronomy, with Guillermo Gonzalez and see if we can find a common theme as to why.

(3) He published 68 peer-reviewed papers, vastly exceeding his university’s benchmark of 15 peer-reviewed papers for tenure candidates.

He published around 20-25 related to his research at ISU. Seems the DI is inflating the relevant statistics a bit here. I’d love to see the benchmark, which was btw not the university’s but the department’s benchmark, just to be accurate.

I know of an ID supporter who recently got tenure in a University. He was very outspoken, even went so far as to claim in a public seminar that “there is no evidence for macroevolution”. He even invited Dembski to campus for a job interview. He even published a paper entitled “Intelligent Design and the End of Science” in a “well respected” journal. Everyone in the BIology Department was well aware of his views. However, apparently no one in his department (Philosophy) would speak out against him. So what could we do? It would have been hard to make a case, especially considering the fact that he really is a very good teacher. Obviously we are uncomfortable that such a person is teaching our Philosophy of Science classes. We have a lot of trouble with students who take that class before taking Intro Bio. I guess the evil Darwinist conspiracy failed in this case. Oh well, at least Hovind is behind bars.

Those who claim persesution must realize that they asked for it. It goes with the territory. If you don’t want to be discriminated against, wait until after you get tenure to open your big fat mouth. If you choose to do otherwise, about this or almost any other cententious issue, you have to realize that there will be consequences. It is great to have the courage of your convictions, but that is what tenure is all about. Getting tenure on the other hand is an entirely different matter.

Gonzalez is not the first ISU professor to be turned down for tenure, which essentially gives a faculty member a lifetime job at the university.

About 12 people have applied for tenure in the past 10 years in the physics and astronomy department, and four of those were denied, said Eli Rosenberg, the chairman of the ISU department of physics and astronomy.

Source” Des Moines Register

Whether Gonzales was inappropriately denied tenure or not is question I have no way of knowing at present.

As I said on the other forum, there seems to be a willingness to excuse bad tenure processes and political retaliation in the tenure process.

To the extent that we can consider AAUP (www.aaup.org) standards as normative or definitive for academia, much of what is being stated about tenure here goes against established norms and conventions. Of course one could argue that the AAUP guidelines are a bit of a wishlist since University administrators more often than not try to find ways not to follow them. The only time they have any teeth is when they are contractually enforced.

That said, AAUP regulations on tenure do not allow for denying tenure because people in the “community” dislike something you say. AAUP regulations do not allow for denying tenure because in the future or the present someone allies with unpopular causes.

At the time of appointment the University is supposed to provide you with a letter clearly stating the criteria for tenure. If you meet those criteria, you should be granted tenure.

Again, I don’t know what did or did not happen in Gonzales’ case and I doubt this is “persecution”. But if, and I see this as a big if that is yet unestablished, Gonzales was denied tenure **because** of his pro-ID views, **and he was otherwise qualified for tenure** then that is a violation of the principles of academic freedom.

I agree with Chip. And I have to say most of the anecdotal stuff about arbitrary tenure denials runs contrary to my experience, and my experience is quite extensive. The tenure denials I’ve seen were a result of negligible funding and/or inadequate publication, period. There may be some room for quixotic decision making at the very top, but mid-ranked Universities simply can’t afford to turn down prolific, well-funded faculty.

Of coruse, it appears now that Gonzalez was neither funded nor particularly prolific.

David,

Surely you don’t think it would have been appropriate to turn down a philosophy professor because you don’t like the stance he takes in a philosophy of science class?

I trust you will think through the implications of that.

I face a similar situation at my University. I have a colleague in philosophy who is pro-ID and very anti-“Darwinian”. I certainly think people in philosophy have a right to discuss philosophical and metaphysical arguments for and against the existence of God (or any other supernatural force).

Now, I don’t think you should turn a molecular biology class into a metaphysics class. There is a responsibility to teach the subject matter.

Personally, I think the ID arguments belong in the philosophy departments and if the ID crowd would just own up to the fact that they want to make a philosophical/metaphysical critique of the philosophical/metaphysical underpinnings of science (and please don’t tell me there are none), then as far as I am concerned, the dispute would be mostly over, save for those who enjoy arguing about metaphysics.

So what is wrong with co-authoring papers with one’s previous collaborators/mentors?

It’s regarded as a sign you haven’t developed your own independent line of research.

Not having independent funding is, of course, the killer.

This is going to backfire on Darwinists by exposing the hypocrisy of their claims that they don’t persecute critics of Darwinism. The denial of tenure to Gonzalez is rapidly becoming a cause celebre.

Yeah, yeah. The guy was turned down at every level. Little or no funding, publication record that’s only adequate - you guys need to find a better victim.

Just a passerby here. I’m not a biologist, a scientist, nor college professor. Just a man on the street and a college graduate with a technical degree. I have no vested interest here.

Anonymous says: “This is going to backfire on Darwinists by exposing the hypocrisy of their claims that they don’t persecute critics of Darwinism.”

Maybe I’m dense or naive, but I cannot figure out why the DI or anyone else who supports ID is making a big spectacle of this issue. Seems to me they would be smarter to downplay it.

From my vantage point, it makes a lot of sense why ISU would not grant this guy tenure. I wouldn’t want my alma mater to. Why would ANY science related department want someone on their staff with tenure who clearly supports pseudoscience and is a Fellow of the DI??? Duh!!! This is not a “persecution of a critic of Darwinism”. It’s an a clensing of an embarassment.

I think this noise is gonna backfire on the DI - the man on the street response will be, “Hello? Why are you surprised? Doesn’t this tell you something about your scam?”

Dave

Clarissa and Anonymous -

As a non-atheist who strongly opposes ID, I object very strongly to Clarissa’s foot-stomping. Her logic is that some guy on the internet is “against all religion” (even though he probably says he isn’t), and therefore denial of tenure to an astronomer is an atheist plot.

Why are so many Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, etc, professor granted tenure? Including monks, nuns, priests, etc? The Jesuit astronomer who serves as science advisor to the Vatican could get tenure at any number of secular US universities tomorrow. Grow up.

Anonymous at least tries to make a case.

The issue of denying a science professor tenure for being a vocal advocate of something like ID/creationism, which does not appear to be what happened here, is a complex one.

I do not think that anyone’s religious beliefs should bias tenure decisions, except in rare cases where a sincere religious belief might create a conflict of interest, if even then. But this isn’t an issue, because a sincere religious person wouldn’t create such a situation in the first place.

ID is claimed, by its followers, to not be a religious belief. That’s what they claim over and over again. Some find it comical when they slip up and claim that the “designer” is God, but I actually think their first claim is true - ID isn’t religious. It’s a con game that targets the religious.

It’s a clearly fraudulent pseudoscience, and it’s a lot worse than, say, astrology or the like. Astrology has no scientific basis, but it doesn’t contradict what is known about science - it merely makes additional claims which cannot be supported by science. ID makes illogical claims that are directly in conflict with science.

I wouldn’t care if a competent productive scientist had an eccentric belief in astrology, ghosts, leperachauns, or the like, but claiming to advocate ID shows either intense dishonesty, or a belief system that is fundamentally incompatible with scientific inquiry or teaching, or both. You can believe that leperachauns exist but science hasn’t documented them yet, but to “believe” in ID you have to reject established science in favor of pseudo-philosophical claptrap.

I think overt advocacy of ID is worthy of consideration in a tenure case, as a negative. But that isn’t what happened here.

Anonymous Wrote:

So what is wrong with co-authoring papers with one’s previous collaborators/mentors? And where did you get this information? You people are just pulling unsubstantiated “facts” out of thin air.

There is nothing wrong with it. However, the point of tenure evaluation is to identify what the candidate has done that is original to him or her. If a person has a large number of papers that are clearly from his or her own research group then outside collaborations aren’t an issue. But if the majority of the substantive papers are with outside - and, even worse, more senior - collaborators then these papers count less. In fact, papers with outside collaborators count less when it comes to pay raises even for tenured faculty. This is the way it is in academia and it’s not specific to Gonzalez, i.e., this is not special pleading.

Anonymous Wrote:

Why shouldn’t writing textbooks, reviews, and popular articles in one’s field count towards getting tenure?

I didn’t say they didn’t count - but they don’t count in the research category which is typically 45% of a candidate’s predefined - and agreed to - role statement - with a further 45% being allocated for teaching and 10% for service. Of course role statements vary a bit but I’d be shocked if Gonzalez’s wasn’t somewhere in this region. Research in this context means original research not literature research. Again, this is the way things work. To argue for exceptionalism in the case of Gonzalez is purely the result of ignorance of how academia works. Reviews do count somewhat in the research category but they cannot stand in for original research.

And, as I and others have pointed out, Gonzalez has no serious funding - if he had he would have acknowledged it is his published work - there is not only an obligation but an actual benefit from acknowledging sources of research funding.

If the question is “Is the tenure process fair and the best it could be?” then the answer to that is debatable although I think it works fairly well. If the question is about whether Gonzalez has been treated differently then others operating in teh same environment then I’d say no - his funding and publication record clearly does not pass muster.

Oh, and Anonymous, I forgot to say - I got the information by going and reading some of his papers. The list of authors and their affiliations is clearly noted. Go and have a look.

Chip,

You are correct. I don’t think it would be appropriate for a faculty member in the Philosophy Department to be denied tenure due to his philosophical position on anything. I also agree that philosophy is the appropriate place for ID material to be presented. I am fine with discussing ID in philosophy class. In fact, my point was that no matter what the feelings in the Biology Department, there is virtually no way in which we could have affected the tenure decision in another department without the support of members in that department. I know that members of the Philosophy Department are aware of this person’s beliefs and publications. If they have no problem giving him tenure then who are we to argue? We don’t have to work directly with the guy anyway. Unfortunately, we do suffer the consequences of his handiwork. Still, as far as I know, he keeps all classroom discussions professional and does not advocate for any particular religion in class. And besides, in the immortal words of our President: “We should be intolerant of intolerance.”

Such issues are usually not a problem in trying to decide on tenure for biologists. Apparently the same cannot be said for engineers, philosophers and astronomers. Wonder why that is?

“Anonymous” is beginning to sound like Larry Farfromsane.

PZ Myers jumps all over, viciously, even fellow scientists when they speak undeerstandingly of religous views.

With the implication that I would deny a faculty member tenure on the basis of their religion? Speaking of baseless bigotry…

I have been on tenure review committees for a couple of years now. Religious affiliation, whether non- or other, does not come up in these discussions, ever. If it did, anyone who tried to pull that kind of stunt would be derided by the other members of the committee, just as if someone tried to scuttle a tenure case by saying the candidate watched American Idol in his or her spare time – it would be utterly irrelevant, as long as they aren’t trying to squeeze some kind of silliness into their teaching.

Just for your information, I have voted on tenure cases where I knew from personal discussions that the candidates were regular church-goers. It didn’t matter. I voted for them. My colleagues also know that I do not judge them on the basis of their religious preferences.

I must say, though, it is kind of neat to be the universal Ogre of the Interwebs on these matters, and seeing my opinion invoked by people who don’t even know me in threads on which I have not participated.

I didn’t say they didn’t count - but they don’t count in the research category which is typically 45% of a candidate’s predefined - and agreed to - role statement - with a further 45% being allocated for teaching and 10% for service. Of course role statements vary a bit but I’d be shocked if Gonzalez’s wasn’t somewhere in this region.

That’s actually a little low on research. Our ‘standard’ load is 55:35:10 (research:teaching:service).

I would never recommend a junior faculty member write a textbook. It’s a sign you’re settling into a primarily teaching role, and that’s not what a research university is looking for in junior faculty.

For all those ignorants out there, the tenure process is a well established one with a long tradition. It involves lots of steps and opportunities to receive feedback. The person seeking tenure have the opportunity to see what are his/hers deficiencies and work on correct them. The main thrust is on academically relevant activities (research, teaching, mentoring, etc) within the context of the department/university/institute mission. Not all get tenure and sometimes you are a better fit at another university. Many people have been denied tenure a couple of times and eventually find a niche where they are tenured. But again all revolves around the area of expertise relevant to where you are not other irrelevant issues like some fundies are whining about.

Anon,

I notice that you have sidestepped the point yet again - you have yet to demonstrate that the rules were applied unfairly to Gonzalez. Arguing against the rules themselves - which you originally denied even existed - is a classic straw man strategy. So is accusing your interlocutor of doing what you yourself are doing:

Anonymous Wrote:

That’s a straw man argument. “Editing” doesn’t necessarily mean just spell-checking and correcting grammatical errors. Editing can also mean searching for erroneous or flawed reasoning and suggesting additions, deletions, or changes.

You are clearly unfamiliar with the scientific publishing process. Most of what you’re talking about now is done not by the Editor but by the referees. For example, go and read some of Gonzalez’s articles and look for where he thanks the Editor as opposed to thanking the referee. The editor of a journal makes an overall assessment of the paper and may suggest areas for revision, clarification, etc. but this is usually based on the opinions of the referee.

In any event, whether you feel that editors who make suggestions should be made co-authors or not is besides the point. As is the case with most ID/creationist arguments you prefer constantly to shift the terms of the discussion than honestly assess the facts - see Job chapter 13.

Anonymous Wrote:

(quoting me) “The difference is that if your co-authors are your own PhD students it is clear who is guiding the work.”

No, it is not clear at all. As an engineering grad student (not even a Ph.D), I once was a co-author of a paper presented at a conference. My contribution to the paper was my own independent work. In fact, my work was the main subject of the paper and without my work there would have been no paper at all.

As you say, you weren’t even a PhD student while I was clearly referring to PhD students. And, based on your knowledge of the academic system in the sciences I can infer you never were one. In any event, PhD students in astronomy are almost always part of a research group that has a leader who guides the research, attracts the funding to pay the students, etc. It’s is one requirement of getting tenure that such a group is established. The naif often focusses only on the work itself, as you do in your claim of credit for an unknown paper at an unknown conference - but the role of an untenured professor is not only to direct the research at an intellectual level but also to build and sustain an environment within which highly original and productive research can be done by talented people (e.g., students) - with a strong expectation that this will continue, i.e., that the group has momentum. A minimum requirement for that is external funding. Gonzalez has provided no evidence that he got close to doing that. Nor have you presented any reasons for thinking that he did.

I’d add that this must not help Gonzalez - i.e., to be defended by arguments so uniformed.

Chip Poirot:

I think you raise an interesting point. In one corner, we have the notion of tenure as a means of protecting the academic freedoms (which means peculiarities, NOT me-too-ism) of a noted researcher from petty political dismissal. Presumably, before tenure was developed, nobody with any sense would do research into any area the Powers That Be at the university were uncomfortable with. That was the fast track out the door, at the end of a boot. And from this perspective, it’s those who don’t “go along to get along” who are in most need of tenure, and make the best use of the protections it provides.

But in the other corner, tenure presents a clear and present danger to the organization. Behe’s case is classic - once he received tenure, his research slammed to a stop permanently, and he became a preacher for anti-science religion. He has without question shamed his entire institution, and continues to do so with impunity, while contributing absolutely nothing in his field. And I have no doubt that academia is quite populated with tenured do-nothings who attend luncheons, serve on committees, and are friendly and non-threatening to everyone.

I think there is some substance to Mark’s position that intangibles should play an important role in the tenure decision. Tenure should require more than simply being able to put checkmarks in boxes; a strictly mechanical process. Whether he has stretched this to the point where tenure is almost entirely a matter of how well the candidate has played office politics, is a good question. The goal is to protect someone whose research will continue to be a credit to the institution, and ALSO who won’t unduly disturb or embarrass it.

So there would seem to be a tradeoff. If you’re going to have some eccentricity, you’d damn well better be outstanding in your area of expertise. And the more potentially embarrassing your peculiarity, the more spectacular your accomplishments need to be.

Ultimately, the perceived self-interest of the university is paramount. Go-along ciphers may make your life tranquil, but it also means your university is second-rate (or worse), and won’t attract the sort of students to correct this. You surely need a few really outstanding researchers, even if they’re jerks.

Unorthodoxy in science is perfectly tolerable, if it’s backed by solid research. You WANT people who are willing to drink the ulcer bacteria to prove their point. But you also need some grounds on which people might be rejected, or why bother with the exercise? So far, I’ve seen you reject what you consider inappropriate reasons for rejection, but I don’t get any clear picture of what you’d prefer instead. SOME people are simply mediocre. On the face of it, Gonzalez meets this description. Given his, uh, hobbies, mediocrity isn’t nearly good enough.

Flint,

Thanks for that thoughtful reply. The following are what I think are appropriate reasons for not granting tenure, weighted by the tenure requirements/purpose of the institution.

1. Their teaching is not up to par of what is reasonably expected of people being granted tenure. The evidence that supports the rejection of tenure is supported by appropriately weighted factors such as poor student evaluations, poor peer/chair in class evaluations, lack of appropriate rigor in courses or failure to cover the subject matter of the course.

2. Failure to meet the relevant standards of that university for research. Evidence for this is lack of peer reviewed publications, failure to publish in appropriate journals (at the top ranked research institutions), research that is trivial, etc. how much research and what kind of research weighs in depends of course on the University.

3. An unwillingness to do one’s part on committees, etc.

4. Documented instances of misconduct.

What the criteria are and how they are weighted should be clearly specified in the appointment letter and the handbook or contract. Simply put, the appropriate reasons for denying tenure are those that relate to the University’s specified tenure requirements.

A decision to grant/not grant tenure IMO is a bit like a professor grading a student paper or a jury weighing guilt or innocence. You can probably never have 100% objectivity and there will always be some subjective weighing and evaluating and sifting. Maybe the candidate was an unusally strong teacher and served on a lot of committees but his or her research was very weak. In some institutions that would qualify for tenure, in other institutions it might legitimately preclude tenure.

Long before you get to the tenure review process there should have first been a mid-term review where you were advised to start looking for another job, upgrade your efforts towards tenure, or informed you were sailing along. People should go into the tenure process with a pretty good idea of their prospects.

Granting or not granting tenure is not a matter of checking boxes per se, but if the faculty handbook says “tenure will be granted if you have five peer reviewed articles in relevant journals” then it is unfair and innapropriate to turn around and say well we really meant six. how you weight coauthored papers, conference papers, books, chapters in books again is to some degree subjective and varies by institution.

In short, the only valid reasons for denying tenure are that the person has not met the academic standards of the institution where they are. If that person has met the standards then tenure should be granted, unless there is some clearly documented other problem-such as a **Valid and well warranted** sexual harassment complaint, for example.

Granting tenure, as I said, is a bit like grading. A student getting an “A” isn’t like checking a box. But if I say in my class syllabus an A paper has characteristics x, y and z, then I don’t have the right to make up b and c as additional requirements, or grade the paper down because the student said bad things behind my back.

I am against any kind of “collegiality” test or any “test” for “institutional fitness”. That is just a way for adminstrators to weed out people who they think will challenge administrative abuses, or for colleagues to attack people whose political ideas they don’t like. Notably, the AAUP opposes this practice.

Hello, everyone. I’m a half-educated non-academic who has been reading this thread with tourist-y interest. (I’ve always wondered what went into a tenure decision, and I find academic culture fascinating, even if I wouldn’t want to live there.)

Speaking simply as someone who might be going back to school and as someone who is in a position to influence which schools my sibling’s kids go to, I’m thrilled at the high-profile to-do over Gonzales. We non-insiders so seldom get a chance to evaluate a school based on the conspicuousness of its standards-upholding. You must know that’s what this all looks like to us out here–some goof with no idea how to do science is trying to crash his lazy, deluded musclehead into a field dominated by clear thinking and facts. Quality control.

If Gonzales had got tenure, and the creationists had, as is inevitable, used him as a celebrity advocate, and I was going to school where he taught, I would quit. It’s not that hard to switch schools as an undergraduate. But I’d make sure I did it before the new school asked me uncomfortable questions about the quality of my education at the old school.

Chip Poirot — A suggestion:

Just don’t respond to posts addressed to Chippy.

That must be somebody else and I, at least, do not bother to read the posts that begin that way…

PvM: Anonymous bears a strong similarity to Larry Fafarman: engineer, inability to construct a coherent argument, “one can use X without believing it”, overconfidence in his understanding of the legal system, and the format of his posts, among others.

Can you check the IP address and block him, if it is Larry? We don’t need to return to last year, when he hijacked all the threads with his inane ramblings. Thanks.

Chip:

In short, the only valid reasons for denying tenure are that the person has not met the academic standards of the institution where they are. If that person has met the standards then tenure should be granted, unless there is some clearly documented other problem-such as a **Valid and well warranted** sexual harassment complaint, for example.

Granting tenure, as I said, is a bit like grading. A student getting an “A” isn’t like checking a box. But if I say in my class syllabus an A paper has characteristics x, y and z, then I don’t have the right to make up b and c as additional requirements, or grade the paper down because the student said bad things behind my back.

I think perhaps the essence of your disagreement with others here is embedded in this clear statement. What you are doing is trying to position the default, and this is a very central point. Should a professor be granted tenure by default unless he fails to achieve x, y and z? Or should the professor be denied tenure as the default unless he is considered well above average, a positive credit (rather than merely not a discredit) to his field and to the school?

From what you write, you seem to feel that tenure is something a professor stands to LOSE by inappropriate behavior or inadequate accomplishments, rather than something he has to GAIN by performance over and above.

Personally, I’ve seen grading systems where the student is given an A if there is nothing wrong with a paper, and systems where the standard of “nothing wrong” deserves only a B, and getting an A requires something extraordinary and special. An A paper, in other words, MUST have AT LEAST x, y, and z. But lacking any one of them only disqualifies the paper from an A; possessing all of them doesn’t automatically guarantee an A. It’s entirely possible to write uninteresting prose, difficult to read and follow, without violating any of the rules of spelling, grammar, or organization. It’s not very easy to specify in any useful detail what “good, exciting, well-written, clear prose” actually consists of. But effetive authors do it nonetheless.

And maybe tenure is seen this same way at many schools. If you didn’t get a check in every box, don’t bother to apply. If you did, you’ve reached the ground floor. Now, as Frank Zappa said, what can you do that’s fantastic?

Flint,

What I am saying is that at the time of appointment in the initial letter of appointment, in the handbook or contract, the University should specify what it considers as “excellent”, or sufficient to earn tenure.

That criterion can be “you have to walk on water” or it can be “you just need to be an effective teacher”. If a University only tenures potential Nobel prize winners-fine.

What I object to is defining the tenure standards as x,y and z, and then at the end saying it is something else.

But let’s look at it this way. Two candidates go up for tenure: one is male, one is female. Both have fully met the stated requirements for tenure. Both are equal in all respects. But the University says to one, you cannot have tenure because of things we just made up on the spot.

That is prima facie evidence of discrimination.

David Benson,

But you see nothing wrong with gratuituous personal insults, right? As evidenced by your previous post:

Chip -0=0 thus implying, Chip = 0.

I’d call that rude and insulting and also somewhat irrelevant.

What would you call it?

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 54, byte 54 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

Comment #176001

Posted by Robert O’Brien on May 16, 2007 7:04 PM (e) | kill

DMA wrote:

ISU’s a good school—it’s where I got my B.S. in biochemistry—they can do much better.

That’s funny. I was going to say Guillermo Gonzalez is too good for IA State.

‘course, this is the kind of thing O’brien said about Dembski for a few years. So expect him to turn on Guillermo around 2009.

Rob’s not a bad kid, just a little slow on the uptake.

Chip Poirot — It was a joke. I should have put a smiley face on it.

In particular, you said you trusted two different institutions equally, without specifying how much.

It was certainly not intended as an insult, or even to hint at one. My apologies.

Chip:

What I am saying is that at the time of appointment in the initial letter of appointment, in the handbook or contract, the University should specify what it considers as “excellent”, or sufficient to earn tenure.

May I suggest that what you’re saying is effectively not feasible? If you explicitly codify *precisely* what the requirements are, you will get people focusing strictly on the checkboxes rather than on excellence or knowledge. So many teaching hours, check, so many pubs, check, so many committee duties, check… You run the serious risks of (a) discouraging someone truly outstanding who doesn’t quite fit a checkbox; and (b) discouraging people capable of something truly outstanding from looking at your school in the first place.

Conversely, you don’t want totally open-ended BS in the handbook or contrast, saying that (for example) “to achieve tenure requires an outstanding record of achievement, personal commitment to the field and to the university, and blah blah blah” because these are so subjective nobody will have a clue if they meet the requirements.

But some middle ground really is necessary, if the university is to thrive. They want good people, knowing no two good people will be or should be alike. The power to discriminate is a double-edged sword, always will be. There will always be a subjective component in the assessment of excellent, and that subjective component can always be used to blackball people for irrelevant reasons. Recall that two Ohio State tenured professors were on the verge of granting a PhD to a creationist for purely religious-agenda purposes, and the hell with the reputation of the school.

So here’s my executive summary: You cannot codify excellence. You are hostage to the integrity of your selection committee. If you tie their hands, you will get checkbox-filling mediocrity ONLY. If you don’t tie their hands, AND if your committee is second-rate, you will get third-rate selections. First-rate people will approve ONLY first-rate people. They know who they are. If in the interests if fairness you deprive them of judgment, you will *always* lose in the long run.

(While I’m at it, I think there is also no substitute for continuous feedback, at least twice a year. Let the potential candidate know where s/he is doing well, what any weaknesses are, where to better focus. Tenure track people must be kept ON track. By the time the Big Day comes, there should be NO denials - those considered not worthy should have been weeded out and sent elsewhere long since. By all accounts, Gonzalez indeed had such feedback, but it didn’t seem to penetrate. And THAT, all by itself, should be reason enough…)

David,

Sorry for not getting the joke. I actually normally have a pretty decent sense of humor. Toejam sets me off.

Flint,

I don’t think we are that far apart. What I am advocating is simply consistent with the AAUP recommended standards on academic freedom.

I agree-there will always be some weighing of relevant qualifications and that is why you can never get it precisely.

I think what is achievable is that tenure processes be above board, fair and that rules not be made up at the last minute. For example, if you are a mid level teaching/research university and someone has five peer reviewed articles and excellent teaching evaluations, don’t suddenly make up the requirement that you have to publish in the top journals instead of the mid level journals. Especially if no one else at the University publishes in the top journals. On the other hand, if you are a top tier university and everyone knows you have to publish in the top ranked journals and you don’t do it, then fair’s fair.

But what I am really saying is that the role of a tenure committee, Dean, Provost and President is to weigh facts like a jury and to apply facts to the rules. That’s a lot different from checking a box. It’s also a lot different from pretending that tenure is some mystical process.

I can do without the “good of the institution” stuff. That sounds like a good way for corporate minded Presidents to just get rid of people who they think don’t fit with their corporate agenda.

If in the end, protection of diversity of thought, open debate, etc. lead to the preservation of a few screwballs, I would rather live with that than the alternative.

If Gonzales has a case then he can make it to the appeals committee, to the AAUP, or to the courts. Or he can do what a lot of people do who are denied tenure and move on. I’m frankly not too worried about him.

Hey, has my old pal Larry been hanging around lately? Hey, Larry, if you’re here, Robo says hi!

:-P

Anonymous Wrote:

I am against tenure, but I feel that it should be fair while we have it. My attitude towards people who are in favor of tenure is, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

I too dislike the concept, but “have to live with it” for the time being. I will also say that the great majority of those who I think do not deserve tenure are not IDers or creationists. And I happen to think that Michael Behe earned it, despite his moonlighting as a pseudoscientist. Now, can you name some IDers or creationists that you think don’t deserve tenure?

Wrong again, Pumpkinhead: Children are actually brainwashed into a religion from the day they’re born. We don’t give them evolution in school until at least the 7th grade. Look at how many years they’ve become inculcated with EVILUTION as opposed to EVOLUTION. For some of them, their minds are completely closed to fact after they’ve heard at home and at church that there’s no evidence. Evolution is real science, with actual data. There ARE transitional fossils, lots of them. The genetic, embryologic (evo-devo) and fossil evidence is all there for those who will open their eyes. It’s religion that demands faith without evidence, not evolution. Besides, this isn’t a thread about evolution, and I’m not trying to start one.

SG

I point out that Behe, a tenured professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, has completely stopped doing any original biochemistry research, and Anonymous responds that Kansas and Georgia have good aerospace industries! Now THERE is a rebuttal!

I point out that Behe, a tenured professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, has completely stopped doing any original biochemistry research, and Anonymous responds that Kansas and Georgia have good aerospace industries! Now THERE is a rebuttal!

Laser, you lousy scumbag, Larry and I have as much right to comment here as you do.

Larry now refers to himself in the first person plural? I see his mental deterioration is continuing unabated.

Anyway, the answer is no. Larry has LESS right to post here.

But Kansas and Georgia now have healthy aerospace industries whereas Southern California’s once fabulous aerospace industry has gone down the tubes. So who are the dumb ones?

And Larry, you’re mentally ill, but I wouldn’t want to malign the whole city of Los Angeles based on you.

Anyway, the answer is no. Larry has LESS right to post here.

Actually, no, Larry has NO right to post here. Posting here is a privilege, subject to following the rules. Larry blatantly violated the rules in the past and thus forfeited his right to post here. So, no, Larry, you don’t have as much right to post here as anyone else, no matter how on-topic your posts are.

The proprietors make the rules, I’m just asking that they be enforced.

My, we have got an agressive little anonymous. It such a shame ID Creationism has no evidence to back it up.

If you’d like to pop over to http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bi[…]?act=SF;f=14

the forum for this place, you can vent your anger in more congenial company.

Anonymous:

What I was rebutting was this notion that critics of evolution are “embarrassments” that drive away people and businesses.

But you didn’t even do that much. I would direct your attention to the statement the Lehigh faculty signed, attempting to disassociate themselves from Behe and deflect any popular impression that Lehigh is like Bob Jones.

Willard is right

Here, I agree with you. If the voters of Kansas wish to elect a creationist school board, and THEN pay for lawsuits they always lose, this is their business. I personally see no sign that the publicity surrounding a school board determined to preserve the students’ ignorance has damaged Kansas in any way. Their policies have not been implemented yet.

So instead of doing something positive to try to improve the reputation of ISU, the 120 faculty members who signed the anti-ID letter that implicitly targeted Gonzalez were attracting negative attention to the university.

I guess this depends on your perspective. As I see it, this petition caused ISU to go WAY up in my estimation - it means that the faculty are BOTH aware of what’s going on, and willing to protect their reputations. However, I can understand if you disapprove of any efforts to fight the threatening encroachment of knowledge. Mirecki himself sounds like a dumbass.

(Finally, I had no posting difficulty, as I’ve experienced in the past. I previewed, corrected typos, and submitted. Got two posts. Beats me…)

Anonymous wrote

What I was rebutting was this notion that critics of evolution are “embarrassments” that drive away people and businesses.

As it happens, my chance seatmate on an airplane from Baltimore to Columbus, OH, just last night, a Ph.D. epidemiologist, told me in casual conversation that he’d spent 5 years working in Kansas and remarked on how careful he had to be about mentioning “evolution” in his work on rural health care quality control there, even to orthopedic surgeons whose specific routines for the post-operative use of prophylactic antibiotic treatment created conditions ideal for the evolution of antibiotic resistance. He left Kansas.

RBH

It is my understanding that GG has:

1. No major funding, 2. No graduated students, and few to none students at all, and 3. A middling and boring publication history.

It’s just Iowa State, but it’s still a significant research university. It’s the kind of place people go when they can’t make it at a top tier university.

GG has the makings for tenure at some place none of us have ever heard of, but Iowa State would be wasting time and resources on him.

GG might be the best ID has so far, but that is not a compliment.

Yes, I am Larry. I deserve to post here just like anywhere else.

I am Larry, hear me roar, in caps too big too ignore…

Yes, I am Larry. I deserve to post here just like anywhere else.

No, you don’t.

Panda’s Thumb Comment Integrity Policy [snip] 6. Posting under multiple identities or falsely posting as someone else may lead to removal of affected comments and blocking of the IP address from which those comments were posted, at the discretion of the management.

You’ve done both, repeatedly. Go back to your own (readerless) blog.

“PvM, you have no shame. You have been deleting my comments here, even though those comments have been on-topic, serious, and polite (unless I am provoked). You are just a big phony with no credibility.”

Ah, Larry. Still referring back to the good old fundie martyr complex. Oh, the pain.

“Your unethical action is also very inconsiderate, as I spent a lot of time researching and writing the comments.”

Hey, Larry did research! (giggle)

If it makes you feel better, I miss ya, Larry!

dear sir I am interested in the history, may I have a list of names of great modern scientist that where also known cristias? Begining from Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Benjamin Franklin…till the Francis Shaeffer

dear sir I am interested in the history, may I have a list of names of great modern scientist that where also known cristias? Begining from Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Benjamin Franklin…till the Francis Shaeffer

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on May 15, 2007 12:08 AM.

Tenure and the ID Persecution Complex was the previous entry in this blog.

Dr. West, meet Dr. Tinkle, Creationist eugenicist is the next entry in this blog.

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