National and campus discussions about what should
count in faculty evaluation have helped broaden the idea
of scholarship at many colleges and universities, but for
faculty who wish to fashion careers that include new
kinds of scholarly work, debates about actual cases for
tenure and promotion matter the most.
Faculty Evaluation and the
Development of Academic Careers
Mary Taylor Huber
Academic careers in the United States are profoundly shaped by the expectations for scholarly accomplishment at the colleges and universities where faculty work. From graduate school to retirement, doors open or close depending on how well a scholar’s efforts are regarded by colleagues at their own institution and by respected disciplinary peers. This fact of academic life underwrites the integrity and vitality of the intellectual enterprise. However, it also underlies the persistent dilemma of how to shape an academic career without “careerism”—worrying more about the rate than the quality of publication; waiting until after tenure to pursue an interest in teaching; delaying the start of a family. How can institutions help faculty set appropriate agendas and improve performance without compromising the intellectual values that give the profession its authenticity and attraction or the civic and human values that sustain personal and community life?
Although conflicts between academic success, intellectual integrity, and personal life date back to the establishment of the professional career path in American universities in the late nineteenth century (Bledstein, 1976), the issue has special currency in the heated world of higher education today. Over the past thirty years, postdoctorate, part-time, and full-time nontenure-track positions have multiplied; competition for traditional fulltime tenure-track positions has intensified; and faculty evaluation systems have become more formal and complex (Finkelstein, Seal, and Schuster, 1998; Braskamp and Ory, 1994; Diamond, 1999; Arreola, 2000). There is a sense that the bar for entry and promotion into academic careers has been rising rapidly, and there is concern that this trend will intensify as demands