Friday, October 31, 2008

Blogging and Tenure

[By Bill Henderson, crossposted to the ELS Blog]

Over the years, a lot has been written about the risks of blogging during your pre-tenure years.  See, most recently, Verity Winship, "Blogging without Tenure." Well, I blogged quite a bit as an untenured faculty member.  And fortunately, earlier this week I was recommended for promotion and tenure by my Indiana colleagues.  It is unlikely that blogging damaged my career because (I am told) the vote was unanimous. 

As a blogger, I want to publish the following section of my P&T personal statement, so that others that come after have at least one concrete data point to consider:

3.  Writings for the Legal Professions and Empirical Legal Studies Blogs

My inclusion of blogging under the scholarship heading is not meant to test the proposition that blog posts are scholarship. Rather, blogging has generated a wide range of professional opportunities for me and enhanced my visibility among legal academics. Since the spring of 2006, I have been a regular blogger with the Empirical Legal Studies (ELS) Blog. In June 2008, I also joined the Legal Professions Blog. Collectively, I have more than 200 blog postings, a substantial number of which discuss issues related to my legal scholarship. Many of my ideas for scholarship originally appeared in some form on the ELS Blog and were further refined by reader comments.  Several references to my work in the mainstream media were the result of reporters perusing the blogs. I believe that blogging has been a very good investment of time and has generated increased visibility for Indiana Law. A complete list of my posts is located in Attachment 7.

So there you have it.  I blogged because I wanted to be fully engaged in the world of ideas.   I also followed a few simple principles, which I will continue to follow:  (a) don't post half-baked ideas that attack serious ideas -- bake them fully, and then post; (b) blog about ideas I want to specialize in (with a few exceptions), which creates synergies with serious scholarship; (c) treat other people will respect and be ready to concede when someone else has the better of the argument or evidence -- getting it right is more important than being right. 

Of course, Dan Drezner remains a cautionary tale that goes in the other direction ... though Dan came of the process with his self-respect and a tenured job at another school within few short weeks.   Despite the folklore, intellectual timidity is not necessarily the best strategy for getting tenure or, more importantly, being comfortable in your own skin.

Two of my valued colleagues at Indiana who joined the faculty with me in 2003 also got the good news this week -- we went 3 for 3!

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Congrats, Bill! Never was anything less in doubt, but still. . .

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Oct 31, 2008 11:25:15 PM

I think that most people, like me, would have assumed that you were already tenured. That in part could be a function of your blogging presence and of course (more) your prodigious scholarship and panel presentations. You have been extremely impressive, actually and virtually, for some time now. Congratulations are in order, to you and to Indiana Law.

Of course you are not a very good test case for the "running with scissors" question of blogging while untenured, given the mulivariate regression you'd have to run controlling for your otherword excellence. Could you publicly shut down everything but blogging for two years and then seek a referendum at Indiana on your status?

Posted by: Alan Childress | Nov 1, 2008 7:56:53 AM

Funny isn’t it? Tenure is supposed to enhance academic freedom yet when someone states that it is wiser to keep their head down and not say anything, it is clear that the tenure system is having the opposite affect.

The problems don’t end once tenure is granted either. We all know professors who work very hard towards gaining tenure but once they have it, their contributions diminish considerably.

Perhaps tenure is blunt instrument and what is really needed is a scalpel?


Posted by: FixedWing | Nov 1, 2008 9:04:47 AM

Congratulations Bill on the promotion and tenure. Certainly your postings have been thoughtful and stimulating. I have referred my students to them as essential reading. Keep up the good work. John

Posted by: John Flood | Nov 3, 2008 4:58:59 PM

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