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THE ALFALFA SEED PARABLE  

"Many well-intentioned graduate professors, lab directors, and deans can and do point with pride to their fairness in handling their women students and to the absence of sexism, chauvinism, and sexual harassment in their domains. Individually, they attend to such issues because, superficially, they are liberated. But when a woman scientist fails, or quits, or doesn't achieve her predicted potential, they still blame her entirely. They are still unwilling to examine their behavior or her failure in terms of the prevailing norms (in politics we call these "belief systems") in science."
 -  Shiela Tobias

This is the story of my tenure denial.  You will ask, why am I doing this?  To some, reading these documents will convince you that this is a case of bad seed.  Perhaps.  But at some level, anyone who is hired on the faculty of a University, anyone who has made it to the Ph.D. level, must have something worthwhile to contribute.  They must have started as good seed.  What prevented the good seed from germinating, sprouting, taking root?  

I once heard Shirley Malcom speak on increasing diversity in science. She works for AAAS. As a black woman she has double insight into the problem of increasing diversity in science. She spoke of two different administrative approaches to personnel relations, using the metaphor of weeding vs. cultivating. My experience of Universities is that administrations are mostly weeding.  That was true of UI when I was there.

The issues that I raise in my tenure appeal are issues that are relevant to many cases other than my own.  Anyone in a position of authority in a University, any faculty who votes on tenure decisions, any faculty who is coming up for tenure, will find the issues raised here worthy of discussion.  

I have written elsewhere on my web "We often blame problems on individuals, but rarely is any one individual totally responsible for a problem.  At the same time, any one individual who changes his or her interactions with others has the power to change the entire relationship between those others.From my perspective, the main reason that I did not get tenure is that I did not have enough publications at the time that the decision was made.  I take full responsibility for this.  I am not trying to place the blame elsewhere.  What I am saying is that the problems that I had were not solely of my own making.  The University created a chilly climate in which success was difficult, and they showed no interest in knowing why their climate was chilly, let alone in changing it .

Sometime early in my stay at UI I lost my voice - or perhaps it was denied me, and I withdrew.*  I was recovering and in my last year or two, everything started to come together very well, from my perspective.  From the administration's perspective it was too late.  But, in the process of going through tenure and failing, I have regained my voice.  That is why I am telling my story.

  Why did I write a tenure appeal?  Why is it so confrontational?

Could the administration have done something to help?

Read the documents in chronological order

Read my tenure appeal, with the documents as appendices

back to Parables..

Copyright December 7, 2002, Karen Strickler.  All rights reserved.