How Can A Digital Humanist Get Tenure?
What counts for tenure for those in the digital humanities? This is a persistent question in any new field (not that digital humanities is "new" at this point but its methods are not the "scholarly monograph published by a university press" widely recognized by colleagues in many traditional humanities departments). So what does count? How? And why? What can a progressive, forward-looking, serious, well-meaning deparment do to rethink its own standards for excellent teacher- scholars making their way through the tenure track (or seeking to get into it) whose work is in the burgeoning and important field of digital humanities? Who has succeeded already? How are rules and norms changing? Where are there guidelines to new practices?
Recently a former student of mine, approaching tenure time in an English department at a major state university, wrote to me and a number of other digital humanists to ask these questions. Specifically, she asked if we knew of any digital humanists who had been tenured largerly or exclusively from multimedia work published digitally. Her university was interested in "precedents." We were able to supply her with the names of a number of distinguished digital humanists who had published both electronic and "paper" scholarship, who had been rewarded for their efforts and who are public figures in the digital humanities (i.e. they've written eloquently about digital humanities so giving their names was no secret but, rather, in keeping with their public purpose in their excellent work). She also asked about other information that she might compile for her university about tenure and the digital humanities.
Please note: I've edited out comments about those "coming up" for tenure or promotion in order not to prejudice any case but have included some success stories. Anyone who wishes to add their stories and names are greatly encouraged to do so.
She posed this question to myself, Dan Cohen, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Tara McPherson, and Ken Price. The informal, email responses of these colleagues in digital humanities are so useful that I asked permission to reprint them here, in their undigested informal format, so others might edit them as needed and make use of them as and where appropriate. We hope others will also add to the comments section below, ideally adding other examples, other useful bits of information that others on the job market or coming up for renewal, tenure, or promotion might use in their dossiers:
USC has recently revamped its tenure + promotion guidelines to include digital scholarship. Info on this process is in a CHE Op Ed here:
The manual itself is here but the language specific to digital work is scattered throughout:
Mark Sample was appointed to Assoc. with tenure at George Mason partly on the basis of digital work and on teaching w/ a DH emphasis (although Mason has a very progressive 'tenure for teaching' policy I've not seen elsewhere.)
David Silver was promoted to Assoc. based on a good deal of 'hands-on' work, including his work on the Center for Cyberculture Studies and other public humanities library projects.
Stephen Ramsay, University of Nebraska-Lincoln was tenured in advance of his book coming out, so it is possible Nebraska seriously 'counted' his digital work (perhaps Prof. Price can speak to this?)
Sharon Daniel was promoted to full at Santa Cruz based partly on digital work (she is in an arts + theory program.)
There may be other cases of examples in this wider list of "making
digital scholarship count" links I often circulate to dept chairs and
http://institutes.nines.org/docs/ - from an NEH institute on the topic
at UVA (see right column for specifics)
http://www.mlajournals.org/toc/prof/2011/1 - see the section on this
near the bottom
UCLA's faculty guidelines were linked to from HASTAC:
University of Nebraska's Guidelines:
Where the AHA started this June, with many other links:
At George Mason, everyone in digital history has been evaluated based
on their digital work--from websites to tools to research.