Academics, in some sense, have more freedom than your average worker at McDonald's or a customer service representative ("this call may be monitored"). We generally get to teach what we want, when we want, and how we want, within of course certain boundaries. There's no one necessarily watching us to make sure we are using the 'correct' examples, or saying the 'right' things. When it comes to teaching, we have a lot of freedom. Similarly with service.
However, the one place where we don't have that type of freedom and control in the one aspect of our job that generally determines if we get tenure: publishing. That, of course, can cause a lot of anxiety and irritation on our part. Just think about how crazy the process is. You do your research. You write it up. You submit it to a journal. Then.....you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait.
Meanwhile the tenure track clock is ticking like the countdown on 24. And no matter how cool you are, you are no where near as cool as Jack Bauer. Some things we just have to live with.
I bring all of this up because we had a strange system here at ETSU during my first three years. Every summer we needed to fill out two forms. The first form was the FAR: Faculty Activities Report. Basically, it was a list of all the things you did in the previous year. You'd list the classes you taught, your publications, presentations you gave, guest lectures, service activities. Makes sense. A pain, but makes sense.
The other form was the FES: Faculty Evaluation System. This was a form that you filled out that told everyone what you were going to do for the upcoming year. It was prospective. Now this form never caused dilemmas when it came to the teaching aspect of the job. After all, most of us have a relatively stable teaching rotation in our departments. No problem. Same thing with service, because it seem that once you are ON a committee, you can never get OFF that committee. Plus, there are always people looking for you to do more service.
You can see where this is going, right?
The FES, however, does not work for publishing. There are so many variables to attend to once you submit a piece. Each of the following scenarios has happened to me.
- It is sent out for review and a reviewer disappears into some extra-dimentional space and is never heard from again. The poor editor then has to find a new reviewer. (Wait time: 6 months to a year.)
- You send in a submission, get the automated reply that it has been received, and NEVER hear back again. You pull the article and submit it elsewhere. (Wait time: 10 months to 2 years)
- You submit a piece. It is accepted for publication with MAJOR revisions. You make those. I comes back with MORE major revisions. Then it comes back with minor revisions. (Wait time: +/- 12 months)
- You submit a piece and never hear anything. (Wait time: depends on how long you decide to wait until you give up.)
- You submit a paper. It is accepted with minor revisions. You make those. The article is supposed to come out in Spring, but the publisher is so far behind that the issue is late. (Wait time: 6 months to a year.)
You can see how problematic the FES becomes when dealing with publishing. Let's take this past academic year as an example. On my FES, I expected that I would have five publications out. I had at the time I filled that out, five pieces "in press."
How many did I actually have?
Yes, all the others were still in that limbo called "in press."
So if you look at my FES and compare it to my actual FAR from an objective standpoint, it looks like I was full of crap. But I wasn't. Every single one of those five pieces was originally supposed to come out between August 15, 2013 and August 14, 2014. Things got delayed. Things got lost. Things...well...stuff. You know how it goes.
Funnily enough, two of the other pieces that were in press came out last week. That's a week too late to put on my FAR, but it means that one week into the new FAR year, I already have two publications for this academic year. Go figure!
So you can see how the FES cause some serious anxiety.
However, I have to give kudos to the administration at ETSU. It appears that they realized how useless the FES was. It seems to have gone the way of the T-Rex. Thank goodness.