October 9, 2005

"The very first words I wrote on this blog were: 'I shouldn't be doing this. I'll be going up for tenure soon.'"

Daniel Drezner puts his thoughts about being denied tenure in genuinely bloggish form, which takes nerve and charm and high spirits. (Link via Instapundit.)

Considering that he can't know whether his blogging played a role in the denial of tenure, does he have any regrets?
[I]f one assumes that the opportunity cost of blogging (e.g., better or more scholarship) was the difference between tenure and no tenure – an unclear assertion at best – then it’s a tough call. From a strict cost-benefit analysis, one could argue that the doors that blogging opened could have been deferred for a few years in return for the annuity of a tenured position at Chicago. That said, if I did things only for the money, I never would have entered the academy in the first place. And I’ve enjoyed the psychic rewards of blogging way too much to regret my choice.
I know some untenured lawprofs who want to blog but who are hesitating or have already decided to wait until they have tenure. Drezner's case will probably stand as a cautionary tale for everyone now, despite the paucity of evidence that the blog hurt his cause. With the University of Chicago Law School putting its weight behind an official faculty blog, should we think that the University of Chicago political science department is hostile to blogging?

But there is a real range of thought among faculty members about blogging. Some get it and some don't. Those who do tend to have blogs or want to start them. But there are many -- and they might not talk about it -- who don't understand the phenomenon. Some of these feel threatened by blogging or, perhaps, jealous of those who are getting attention -- unjustly! -- by blogging. Anytime a blogger falls short in any other aspect of life, it is possible to say it was because of the blogging.

If you didn't blog so much, you would have
[used all that time to do whatever I think you ought to have done].

Time spent on a blog is visible in a way that time spent watching movies or talking with friends or reading mystery novels or engaging in physical exercise or playing with your kids or daydreaming is not. Those who worry about blogging or feel jealous of bloggers have that blog always there, so visible, planting tiny negative impulses in their heads day by day. Then some day, when they must make a decision about you, who knows what role the blog played?

But for a true blogger, like Drezner, it's worth it.

UPDATE: Steven Taylor notes that colleagues keep asking him how much time he spends blogging. It makes you wonder if they're going to use it against you. My stock answer is: "It's a trade secret." The truth is, I myself don't know. Relatively little time is spent actually writing out posts, but a strange amount of time is spent on peripheral activities that are hard to draw a line around -- like reading miscellaneous things and thinking. But is that blogging? People who don't blog do that too.


Randy said...

Ann -

Can Drezner appeal or is this it? I seem to remember an appeal or two of tenure decisions when I was in college (but I could be wrong).

I doubt it would do any good for people like me to write to the President of the Univ. of Chicago but I'm willing to if it might help.

But for a true blogger, like Drezner, it's worth it.

I can't help wondering if he will think that way six months from now.

Ann Althouse said...

He'll have to find another place, and it will be better for him because it took in the person he became when he followed his heart. The alternative you suggest, Ronin, would have allowed him to stay at the place that would have liked him well enough if he had denied his true blogger self.

Ann Althouse said...

It's too easy to say I would. You have to look at what real people have done. Jeremy Freese wrote a personal, revealing blog in a beautifully bloggy style, without tenure, in the UW Sociology department.

tiggeril said...

I have to say I'm not particularly surprised. I did my undergrad work at Chicago and we regarded the Political Science department as only somewhat less loony than the Anthropology department (and talk about loony. Oy).

nina said...

There are (at least) two issues for those considering the tenure of a blogger: whether the time should have been spent elsewhere (on scholarship, for example, especially if the quantity/quality of what is there is borderline sufficient)and separately, whether writing a "creative" or less than 100% serious blog detracts from the scholarly image of the person and of the institution. The person you mention was on the high end of the quantity/quality dimension and the department was not heavily enmeshed in blog reading or writing and so they hardly knew about, let alone read, the blog of the one sole person in a huge department who kept a blog.

At the law school it may be differently perceived as there are a number of bloggers and so it isn't just a rare instance of one person doing her or his own thing at the side. It's much more visible and therefore potentially more threatening.

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry I messed up the link. This should work.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I got fired from three jobs for blogging. Okay, it wasn't for blogging it was for surfing. Okay, it was for surfing pr0n.

Anyway, this sucks, but it is the reason I encourage all conservative law profs to blog.

I do encourage universities to revoke the tenure of any prof that encourage outsourcing. I am not saying they should be fired, they should just have their tenure revoked.

/I never got fired for blogging, or surfing, or at all.

Steven Taylor said...

I have seen some of that "you're blogging and doing other stuff" syndrome: http://www.poliblogger.com/?p=8370

Of course, I'm tenured, so it isn't an issue. Although I did start blogging as an untenured assistant prof (and did so anonymously for several months, but decided to "come out of the closet" well before I got tenure.

Steven Taylor said...

make that "...not doing other stuff"

Don Singleton said...

I did not see a trackback URL.

My trackback is here

Steven Taylor said...


I like that "trade secret" line.

I think I shall steal it.


Michael Stiber said...

"... how much time he spends blogging. It makes you wonder if they're going to use it against you. My stock answer is: 'It's a trade secret.' The truth is, I myself don't know."

Come, now, blogging doesn't take much time. Now podcasting, that's another story. :^)