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I am at a place where across the university, journals are ranked into two classes (the top 20 %, and the others). And publishing in an edited volume counts as in the lower tier (unless it is in a lower tier publisher, then it counts for even less). The point is where you publish matters.
There are all sorts of reasons to take on projects - even when they count for less. But those going up for tenure need to know what is done locally.
And teaching, nowadays, seems to count more that service because there is far more accountability with respect to teaching now. You really should aim to be an effective teacher. (that is not the same as a well liked teacher, who gets smiley faces on their evaluations)

Laurence B McCullough

A well-run department will have a mentoring program that includes regular visits with designated senior faculty and an annual review. The former should inform junior colleagues of the records of those recently promoted and tenured in the department. The annual review should include a self-assessment and an assessment from the department chair. Third year should be a mini up-or-out review. I was the beneficiary of such a system long ago. I then mentored junior colleagues, one of whom became my center director. Any department that lacks a mentoring program for junior faculty is derelict in their duty to them. In addition, a mentoring program will attract very strong applicants for newly open positions.

In the absence of mentoring, ask recently tenured colleagues for their CV at the time of their application, so that one has documentation of a successful tenure application. Then outperform it.

Finally, commit to working nights, weekends, breaks in and between semesters, and summers on your scholarship, for which there is no substitute.

Laurence B. McCullough
emeritus professor


I'm glad that I'm not in Prof. McCullough's department! I've made it to tenure while being very jealous of my time - evenings and weekends are for my family. 8-4pm I give to my university, and I work on breaks, but being a professor is a profession, it's not life!

But, more to the point, if you work in history of philosophy, translations are generally not valued for tenure.


What Prof McCullough above has said, if true, is part of the gender problem in philosophy. As we all know, women with children simply can’t work all weekend and evenings. Our partners (if we have them) usually won’t be willing to pick up the slack. For those of us who are single parents, the problem is even more acute. It is simply not possible for me to work on weekends while solo parenting a 2 year old.

Marcus Arvan

Anon1 & Elizabeth: Indeed. In addition to the gendered issues here, I don't think it is at all healthy to expect faculty (or for faculty to expect themselves) to have a work schedule like this. Like Anon1, I was able to get tenure without working nights or weekends. I only work Monday through Friday between the hours of 9am-5pm, and it has been more than enough time to get my necessary work done.


You probably want to avoid book reviews.

Tenured human

Just wanting to raise one more hand of a person who never works nights or weekends (although I do work regular work weeks during the summer break while my toddler is in daycare), and just comfortably got tenure at an R1. I try to tell my grad students ever chance I get that they should *not* think that being a professional philosopher means giving up your entire life.

Also, which edited collections you're publishing in probably matters - if you're junior and you're publishing in fancy collections with fancy senior folks, then a few of those could help you (although I agree with Marcus that it should absolutely not be the majority of your portfolio). To be clear, I hate the prestige norm, but I do think it applies here.


I do agree that it should not be a professional necessity to work all all nights and weekends etc, but that kind of extreme reaction to what Laurence B. McCullough said seems a bit out of my place (and all too common nowadays) as well. He did not say that you had to work ALL nights and weekends, or that you had to "give up your entire life"; y'all just read that into what he said. But all he did say was that one thing you could do to increase your chances of getting tenure is to work on your scholarship/publications during (some) nights and weekends and during the "break" between terms. Understood like this, it's just common sense: of course working more than 9 to 5 increases your chances of getting tenure, as long as you don't work yourself in the ground and become ineffective. That does not mean that it's an absolute necessity to do so or that you definitely won't get tenure if you treat it as a 9 to 5 job. It should not be a necessity, but it also should not be something that you have to apologise for if you decide (!) to put in extra hours. Who knows, you might even be one of those people who enjoys doing so or who just forgets time when they're reading philosophy.

William Vanderburgh

Tenure requirements are institution and department specific--in policy, practice and tradition.

Read all the policies (including Senate and department tenure guidelines) years before you need to go up for tenure.

Get local knowledge by speaking with a lot of people, including everyone in your department who will serve on the promotion committee, the department chair, the dean, chairs of other departments in your college, and (if you can) even recent members of the college level promotion committee.

Caveat: The experiences of the recently tenured (in your department or other departments) are often a better guide than the opinions of the department member who doesn't serve on the college T&P committee and was tenured themselves in a different century. But that person will vote on your case so you can't ignore them.

Ask all these people what they think a sufficient record for tenure would be. Pay attention to what is minimally required (e.g., some service every year, increasing a bit each year; good teaching evals), what is a bonus (excellent teaching evals; awards; grants; community service), and what is the real basis for the T&P decision (x number of publications of a certain kind in particular kinds of venues). Fill in those parentheses with your local knowledge.

Especially at the college level, committees often don't know how to weigh your publications. "Iffy" cases make it that much harder for them to be enthusiastic. I'd suggest that contributions to edited volumes (including conference proceedings) are either a good way to get a publication record started or a nice way to add some additional lines to the c.v., but the clear emphasis has to be on refereed journal publications. Whatever number they tell you, get that many refereed publications and then go ahead with other kinds of things.

Assistant Professor

Projects not to take on before tenure: listening to outdated advice of those who think we should sleep, eat, and breathe philosophy at all times and at all costs, or who think the name of the game is to compete with (outperform) our colleagues.

Yet it is true that identifying good mentorship is helpful both inside and outside one's department (i.e. someone who knows norms and expectations in your department/institution and someone who can shed some external perspective on those norms). Also I see a lot of people afraid to ask how they are doing and if they are on track out of fear of the answer, and I think this is a mistake. Know the tenure criteria, ask for feedback, and how you are or are not meeting it. Those folks will likely be best suited to helping rule certain projects in our out (though many suggestions here are spot on with advice I have been given and am generally following).

I think it is worth mentioning that the projects to take on are those that ultimately you feel excited about and will follow through and do a good job on. And only you can know what those are.

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