It’s an interesting idea that an academic is haunted by long-term perceptions of whether he or she has been sufficiently collegial at some earlier stage in his or her career. As our faculty association’s tenure and promotion advisor, I tell my clients – colleagues having difficulty with the tenure and promotion system – that perceived collegiality is one of the most important criteria by which one is judged, even though it is not a formal criterion and appears in no statement of criteria.
An interesting question, however, is whether it is the individual who is haunted by past tenure and promotion difficulties, or whether it is a Koestlerian ghost in the machine that perpetually guides colleagues’ perceptions. Am I perpetually judged by the historical judgments, or is it only I who perceives myself to be a long-term outsider, despite what others might really have come to think, over time.
This consideration has been brought home to me, now that I am actively thinking of retirement. Back in the ’90s I had enormous difficulty with contract renewal and tenure, due to the apparent enmity of a senior professor in my faculty. As a result, I faced two tenure and promotion committees from my faculty that both voted against my receiving tenure. I survived, with rumours that I had survived only through the nefarious intercession of our faculty association, and not because I had a meritorious case. As a result, for twenty years I have regarded myself as an outsider, reinforced by the politics of my active involvement with the faculty association, which seemed at least partially responsible for my Dean, in recent years, refusing to support my promotion to full professor.
Now, however, when I tell my colleagues that I am considering retirement, I hear many expressions of apparently sincere regret. I was re-elected president of the faculty association by a significant majority and am in demand on certain significant faculty committees. I also recently received a very positive performance evaluation for output that, in the past, I suspect would have been valued less.
So perhaps it is I who have been haunted by the rejections of the past. Those who rejected me then are largely retired, but I have remembered, and never felt quite at home.
Of course, the senior professor who tried to get me eliminated has never buried the tomahawk. At least, that is my haunted impression.