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Did You Pledge?: A Strategy to Avoid “Unofficial Hazing” and Using Mentoring to Achieve Tenure


Advancing Women and the Underrepresented in the Academy
A National Symposium
November 16-17, 2007
Johnson C. Smith University
Charlotte, North Carolina


Hasaan A. Kirkland, MFA, Johnson C. Smith University

“Greet Me!” shouted the graduate student across the undersized residence. The musty smoke filled apartment containing one window, a couch, a chair and a computer workstation was my first introduction to pledging and what would become the association to my first “unofficial hazing” experience. In retrospect, I feel justified and rewarded that I was actually chosen. The “unofficial hazing” of this world can be discovered in a variety of settings. Most branches of the military practice some sort of hazing, athletic programs condone it as a way to rise to the first string level on the team, and some corporations are touted for their relentless and cruel methods of promoting loyalty among the ‘newbies’ employed by the firm or board. This subtle tactic often acts as a selection process or strategy to advance worthy individuals to the desired and necessary ranks within the institutions. The parallel between “unofficial hazing” and the elusive tenure process is related by the subtle and sometimes overt actions that seem to trouble or cause trepidation in the lives of those pursuing tenure. Once the end goal has been achieved the “unofficial pledge process” has ended as well. This process is often repeated without healthy mentorship, which can eliminate such tactics.

The objective of this study is to present guidelines and raise awareness of junior faculty members. This paper will provide strategies on constructive mentoring of junior faculty, junior faculty of color and women, as well as ideas on planning and mapping out an objective course within the framework or the institution in an effort to obtain tenure.

Why is the implementation of a mentoring process so difficult? Successful mentoring programs are essential to the process and development of any junior faculty, as well as general improvement of existing academic and business programs. For years, industry has applied the philosophy and principles of mentoring to attract, retain, and promote junior employees, and mentoring has improved both individual and corporate performance and effectiveness. Mentoring has been known to invigorate senior faculty, to help junior professors learn the ropes, and to assist female and minority faculty members in understanding the organizational culture. (G. Luna, D.L. Cullen. 2003) Many junior faculty members have no idea what is involved in attaining tenure, since mentors may trivialize the obstacles that most junior faculty need to overcome. Consequently, we emerge from the challenges of graduate school triumphant and ready to embark upon our new careers as scholars. The tenure track is a surprise – like a sudden splash of cold water. (E, Smith, 1997) It is necessary, advantageous and smart for junior faculty to seek out a mentor or maintain their relationship with mentors from their graduate studies or PhD programs. In a recent paper, “Roles and Responsibilities of Faculty of Color: Balancing the Demands”, Dr. Harriette Richard, a psychologist at Northern Kentucky University, confirms that there is no direct connection between the mentoring process and the tenure process. This, she says, is particularly destructive to African-American faculty because “a personal commitment to mentoring was a clearly acknowledged, necessary part of what they did for themselves and their community.” The low value placed on mentoring becomes even more problematic because as Richard notes. “Research substantiates [that] mentoring [is] important because it directly affects the number of Blacks attending and graduating from that institution.” (P. Ruffins, 1997) Mentorship supports the depth, research, and the attainment of tenure and other professional goals that may be disguised or guided by circumstance or limited experience.

Mentorship provides a familiar communal connection to junior faculty, junior faculty of color, or women in close knit settings.  Statistically the mentorship offered by junior faculty, faculty of color, or by women to students from multicultural background or women/female students has been seen as a vital asset in the eyes of students. Ignoring these encouraging outcomes can negatively impact institutions that are becoming increasingly diverse. Over the past several decades, we have witnessed unprecedented growth in the gender, racial, and ethnic diversity of higher education’s student population, but without a comparable diversification of the faculty.  While minority students now account for approximately 28 percent of the overall student body (Snyder and Hoffman, 2000), the diversification of college faculty of color has lagged at a mere 12 percent (Moody, 2004; Antonio, 2002). The research indicates that incorporation of a mentoring process is vital to the success of junior faculty, faculty of color, and women. High quality departmental practices and resources should be used to help women and faculties of color thrive and contribute to the academic experience (Moody, 2004). Researchers Benson, Morahan, Sachdeva, and Richman addressed the usefulness of mentoring programs by questioning: Can a voluntary mentoring program be established with minimal resources and be effective in the context of major organizational change? Key design elements included two-tiered programs (one year preceptoring and multi-year mentoring), voluntary participation, and selection of senior faculty members by the junior faculty members. A total of 20% of junior faculty and 30% of senior faculty participated. Faculty indicated that the program was worth the time invested, had a positive impact on their professional life, and increased productivity. There was high satisfaction with the mentoring relationship, especially the psychosocial mentoring functions, and a trend toward increased retention of minority faculty. (Benson, Morahan, Sachdeva, Richman, 2002)

“The Mentor” can be personified in various forms.

The Road-Dog.”  Thisis the colleague that usually is a few years older and seasoned. They are willing to support junior faculty efforts without fear of competition, will inform the junior faculty member of potential difficulties, and will help to obtain useful resources. The Road-Dog is either pursuing tenure themselves or has recently obtained it.

“The Mom or Pop of Campus” is an older faculty or staff member who provides assistance and watches over junior faculty.They observe younger faculty as reflections of themselves. They appreciate the accomplishments of young faculty and offer suggestions based on years of experience.

Doc” is often an interesting, cutting edge Associate or Full Professor who has acted as a mentor from Graduate school.

Each of the mentoring types mentioned above provides the true definition of a mentor: one who provides positive direction and support. Support is the one provision that is not guaranteed by the institution. Faculty involved in mentoring are more likely to have opportunities to develop not only professionally (career orientation) but also personally (psycho-social needs) over the span of their careers (Kram 1986).The mentor is a resource of knowledge, understanding, conversation, direction, reality checks and advice that will allow a sense of preservation vital in the race to tenure. Mentorship is an imperative for junior faculty. Involving interested, able, available and safe individuals to participate in the process of mentorship is necessary and should not be dismissed or overlooked either by the institution or by the junior faculty member.

Planning and Preparation
It is essential that objectives be planned once a mentor has been secured. Clarity, awareness of requirements, responsibilities, and potential obstructions should be noted when approaching review and tenure. The preparation and planning of such events provides clarity and objective goals that can be accomplished or maintained along the way. Process planning and strategizing can help avoid the lack of accomplishment regarding publishable works as a consequence of teaching and other responsibilities. Time management has traditionally been a source of struggle and balancefor junior faculty members. The tenure system continues to receive criticism as it relates to how analysis of faculty productivity is determined; further, the issue of how faculty work is evaluated and rewarded, both in the pre- and post- tenure years. (Boyer, 1990, Boyer, 1994, Tierney, 1998) At Arizona State University, which has over 50 doctoral degree granting programs, it is a “mandatory” requirement that faculty devote a considerable portion of their working time to research, both funded and non-funded. However, according to several government surveys, even faculty at research universities spend considerably more time teaching than conducting research (Bieber and Blackburn, 1993, and Eash, 1983). On average, faculty work a 52-hour week at the national level (Antony and Raveling, 1998) Failing to plan or prepare may cause the faculty member operate on ‘auto pilot’ while teaching students and may cause the faculty member to pay less attention to research goals; this is often one reason why junior faculty fail to obtain tenure.

Paper Chasing… Document Everything
It was advised to me by my mentor and colleague while working at University of Washington State and later at Indiana State University to “document everything and keep it as a reference”. This strategy is necessary to substantiate, prove, and justify the legitimacy of the researcher’s work and further development as an academic and institutional asset. Service, curriculum instruction, grant writing, or publication in one’s field of study, are all part of the process, i.e., scholarship in the form of articles, reviews, artistic works, books, technical reports and/or published research findings from grant supported projects (Mawdsley, 1999). A generation ago, it was common to obtain tenure by publishing one or two articles based on dissertation research. Today, younger scholars are often required to author a book to receive departmental tenure recommendation. Rachel Hendrickson of the higher education department of the National Education Association (NEA) notes: “Twenty years ago, only about 6 percent of young faculty members were denied tenure. Now that figure is closer to 20 percent.” (E, Smith, 1997) Paper Chasing should be a natural method of filing and documentation of one’s work and process toward legitimizing, with evidence, worthiness to be granted tenure.


Carole A. Benson., Page S. Morahan., Ajit K. Sachdeva., Rosalyn C. Richman.(2002). Effective faculty preceptoring and mentoring during reorganization of an academic medical center. MCP Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, PA, USA.  Medical Teacher, Volume 24, Issue 5 September 2002, pages 550 – 557.

Moody, J. (2004). Faculty diversity: Problems and solutions. Routledge Press.

Snyder, T., & Hoffman, C. (2000). Digest of education statistics 1999. NCES 2000-031. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. U.S. Department of Education.

Gaye Luna and Deborah L. Cullen. 2003. Empowering the Faculty: Mentoring Redirected and Renewed by 2003 ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report series 95-3, (Volume 24-3)

Kram, K. E. 1986. “Mentoring in the Workplace.” In Career development in organizations, edited by R. A. Katzell pp. 160-201. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Edwyna Smith, “The tenure labyrinth – teachers in Afro-American studies”. Black Issues in Higher Education Oct 16, 1997.

Ruffins, Paul. (1997). “The shelter of tenure is eroding and for faculty of color gaining membership may be tougher than ever – African American teachers – includes related articles on several cases regarding tenure”. Black Issues in Higher Education Oct 16, 1997.

Antony, J. S., & Raveling, J. (1998). A comparative analysis of tenure and faculty productivity: Moving beyond traditional approaches. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association of the Study of Higher Education, Miami, FL.

Bieber, J. P., & Blackburn, R. T. (1993). Faculty research productivity 1972-1988: Development and application of constant units of measure (Report No. Ej471012). Washington, DC: National Center for Research on Higher Education.

Boyer, E. (1994). Scholarship assessed. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Association for Higher Education Conference on Faculty Roles and Rewards, Washington, DC.

Boyer, E. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professorate. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Eash, M. (1983). Educational research: Productivity of institutions of higher education (Report No. Ej282125). Washington, DC: National Center for Research on Higher Education.

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Tierney, W. G. (1998). Academic community and post-tenure review. Academe, 83(3), 23-25.Ovington, J.,

Diamantes, T., Roby, D., Charles, R. (2003) An analysis of prevailing myths regarding tenure and promotion, Wright State University