Not the Poor Stepchild

I won’t say exactly what prompted this post, but the short version is that somehow the idea is still out there that universities have a blanket rule that web publication, even peer reviewed and significant, is not worth doing and doesn’t count for tenure.  Grrrr. I know this is not true everywhere, because I was tenured two years ago and my web publications definitely did count. I also had print publications, but the most significant article in my dossier was from a peer-reviewed web journal.

So, all universities do not hold to this idea, but it is true that some do. If you are the first person hired as a Computers and Writing specialist at your university, that means you have to share with your peers and administrators how the scholarly context you live in works.

I’m adding a bit more here from my tenure experience in case it helps those currently on the tenure track who are Computers and Writing scholars. I’ve been tenured for two years now and my web publications were considered equal to print, sometimes considered better depending on the journal (CCO was rated very high). Three things helped me in my tenure dossier. One, my primary scholarly identity was Computers and Writing, and it is sheer logic to acknowledge that a Computers and Writing specialist without some significant web journal publication(s) would be just plain strange and a bit suspect. I pointed that out in the dossier overview. Next, I summarized and included the NCTE resource on tenure dossiers and judging work in the genre produced. Finally, the respect given for my webwork by my external reviewers showed that I was not the only one who rated peer-reviewed web publication as publication, plain and simple.

If you are a new tenure-track hire, congratulations! Your university is to be commended for valuing your scholarly area, especially if they have not had someone in it before. However, don’t wait until you compile your dossier to bring up these things. I didn’t, and there was very little web-backlash because  by then peer-reviewed web journals were not a new subject for those who knew me and my work, and what resistance that existed while my dossier was evaluated was firmly quashed by the full professors and admins who valued my work and who I made sure know the real deal about web publication in our field. I can’t say enough about the joy of having great colleagues.

I hope this doesn’t sound smarmy. I don’t want to minimize the struggles that others have and have had in order to do the scholarship in digital spaces that simply won’t work in print. At the same time, I don’t want new tenure-track technorhetors to contort their web scholarship to print just because their new peers don’t know how important the web is within our field. It’s okay to tell them, and more importantly, show them.

Posted by

Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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