Scholarly Engagement as Understood within Sociology
As a holistic discipline, the teaching of sociology is not limited to the classroom nor is scholarship in this discipline necessarily separate from its teaching. Students of sociology understand the discipline and come to appreciate its significant contributions to the weighty debates of the day through their observations of the myriad of ways in which sociologists are engaged with the field. Such engagement takes many forms and will vary based upon individual predilections and stages in career development. Nonetheless, significant involvement with the discipline is crucial to maintaining one's intellectual vitality while conveying a sense of sociology as a vibrant arena of inquiry to our students.
Assessing the depth and character of any individual's scholarly engagement is difficult, at best. The task is further complicated when the discipline in which the scholars are engaged is as multifaceted and eclectic as is sociology. Then, again, a discipline which imagines itself as capable of systematically examining the multiple dimensions of human sociality must recognize that such an ambitious claim would require a plethora of approaches and modalities to be represented within this endeavor. As such, we favor the flexible application of criteria whose ranking is sensitive to the nature of the sociological inquiry that our colleagues pursue as well as the different stages through which most careers are likely to pass at this institution and within the academy as a whole.
1. Active and effective participation in the field through publication: All sociology faculty at Kenyon are expected to share their ideas, theories, data, or methodological approaches through publication. In this department, we recognize that publication takes many forms. The authoring of journal articles is one commonly-accepted mode of demonstrating one's engagement within the field. The same is true for the publishing of book reviews and review essays. Within the overall class of journals currently published in the discipline, those in which contributions are subject to peer review are, generally, of the highest quality. While we might, therefore, rank publication in refereed journals higher than those lacking in this feature, the ultimate assessment of scholarship should rest upon our independent judgments about the quality and merit of any particular article, review, or essay, not the forum in which they appear, nor the quantity of such publications. Given the holistic character of the discipline, we also acknowledge the value of our colleagues' publishing in comparable interdisciplinary venues.
As major presentations of original work, scholarly monographs or books are particularly valued contributions. Since they are almost invariably subjected to peer-review prior to acceptance by a press, their publication can be substituted in the review process for journal contributions and given as much, if not more, weight. Recognizing the considerable expectations of faculty at this particular institution regarding the amount and quality of student contact one should have, both inside and outside of the classroom, we anticipate that monographs or books are likely to be far less numerous than articles in any individual's portfolio. While our expectation of a colleagues' authoring of books is not as great as her or his other publishing activities, we imagine that such production will likely occur as one moves into the ranks of the senior faculty. A significant portion of such authoring may entail the editing of anthologies, the authoring and revision of textbooks, and chapter contributions to the works of others.
In society today, and perhaps more so of tomorrow, publication can and will take a variety of forms. We feel that it is not only fruitful, but necessary, to acknowledge the myriad of ways in which sociologists may present their work to the scholarly community at large. Increasingly, those avenues will include creation and dissemination of materials through the Internet. Publication in "cyberspace," while customarily not subjected to prior peer-review and, therefore, not as highly regarded as the previously mentioned forums, nonetheless is a legitimate endeavor for placing ideas before one's peer. Regardless of whether or not the "published materials" are closely scrutinized and become the subject of disciplinary comment or critique, we will recognize it when a colleague makes them available for review beyond the boundaries of this particular institution. We are also aware of the potential for colleagues' works to be presented in other media such as audio tape, videotape, computer disk, and similar digital technologies. Such works, while not accorded the same weight in assessing scholarly engagements as peer-reviewed journal and book publication, do demonstrate some measure of professional engagement. Experimentation with these methods should be encouraged and assessed on a case-by-case basis for their ingenuity and success in accomplishing that most important of goals: making one's thoughts and research resonate with as wide an audience as possible.
2. Active participation in scholarly discourse: Giving papers, participating on panels, and serving as discussants or moderators at professional meetings are important means for sharing with colleagues and students information and ideas often not yet ready for publication. Especially significant are those cases where one is invited to contribute a presentation or provide a guest lecture, such summonses bespeaking the respect others have for that person's scholarship, knowledge, and expertise. Organizing symposia is another important sign of professional vitality as it demonstrates a willingness to face and overcome logistical and intellectual obstacles in order to bring diverse perspectives to bear on an important topic. Frequently our colleagues are invited to review manuscripts or serve as external reviewers of departments and programs at other institutions; participation in such activities is further evidence of the regard in which they are held within the discipline and is recognized for its scholarly contribution. All sociologists should be regular participants and contributors to professional gatherings, be they annual meetings or conferences (national or regional), seminars or symposia (e.g., NEH Summer Seminar), workshops, or specialized programs where colleagues come to exchange ideas and information regarding the subject of one's teaching, scholarship, or intellectual interests. Again, we expressly recognize the value of our colleague's attendance and participation in interdisciplinary conferences and meetings in addition to those intended principally for scholars within sociology.
It is not uncommon for our colleagues to be called upon to present their ideas in a variety of forums outside of the discipline, academic and non-academic alike. Whether giving talks at community and civic events, making appearances on radio and television programs, or sponsoring forums on topics of general community interest, our colleagues take seriously the value of contributing to public scholarship. As "public scholars," they encourage dialogue among wide-ranging lay constituencies and work to make their insights accessible to non-academic audiences. We will acknowledge these efforts as contributing to the scholarly discourse.
3. Regular and disciplined pursuit of knowledge: Although often closely identified with the activities described in guideline #2 above, we want to stress that the generation or discovery of "new knowledge" in sociology may require external (outside Kenyon) funding to support this research. Receipt of grant/fellowship monies depends on successfully convincing peer-review panels and grant administrators that planned investigations are both significant and feasible. Though evaluated according to many of the same criteria used in selecting manuscripts for publication, grant and fellowship competitions are particularly intense. Successful application for and receipt of research funding, or competitive selection for fellowships and stipends, are significant scholarly accomplishments and, accordingly, are regarded as such. It is unreasonable, therefore, to expect that even the most gifted researcher will be successful in more than half their applications; junior faculty, in fact, are often at a disadvantage when competing for such funds. Still, being a sociologist means being committed to seeking new knowledge and that, in turn, requires submitting one's ideas and research strategies to the close scrutiny of those experts who participate in the peer-influenced decisions about whose scholarship receives financial support.
4. Acquisition of new skills or pursuit of secondary fields of scholarly interest:Sociology encompasses such a wide array of interests and specialties that it is not surprising to find its practitioners changing investigative foci throughout their careers. Acquisition of new skills is often required to make these shifts and such activities must be encouraged in the interests of intellectual vigor. We, therefore, encourage and acknowledge the value of our colleagues' attending workshops and enrolling in classes as they move to redress gaps in their knowledge or skills. This work is also expected to contribute to an individual's ability to offer a wider range of courses than would be possible if they stayed more narrowly focused on a particular specialty
within the field. At Kenyon, especially, such expansion is to be valued.
5. Active work with students: The task of teaching sociology quite naturally involves modeling the role of "sociologist." While sometimes the lines are blurred between where scholarship ends and teaching begins, we recognize that the "doing" of sociology can occur in partnership with students alongside the "teaching" of it. Many of the activities described herein are greatly enhanced when students are involved in them. Given the central mission of Kenyon and the express priority given to the quality of teaching which takes place here, our colleagues should be encouraged and rewarded for designing research programs which allow for significant participation by our students. Field research, for example, that significantly incorporates undergraduates can be as esteemed as investigations conducted by the professional alone. Publishing or presenting papers with undergraduates, or helping them to contribute their ideas on their own, can be as important as engaging in these tasks by oneself. The premise underlying these distinctions is that students learn best when they are actively engaged with the subject matter; full involvement with a professional in the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge is one of the most powerful ways to achieve such engagement.
Possible Scholarly Productivity Scenarios (for example as opposed to minimum standard)
While it is difficult to suggest definitive performance scenarios and remain true to the spirit of flexibility we intend in these guidelines, a value to which we are fully committed, we think it is both wise and desirable to express with more specificity the types and range of scholarship that a successful review dossier might contain relative to the faculty member's scholarly engagement, particularly in the area of publication. We do not prejudge, however, any performance which varies from the scenarios presented herein. In fact, we specifically reject the notion that there is a numerical formula which either requires a determination of "inadequate engagement" or ensures a successful review on the scholarship dimension.
With respect to a colleague's first reappointment review, which ordinarily will occur in that person's second year at Kenyon, we believe that "scholarly engagement" is evidenced by her or his attendance at disciplinary meetings and, where the opportunity presents itself, participation in an academic panel or forum at this institution. We explicitly recognize that often there has not been sufficient time for our colleague to have produced publishable work prior to standing our colleague's first review. However, as publication is not the sole criterion of "scholarly engagement," we can imagine that our colleague will have begun to engage herself or himself in the scholarly activities set forth above which may not be intended for, nor necessarily result in, publication .
For a colleague's second reappointment review, which ordinarily will occur in that person's third year of service at Kenyon, we believe the faculty member has demonstrated engagement as a scholar when she or he has been actively engaged in the process of sharing her or his ideas through a combination of activities which should include publication. In addition to any of the various scholarly activities described above and in which she or he has participated, our expectation of our colleague is that she or he should have published a journal article, review essay, monograph, or book chapter. Further, we would expect that our colleague's attendance at conferences or disciplinary meetings would include a presentation of her or his work.
By the time of a colleague's review for appointment without limit (tenure), our expectation of her or him is that scholarly engagement will have been demonstrated through a combination of the activities described herein. As an integral part, however, of her or his participation in such activities, we will expect our colleague to have shown both promise and progress in the area of publishing. By this stage of one's career and service at Kenyon, we will expect that she or he has had published some combination of journal articles, reviews, review essays, monographs, or book chapters. Our colleague's attendance at conferences or disciplinary meetings should include presentation of her or his work.
A colleague who becomes a candidate for promotion to the rank of full professor will, of course, already have demonstrated a degree of scholarly engagement sufficient to merit tenure. A tenure decision, however, should not signal the end of a scholarly career. On the contrary, it is typical that members of this department have done their most important work later on. Therefore, in order to earn the rank of full professor, our colleague must present a record of continuing scholarly work, including but not limited to publications. Said publications are likely to be a combination of journal articles, review essays, book chapters, or books.
Finally, it should be emphasized that these guidelines and the scholarship criteria upon which they elaborate need to be applied flexibly in order to take account of career stages and individual interests. For example, during the first five years of one's professional life, we would expect that most of an individual's efforts will be concentrated on writing articles and reviews, presenting papers, and, where appropriate, seeking funding. Not all of these attempts will bear immediate fruit; "one who is just beginning to walk cannot be expected to run." Evaluations should take this into account, accepting earnest effort, such as promising, yet so far unsuccessful, article submissions or manuscripts not yet under contract, in lieu of long lists of accomplishments. During the next ten years or so, articles, papers, and grant proposals should start finding greater, though never universal, acceptance. This is the span during which people establish their careers and get a clearer sense of who they are professionally. The next ten to fifteen years may witness a gradual transition away from active field research and toward writing those books that have been long-delayed by other responsibilities. This is also the interval in which one's growing maturity of vision and purpose can be expected to reveal novel lines of inquiry that may require new skills. These factors must be borne in mind at all stages of evaluation.
These guidelines are not intended to provide minimum production quantities as a basis for denying renewal or promotion; rather, they should provide guidance to our colleagues in advance of their reviews as to the expectations that the department has about the types and range of activities which we feel demonstrate scholarly engagement. Again, we expressly reject the notion that there is a numerical productivity threshold, even where we have indicated our preferences or expectations, at which point it can be assumed that a colleague's engagement is either sufficient or inadequate. We acknowledge that there may be occasions where the expectation is not met, yet in our judgment, our colleague has nonetheless demonstrated scholarly engagement. We specifically retain the right and responsibility to make such judgment on each individual case, consistent with the guidelines set forth herein.