THE TENURE GAME
by Terrance Boult
If getting tenure is your life long quest,
read on my friend this is only half jest.
These things I learned from my tenure bid
they are what I observed, not what I did.
If science or teaching are things you hold dear
You might think now about another career.
Be ready to sacrifice to get this job for life
its takes lots of hard work, causes plenty of strife.
It may all be worth it when your sitting on top--
the day after tenure the hard work can stop.
When you've reach you life's goal ask: "What did I pay?
How different am I now, from on my first day?"
The tenuring process makes many a Jekyll and Hyde
By the time they get tenure even they can't decide
Is what matters science and students' education
or the size of their vita and their own reputation?
Joining this rat race may exact a high toll
Many never stop running, others give up their soul.
Pray your field is not shrinking, your not stabbed from behind
Pray your committee 's not senile, nor has an ax left to grind.
In tenure things count which are beyond your control
so in the final decision there is a dice roll.
You can play the game keenly, covering all of the odds
But the final outcome depends on the mood of the gods.
I've done what I wanted, I've no one to blame,
and if I was starting all over I'd play it the same.
I hope that as my "career" does implode and burn
there are some minor points from which you can learn:
if you really want tenure, play the game from the start.
But if you like who you are, just follow your heart.
The Tenure Game:
No matter what area of research you've entered
you should become narrowly focused and totally self-centered.
To get tenure you've got to carve out a niche of your own
so invent a new problem and make it well known.
On this single problem you should concentrate
then claim you've solved it and must therefore be great.
Don't ever forget the main point of the game:
to publish everything! (No matter how lame ;-)
So send your work out to journals galore.
Break each result into three papers, or four!
Proclaim your greatness for all to hear
and if the work is shallow you should not fear.
Claim your work 's general, but test at most twice.
Reference the critics, then make the graphs nice.
If you're not really sure that the work is first rate
then with mathematics and lingo you should obscurate.
So few people read carefully what their colleague write
its unlikely any flaw would 'er be brought to light.
Your colleagues are much like the students you teach
their minds are elsewhere, they're not easy to reach.
So triple publish, republishin' each as if new.
This helps to insure that your name will come through.
If a paper's rejected, don't take it in stride!
Pester the editor while resubmitting on the side.
Minimize undergrad contact of absolutely every kind.
and whenever you teach, keep your research in mind.
If classes' assignments don't help your project along,
then their course designs must simply be wrong.
Change things around, your in charge don't forget,
Put your name on the results -- one more paper you get.
Remember that graduate students are your bread and butter.
So as you chew one up, just reach for another.
Put your students to work on whatever you need,
if it hurts their careers you should not give heed.
YOUR tenure 's at stake and one cannot deny
you can treat students as objects -- there are plenty to buy.
Take care not to jostle those with tenure already
they have tenure remember, so they might be quite heady.
If their work is so close you understand what they do,
they could be asked their opinion when your tenure is due.
So stoke them and tell them how great is their work,
to tell them the truth would prove you're a jerk.
Do just enough service to keep your name on the books
On your vita list the committees to keep up good looks.
When it comes to the work do less than the minimal;
being a committee sloth is simply not criminal.
If the papers are flowing and your money 's grand,
its doesn't really matter if you never lift a hand.
When you've about three years left on the tenure time-clock,
you can promise great things, even if they're a crock.
Gather scads of money, even if it takes mirrors and smoke,
for your in the home stretch and going for broke.
Make a very big splash with your promises bold --
you'll have tenure before the truth will unfold.
To win the tenure game, just keep boasting on high;
when asked for help, you simply DO NOT REPLY.
What really matters is external perception,
so why waste your time on internal reflection.
Don't worry if academics is not what it seems
As was long ago published: the ends justify the means.
You might be wondering just what credentials I had.
Maybe my research was weak, or my students were bad.
Well measuring research is a difficult task,
you get different answers with each person you ask.
But I'll give you an idea, with facts rather dry.
Lets start with the obvious: I won a PYI.
I won two other NSF grants, one each in vision and theory.
So some people must think that my work is not dreary.
I have a few smaller grants, industrial funding too,
and from ARPA I've brought in a cool million or two.
I helped Columbia CS bring in many more millions to boot
so I think that I've done my share of raising the loot.
I'm an associate editor -- I know what 's good and what 's not.
(Though unfortunately, lately, much of that journal 's been rot :-)
I've had ten good papers, twenty more are OK,
with two or three more good ones now on the way.
Each paper 's quite different, they don't play on a theme.
I don't think tocatta and fugue is a scientific scheme.
I think archival publication means its accessible to many
with serious filters for the junk. (Which is plenty!)
Suffered, I have, for my stance on archival:
that top vision conferences, now, do the best journals rival.
They're in national indexes, and most libraries subscribe.
The big difference some see, I cannot describe.
Technology is changing the way we do science.
A big part of my problem is that I stood in defiance
of the acceptable norms from decades gone past
but I feel these old standards simply won't last.
with instant online access the publishing game becomes passe'
and as things change this quickly, specialists go the same way.
I've enjoyed teaching students, undergrads most of all.
(Though I'm not Mr. Popular, I push my student to the wall!)
I taught more than required, and when I saw an educational need
I introduced Undergrad courses -- now two are standard feed.
Only once did I teach MY topic. I taught what needed taught.
Though I knew that for CU's tenure, education counts for naught.
I had directed six Ph.d.s (two were jointly with others).
Four now hold faculty positions, as this was their druthers.
All have obtained NSF funding, two won NYIs too!
I am quite proud to say I helped forty more get through.
Not even tenured CS faculty can come close to this stat
nor to the thirty plus defenses on which I have sat.
I may not have tenure, but I've the soul of a scholar.
Science and students come first, not ego and dollar.
This might all sound spiteful, sour grapes you might say
and then rationalize my behavior in your own special way.
But the grapes are not sour, they'd be as sweet as can be
but I'd rather go on hungry if could not be me.