CAP recommends promotion of four assistant profs to tenure

The Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP) has recommended that the Board of Trustees grant tenure to four assistant professors, and has not recommended tenure for two assistant professors. However, the Board won’t finalize CAP’s recommendations until its January meeting.

Michael Lewis of the art department, Lee Park of the chemistry department, Kris Kirby of the psychology department and Leyla Rouhi of the romance languages department were all recommended for tenure. Michael Samson of the economics department and Gretchen Meyer of the biology department were not recommended for tenure.

President of the College Harry Payne said there are a plethora of different indicators used in making final tenure decisions.

“The decision to recommend a person for tenure is based on a total assessment of teaching, scholarship, and service, and a judgment as to the promise for a lifetime of high performance,” he said. “This evaluation draws on many sources: the self-assessment of the individual; the judgment of tenured colleagues in the department and in programs in which the person participates; student evaluation of teaching (both through student course survey scores and other means used by the department); reports of external reviewers on the quality of scholarship; the record of publications, exhibition, grants, and other forms of public scholarship; the record of quality service to the College.”

Dean of the Faculty David L. Smith added that teaching, scholarship and service are all very important in the assessment of a candidate, although good teaching and scholarship are the primary qualities for which the College seeks.

“There are very high expectations for both teaching and scholarship,” he said. “You can’t say that one can substitute for the other.”

Payne said normally tenure decisions are made at the end of the fall of the professor’s sixth year, but there are variations based on individual circumstances.

Payne said academic departments annually review the work of tenure-track assistant professors, and also longer term visiting faculty, and ultimately make a recommendation to CAP as to whether or not an assistant professor should receive tenure.

The committee is chaired by the Dean of the Faculty, and comprises the President, the Provost and three elected senior members of the faculty, representing the three academic divisions.

After the CAP makes its recommendation, the Board of Trustees has the right of final approval at its January meeting.

“The Board of Trustees hears [CAP’s] positive recommendations and votes its judgment in January,” Payne said. “It is not required to accept our recommendations, although historically it has honored these judgments. Departmental recommendations are frequently followed, but not always. The judgment is an independent one made by the CAP, with the departmental recommendation a very important factor.”

Payne said assistant professors who do not receive tenure are entitled to appeal based on grounds of inadequate or improper consideration, standards for which are indicated in the Faculty Handbook. A faculty panel reviews appeals and reports to the President.

Neither Samson nor Meyer have publicly stated whether or not they plan to appeal CAP’s decision. Meyer declined to comment on CAP’s decision, and Samson could not be reached for comment.

Michael Lewis

Speaking on the tenure process, Lewis said, “The best way to think about it is not to think about it. You just have to do what you like to do.”

Lewis expected to find out about the decision the week before Christmas, but said he was delighted to get the news from friends and colleagues Guy Hedreen and Elizabeth McGowan a month before that time.

Lewis’s scholarship focuses on American art and architecture. He has taught courses on architecture from 1700 to 1900 and American art in the pre-Civil War period.

He is currently at work on a biography of the Philadelphian architect Frank Furness, and has just received a contract for a book on the architectural revival of Gothic architecture.

Lewis has written art criticism for magazines, such as Commentary and New Criterion. “I feel that scholarship has become too isolated from cultural life and my writing in these magazines looks to remedy that a bit,” he said.

He also writes for journals of opinion and newspapers. “This writing has forced me to write especially clearly and persuasively because in these publications you have to hold your readers’ attention,” he noted.

Lewis said he places a high importance on writing in his courses. “By tightening writing, an individual’s thought process gets better,” he said. “I see the teaching of writing as something important to all departments, not just English.”

Lee Park

Park said the news of the tenure decision was a “big relief.”

“I wasn’t expecting the decision so early, but I’m glad not to have this hanging over my head anymore,” she said. “Now I can just get back to the work I do.”

Park’s research focuses on inorganic materials chemistry. She has worked on designing a one-dimensional metallic materials using a liquid crystalline approach.

Since coming to Williams, Park has taught courses such as “Instrumental Methods of Analysis” and “Polymers and Materials,” in addition to introductory level courses.

Park spoke about her interests in designing new courses at Williams.

“I’m interested in developing greater emphasis on materials chemistry,” she said. “I designed the 313 course with a colleague. We are looking to expand the study of materials chemistry with the physics and biology departments. Hopefully we can form ‘clusters’ with other departments in that direction.”

Kris Kirby

Kirby was also surprised at how early he found out about the decision. “I wasn’t expecting to hear about it for another month, so at first I thought he was joking. It was great to find out so early.”

Kirby is a cognitive psychologist. He explained, “My primary area of specialty is decision making—the study of how we make choices and the factors that influence our choices. My current research focuses on impulsive decision making and self-control.”

Kirby teaches the cognitive section of Psychology 101, “Experimentation & Statistics,” “Cognitive Psychology,” and “Reasoning & Decision Making.”

He hopes to incorporate more technology into future courses. “In Psyc 101 and 221 I use a lot of computer demonstrations,” he said. The task of a cognitive psychologist is similar to that of someone who is trying to figure out how a computer’s software works just by typing commands and seeing what happens. I try to come up with demos that allow students to try their hands at this, as well as demos that illustrate classic experiments in cognitive psychology. One thing I am hoping to do in the near future is to make these demonstrations available through my web page so that students can try them at home, and so that I can build assignments around them.”

Leyla Rouhi

Rouhi said that she was delighted to hear about the tenure decision. “I felt very grateful that the College had the trust in me to recommend me for tenure,” she said.

Rouhi is a medievalist who studies the cultural and literary exchange between the Islamic world and the Spanish world. Her focus is how literature dramatizes the interaction between the different cultures. She has an upcoming book on the literary history of the figure of the “go-between.”

Rouhi has taught courses in elementary and advanced Spanish literature, Don Quixote, late 19th and early 20th century Spanish literature, and the literature and philosophy in Spain of the generation of 1898. She also teaches courses in the literary studies department.

“In the future I would very much would like to offer a medieval literature course which examines the coexistence of the three religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” she said. “I would like to read texts that show the tensions and friendships that occurred among the three.”

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