Not once did anyone in the political science department at Williams College say to me that I was expected to publish anything in the 1.5 years between when I finished my dissertation and when they made their decision to take me off the tenure track.
I remember I was told by the department chair, Raymond Baker, that the problem was the quality of my thesis. This is why winning the Williams Anderson Award from the American Political Science Association was such an incredibly significant moment in my life. This award provided independent confirmation that the tenured faculty in the department – at least that portion of the tenured faculty who voted against me – were dead wrong or more likely deceitful in their assessment of my work.
If Baker had told me that I was taken off the tenure track because I hadn’t yet published an article, I would have remembered that statement and winning the Williams Anderson Award would not be such a thrilling, empowering turning point in my life. In fact, I might not refer to myself as an award-winning political scientist at all (which started when I first got on Twitter) if I had been taken off the tenure track for simply not publishing an article.
The reality of my situation as a young scholar is that Baker and his allies were gas lighting me, trying to make me think that denying me an opportunity to compete for tenure was my fault, the repercussions of perhaps doing a poor job in researching my thesis, or for picking a less significant topic, or for not adding more quantitative analysis to support my theory.
In retrospect, I think it is beyond question that the tenured faculty who sought to separate me from the school were motivated entirely by the facts that 1) I was a consistent and reliable vote against all of their affirmative action hires and 2) I was responsible for empowering a growing, conservative, Republican student base, a base which was also opposed to affirmative action hires.
(Baker himself requested that I no longer vote on the hiring decisions after I was taken off the tenure track. I refused.)
The present political science department and the college are still scarred by the decisions it made regarding me almost 30 years ago. The political science department is radically unbalanced and does not contain a single Republican or conservative. There is little to no active Republican or conservative student activity on campus. Not one of the department’s current assistant professors is a white male political scientist. Weak minority and female assistant professors – mainly in the non-quantitative field of political theory – have dragged down the quality and prestige of the department.
As far as I know, there is absolutely no one in the department (tenured or not) who has shown – as a young scholar – a more precocious skill and ability to do creative, original, game-changing work in political science.My thesis helped inspire a renaissance of scholarship on the Progressive Era mother’s pensions programs and changed the way we think of the causes of welfare programs in our country. It is still cited by contemporary scholars. It is a telling, historically significant hint of what a powerful and intellectually exciting place Williams College might have been if it rewarded excellence over diversity.
Response to ABL
Aren’t you getting tired of attacking me with your uninformed, misguided, undocumented comments and idle speculation? You are boring me and a lot of folks at Ephblog. Nevertheless…
1. About Cornell: I was a graduate student at Cornell University. I never applied to teach there. My peers and professors at Cornell University were deeply impressed with my academic achievements including the fact that I got hired at Williams College on the basis of my M.A. thesis proposal.
2. Unusual Circumtances: As far as I know, no one at Williams College has ever taken off the tenure track before or since. Normally, all assistant professors are given a fair opportunity to compete for tenure. I was not.
3. Academic Productivity: I was quite productive at Williams College and routinely had papers accepted in multiple panels at the APSA annual conference and other regional conferences. I had taken substantial action toward publishing my thesis by submitted my book proposal to a number of high quality academic publishers who were interested in political science works with a historical focus. I had also received instructions from the publishers on what changes needed to be made to turn my thesis into a book.
4. Book Potential: Ironically, my thesis was so good that it was eventually published – as book chapters – almost in its entirety with virtually no changes at all. It was so good that it is still cited by contemporary scholars.
5. Knowledge of My Ideology: No one in the department knew that I was a conservative when I interviewed for an assistant professor job. I only changed my party registration to Republican in the the Spring of 1988. The decision to take me off the tenure track was made about nine months later.
6. Initial Hiring: I was not the department’s first choice for the assistant professor position. They initially offered the job to a female candidate who ended up accepting another offer. Since I was second in line, I was offered the job. I have no doubt that the department went to great lengths to avoid hiring me in the first place simply because I was a straight white male.
7. History of Discrimination: As far as I can tell, there is no one in the department today who is a registered Republican and no one who is a vocal critic of affirmative action, a key center piece of conservative ideology. Not a single one of the current assistant professors in the department is a white male political scientist. I think it is perfectly obvious that the department has a history of discriminating against young white men and of providing black females with unprecedented opportunities and advantages.
Lonely Days and Lonely Knights: OC Resident Dr. Drew Was Once a MA Republican Political Science Professor
I hope my comments satisfy your curiosity, answer your sincere questions, and bring this discussion to an appropriate end. Happy Thanksgiving.
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.