Sunday, 9 October 2005

Drezner Denial Discussion

The University of Chicago’s decision to deny tenure to Dan Drezner has predictably led to quite a bit of discussion; the highlights (as far as I’ve seen):

Stotch also raises an interesting point that is worth discussing at greater length:

Drezner made another huge mistake in trying to conflate blogging and scholarship, and I can only assume that his colleagues deemed this type of work unserious—a perspective with which I largely agree. Looking at his CV, however impressive, might have led his colleagues to believe that once granted tenure, his focus might shift away from his serious work toward more articles, books, conference papers, etc. about blogging—which I assume is hardly what they were looking for when they hired him.

I don’t necessarily believe that Dan’s primary area of expertise (international political economy) is any more “serious” than studying the role of weblogs in domestic political discourse, but it is quite definitely different, and to the extent that institutions hire people to “fill holes” (rather than based on their innate abilities or general competence) I think that could be an issue. Quite clearly, Dan was not hired by the U of C to be a political communications person. On the other hand, there’s no evidence that Dan has neglected scholarship in his primary field.

And I probably need not point out that plenty of tenured faculty take advantage of the security of tenure to spend more time with their families, stagnate scholastically, dodge professional responsibilities, and/or bed undergraduate and graduate students. Somehow the idea of Dan potentially doing research on blogs post-tenure seems like a de minimis concern compared to the other possibilities.


Any views expressed in these comments are solely those of their authors; they do not reflect the views of the authors of Signifying Nothing, unless attributed to one of us.

Has anyone even considered the possibility that Drezner’s scholarship—while plentiful—might not be of sufficient quality to warrent tenure in a top department? The quality of his work and impact it has on the field as a whole is the key criteria in judging whether someone is deserving of tenure


I think this point has been discussed by others; I personally am unqualified to judge whether Drezner’s scholarship has had sufficient impact on IR (beyond recognizing that he has published in the top journals in the field), but I trust their judgment on this point.

My working assumption (based on your comment) is that you believe the U of C acted correctly; I would be curious what criteria you would use, and whether you would apply those same criteria at your own institution.


The question is whether his work has had an impact on the subfield of IPE and/or on the field of international relations as a whole. People interested in sanctions undoubtedly read Drezner but it is not clear to me that scholars outside of this issue area are familiar with his scholarship. Remember, this is what external letters are for: to determine or establish the extent to which the candidate has had an impact on the field.

It is also worth mentioning that Chicago may base their decision (and I have no idea if this is the case though it is likely) on the work done while at Chicago. If that is the criteria then the resume is a bit thin: the two books are products of (a) his dissertation and (b) a volume edited while he was at Colorado (this is an assumption based on the resume). The book under review at Princeton may be significant but it is still under review.

The bottom line is that we just do not know what criteria is employed by the department and it is their right to grant or deny tenure to anyone so long as the process is fair. There is no indication—from anyone including Drezner—that the process was not fair.

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