A Few Tricks That A
Beginning Faculty Member Can Use To
Obtain Tenure In A University
Computer Science Department

Tenure is the holy grail of university life. Once tenured, faculty enjoy academic freedom -- they can choose research without fear of displeasing the administration or the board of trustees. To obtain tenure, a faculty member must endure a probationary period in which they demonstrate capability, after which their record of accomplishment is judged by senior faculty.

Many candidates choose the standard path to tenure: they publish research papers and gain a scientific reputation. However, doing so can be exceedingly dull. You might choose instead an alternative approach that provides an opportunity to avoid being just another boring academic. Here are a few of the many possibilities:

  1. Statistical approach.

    Observe that the set of candidates who achieve tenure after six years at an institution is much larger than the set of candidates rejected in their sixth year. Thus, it follows that the probability of promotion after six years is high. Sit and wait.

  2. Lower-Bound approach.

    Each faculty with nonzero tenured members must include a worst tenured professor. The worst member provides a lower bound. Repeatedly point out the worst case to the Dean and then be epsilon better.

  3. Automata-theoretic approach.

    The set of tenured professors define an equivalence class. Prove that you are in the same state of mind as a member of the set, and argue that it must be an accepting state.

  4. Numerical approach.

    Convert a count of your published papers to floating point, divide by the number of papers the tenure committee desires, and then show the result is equal to 1.0 except for hardware round-off errors.

  5. Security approach.

    Break into the university's computer system and adjust the record of the tenure vote. If caught, claim that you deserve tenure for demonstrating superior intellect in the field of computer security. If that fails, threaten to break in again and change salaries.

  6. Scheduling-theoretic approach.

    Schedule an emergency meeting of the tenure committee when all members are out of town (note, this should not be hard to achieve because tenured professors spend many weeks each semester on vacation). Write an anonymous note to all members that says the vote was taken without them.

  7. Software Engineering approach.

    Gather a team of ninety students who will write papers for you. Don't worry about using smart students -- ``average'' or ``below average'' undergraduates will be more excited by the possibilities. Hold meetings, practice good management, and make them review each other's work. If the initial batch of students tires of the work, replace them. Warning: your tenure vote may slip into the seventh year using this approach (but Rome wasn't built in a day).

  8. Artificial Intelligence approach.

    Devise a neural net that can scan published research papers and generate similar output. Submit them to conferences and journals in other countries where grammatical mistakes are likely to go unnoticed.

  9. Networking approach.

    Build a program that sends e-mail to tenured faculty at most major schools. Arrange the e-mail header so it appears to originate from a well-known person in the field who is looking for a copy of one of your papers. Assert that the paper is the authoritative reference on the subject. Add necessary fields to the header so replies are directed to you.

  10. Combinatoric approach.

    Enumerate all possible combinations of papers in the top two-dozen Computer Science journals. Keep the tenure committee busy by sending them each of the lists of papers with the question, ``is this sufficient for tenure?'' Argue that if they cannot answer all your questions within seven years, you deserve tenure.

  11. Entitlement approach. Stop writing papers and act like a victim.

    Claim that the attitude of senior faculty has prevented you from engaging in research. Make them feel guilty and sorry for you. Imply that you deserve better. When senior faculty begin to talk about tenure, say bluntly, ``if senior people cared, they would write papers and put my name on them -- they owe me at least that much.''

  12. Politically correct approach.

    Go back through your ancestors until you can dredge up an obscure minority status. Try to show a past history of prejudice against your group (for example, how many short people have the university had on basketball team?). Argue that if you do not get tenure, you will organize a student protest in which hundreds of students accuse the university of not being fair!

  13. Parallel processing approach (SIMD version).

    To significantly increase output, attach four pens to a stick of wood. Grab the stick of wood and write a paper. You will wind up with four papers!

  14. Parallel processing approach (MIMD version).

    Place a pen in your right hand. Place a pen in your left hand. Write two papers at once.

  15. Theory approach.

    Solve the problem ``Is P = NP ?'' by observing that the answer is ``yes'' when P=0 or N=1. Argue that everyone promised you tenure for the solution, and they shouldn't back down.

  16. Teaching approach.

    Convince the Dean to grant tenure on the basis of excellent teaching. Use free beer to bribe your class into providing outstanding teaching evaluations.

  17. Diagonalization approach.

    Observe that at least one tenured professor was denied tenure at another organization. Thus, the set of all tenured professors contains a member who was not tenured. Argue that obtaining membership in such a set is equivalent to solving the halting problem.

  18. Programming languages approach.

    Show that the natural language used to specify tenure requirements (e.g., English) is inherently ambiguous. Argue that the ambiguity invalidates the requirements. Then devise an obscure, but unambiguous grammar that generates tenure requirements, making sure your vita is a valid sentential form. Point out that you have fulfilled the only set of unambiguous requirements available.