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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.''
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!
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!
Parallel processing approach (MIMD version).
Place a pen in your right
hand. Place a pen in your left hand. Write two papers at once.
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.
Convince the Dean to grant tenure on the basis of
excellent teaching. Use free beer to bribe your class into providing
outstanding teaching evaluations.
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.
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.
Two translations of this essay in Czech can be found at
A translation of this essay in Estonian can be found at
Two translations of this essay in Polish can be