On my campus, we’re nearing when promotion and tenure (P&T) candidates will learn the outcomes of their applications. I look forward to celebrating positive outcomes with colleagues.

On my Facebook feed, yesterday, I posted what’s become an annual note:

If anyone in my feed is processing alternate outcomes, I’m here for you, happy to treat you to coffee (or something stronger), and available to listen.

This year, I extended my note, and friends asked me to make the extension sharable in some way, so I’m posting it here.

If you know someone processing negative news about P&T, please keep the following in mind.

Please avoid saying:

  • “You’ll be successful next time” (how do you know?),
  • “Some people decide they don’t need to pursue promotion” (that’s fine for “some people”…),
  • “Help me understand why you weren’t successful so I can help other people be successful” (what the #%^*?), or
  • “It must be because you’re [insert identity characteristic]” or “because you did [X university service]” (how do you know/prove that?).

Also, please don’t speculate about why. Likely, candidates have received very brief feedback (sometimes only a few words). That feedback doesn’t always offer clarity. And it might not have anything to do with the guesses you’re making.

You mean well, so try these statements instead:

  • Want to go for a walk?
  • Can I take you to lunch/treat you to coffee?
  • I’m here for you.
  • I value your work.
  • I’m sorry. (Recognizing that administrators and P&T committee members simply can’t say this.)

I’ve been a P&T committee member, a P&T committee chair, an unsuccessful candidate for promotion, and a successful candidate for promotion to Full [old news]. I still carry the weight of those first three, even as I embody the positionality afforded by the fourth.

Thanks for thinking critically about how you offer support to your colleagues.

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