- Scholarship Unbound: Assessing Service as Scholarship for Promotion and Tenure
"Scholarship" is often used in academic parlance recently, particularly when modified by a participle. Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff (1997), for example, reviewed how to "assess" scholarship after it was "reconsidered" by Boyer (1990). Similarly, Kerry Ann O'Meara attempted to "unbound" and "unwrap" scholarship in her dissertation, published in 2002 as part of the RoutledgeFalmer Series in Higher Education. While O'Meara did not directly address what it means to bound or wrap scholarship, the focus of her book, Scholarship Unbound: Assessing Service as Scholarship for Promotion and Tenure, indicated that unbounding might occur to the extent that faculty members' professional service activities are perceived as significant and valuable contributions to their scholarly productivity. O'Meara unwrapped service scholarship in Chapter 2 when she distinguished it from university committee work and disciplinary citizenship, and when she decried institutional drift towards rewarding faculty more for publication than for service or teaching.
Because reconsidering, assessing, and unbounding scholarship are "messy business," O'Meara used case study methods to explore how "people, policies, and decisions fall together" (p. 2) in four colleges of education selected as exemplars for using Boyer's reconsidered definition of scholarship for evaluating faculty work for promotion and tenure. Mid-West State and Patrick State Universities, and St. Timothy and Erin Colleges (all pseudonyms) modified their promotion and tenure criteria at various times during the early 1990s, reacting against a prevailing "research culture" and in response to Boyer's (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered. O'Meara's case studies of the programs (Chapters 3 through 6) detailed institution and education program characteristics, the impetus for and process of change in faculty evaluation procedures, and responses to the changes by promotion and tenure committee members and by tenure- and/or promotion-seeking faculty.
Comparing cases in Chapter 7, O'Meara found that key administrators and faculty members on each campus were inspired by Boyer (1990) to make promotion and tenure criteria more consistent with the range of work actually conducted by faculty. The norms of research culture influenced evaluation of service as scholarship by promotion and tenure committees in all four cases. Committee members wanted to see evidence of original and creative contribution to disciplinary knowledge, peer and/or client review, demonstrated effectiveness, and broad dissemination. Faculty members' service activities were less likely to enhance their cases for promotion or tenure when their dossiers described their relation-building activities with clients rather than how their analyses addressed intellectual questions. O'Meara reported that changed guidelines were most helpful when they provided service-oriented faculty with clear information about how to emphasize the scholarly nature of their service activities. In addition, O'Meara asserted that the service culture was strengthened [End Page 481] because Mid-West and Patrick State Universities secured more external funding for service as scholarship, their administrators and faculty gave presentations and published articles about their changed faculty evaluation procedures, and because reward policies were more consistent with campus rhetoric about service at all four institutions.
Chapter 8 drew on the case study and cross-case descriptions to offer suggestions for "designing cultures that reward service as scholarship." Although case study descriptions were strengths of the book, a key shortcoming was evident in the conclusion. Just as O'Meara reported that "committees complained that the [P & T] portfolios had descriptive rather than analytical accounts," (p. 167), the conclusion lacked the theoretical analysis that might enhance the ability of practitioners and researchers to make more effective use of her rich case descriptions. One place to start would be a more specific analytic definition of culture and its key components that should be considered for the purpose of understanding the impact of institutional policy change. O'Meara introduced the idea of "culture" as a unifying influence in a very short (p. 5) conceptual framework for the case studies, but immediately implied that academic and disciplinary subcultures might hinder unity. Each case has a section on "culture" that includes...