Tuesday, 11 October 2005

The Drezner Decision; or, I Knew It! I Knew It! I Knew It! Huzzah! The news that Daniel Drezner has been denied tenure will no doubt be the topic of conversation for days to come. Reactions have ranged from the predictable to the insightful. The predictable will find some way to blame it on the blog: There are a couple of tentative conclusions to draw, I think. One is that it's probably a very bad idea to blog under your own name if you don't have tenure. Chicken Little, unable to see sky for his self-righteous cries, considers the complex situation and draws some characteristically inane conclusions: How come Drezner didn't get tenure? Same questions, same answers, it seems to me. Maybe it was the blog, maybe someone didn't like his sister. In any case, if I were blogging under my own name, expected to pursue an academic career, and didn't have tenure, I would seriously reconsider the blog. It must have been the blog. Since he's as intelligent as he is well-published, the only reasonable explanation of his denial is the blog. Arguments which assume the blog spelled Drezner's doom deny the how dicey departmental politics are. Drezner may be an internet celebrity but an odd bird in his own department. He may be intelligent but, as some of those who comment their consolations acknowledge, the department may be headed in a different direction. Or perhaps he angered one person on his review board. Perhaps something he had said at a faculty luncheon three years past had rubbed a reviewer raw and submarined his chances. Because tenure reviews occur behind locked doors, neither the candidate nor his readers know the details. To claim the blog exacerabated whatever departmental divisions already existed reminds this blogger of the days after Timothy McVeigh took down the Alfred P. Murrah building. Cries of "Islamic fundamentalists!" tore through the media. This repetition comforted all those who needed explanation. When proved patently false, those who had declared that fundamentalists had torn down our sky shut their mouths and dealt with the more complicated reality that an American had attacked Oklahoma City. I raise this issue not to declare these events commensurate, but to ward the demons of false surety from the congenital conjecturers. The demons want your napes yet here you are augering this and that and claiming academic armageddon has arrived. But maybe it was the blog. Perhaps departmental politics do boil down to some anti-blogger bone. I doubt it. Of course I could be wrong. The University of Chicago could publish a statement explaining the Drezner denial declaring that they really wanted to award him tenure but were threatened by the very thought of his blog. Then I would have to step to the plate and acknowledge that despite all the tangible benefits my blog has brought me—the transatlantic emails from scholars I never would have thought interested in my project and the feedback from interested but not formal academic parties—the dissertation improvements don't outweigh the mere fact of blogging. Grant all that. What matters is the...

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