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ADEPT Library - Case Studies -- Samia Mansour

Color Coded Key to Decision/Illumination Points in PTAC Cases without Storylines: Procedural and Bias. Insert annotated references as indicated

[Issues: fluctuating productivity of a maturing scholar, ethnic/cultural differences]

Samia Mansour, Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins University, was hired as an assistant professor by the Department of Physical Sciences at a prestigious research university. Mansour’s research field has long been central to the university; she joined a number of colleagues who do similar and complementary work in the same field. Her start-up package was slightly better than average; she had four offers to consider at leading universities. Mansour was immediately asked to participate in a campus committee charged to study why so few women are employed in science during her first year. In her second and third years, she was invited to serve on two similar committees at the university level. (bias report on committee assignments)

During her first three years at the university, Mansour produced an extraordinary number of publications in the top-ranked journals in her field, including one prize-winning paper. She wrote most of her papers with a small group of faculty and graduate students, but some represented collaborations with just one or two individuals, typically graduate students.

Mansour’s funding level as an assistant professor was within the average range for her field and slightly higher than the departmental average. She was able to secure a lab budget based on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for new faculty in her area as well as some training grants for individual graduate students. She also partnered with colleagues in developing novel methods of drug delivery on a moderate grant from a pharmaceutical company.

In her third year, she won an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Award, largely for writing one paper that garnered much national attention for its novel approach to a particular problem. Near the beginning of her fourth year, she was notified by the NSF that she was selected as a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award (PCASE).

Her undergraduate and graduate students generally awarded her good teaching scores. Evaluations for the intro-level undergraduate course earned some negative comments from a few students about her casual attire; as a result, Mansour upgraded her wardrobe and began to wear tailored clothing. She attracted excellent graduate students to her lab, encouraging some undergraduates to continue graduate study at the university and welcoming new graduate students. At the end of her third year, she was nominated for a college teaching award by the undergraduate coordinator with a recommendation from the graduate director who cited her “dedication” and “long hours of working in her lab along with graduate students.”

In addition to her work on women’s issues, Mansour was appointed to a number of unit and college committees concerning visiting speakers, honors, and searches. She became especially active in a professional society and in her college’s network for junior faculty in sciences, for which she helped organize a session on grant-writing for new faculty. Issues concerning women in her unit, and to some extent in sciences more generally, fell on her shoulders, as manifested by numerous invitations by chairs and deans at her university to address student and alumni groups. (add reference on bias in terms of service activities for women and minorities).

During her fourth year, Mansour consulted with her chair about coming up for an early decision on promotion and tenure. (add reference on guidelines for deciding how to come up for P&T and who makes final decision). As she had established a body of work and a set of achievements comparable to or exceeding others in her field in her unit, she and her chair were confident of her chances to be promoted and receive tenure on this accelerated schedule. He had found her agreeable to serve in a broad range of roles at his request and considered this along with her PECASE as indicative of well-balanced roles and strong scholarly potential.

At the beginning of her fifth year, Mansour’s case came up for review in her department. The letters of reference in her promotion and tenure dossier were generally good, except for one taking issue with her celebrated paper. (add references for guidelines for selecting references and considering all references in deliberations). The one negative review avoided addressing Mansour’s entire scholarly output; instead, the reviewer took an extremely hostile approach to the argument of the celebrated paper. One member of the promotion and tenure committee noted that this review was so detailed that it could have been published as an oppositional argument in a journal along with Mansour’s paper. This reviewer also commented negatively about Mansour’s style of presenting papers at meetings of a professional society, raising some suspicions of a personal grudge. Another reviewer commented as much on the value of Mansour’s service to the profession, especially for women in her field, as on the value of her scholarly research. (add bias references regarding views of scholarly contributions of women in the sciences and engineering).

The unit promotion and tenure committee is split about whether to emphasize the negative review or the one privileging service and whether Mansour’s case should be forwarded to the next level. One member expresses the view that her case should be eliminated from further consideration this year, ideally by having the chair of the department speak with Mansour about the negative review so the candidate can withdraw the dossier. This member suggests that next year the hostile reviewer and the one who supplied the review focusing on Mansour’s service should not be invited to submit reviews and that her case would have a better chance of success if it comes up according to schedule, rather than early. (add reference on guidelines for how to consider negative letters of reference in committee reports).

As a member of the unit-level promotion and tenure committee, what consideration would you give these reviews in evaluating Mansour’s scholarship and career? What would you suggest regarding whether Mansour’s case ought to be considered early or during the next year?