In the May 18 Tribune, Scott Abbott, a professor of integrated studies at Utah Valley University, made his case for what he deemed was a flawed process concerning his friend Scott Carrier, a UVU employee who was recently denied tenure.
Because Professor Abbott is a respected scholar at UVU, his opinion is valued. Generally, Abbott is a gifted thinker. But in this case, his analysis troubles to me.
First, he makes a strong case that Carrier is an excellent journalist. I fully agree with this assessment. Scott Carrier is a very talented journalist.
However, Abbott's explanation for Carrier's tenure denial is much less tenable. In fact, trying to determine the cause of Carrier's tenure outcome based on Abbott's article is like playing a game of Whack-A-Mole.
Was it because Carrier insulted UVU President Holland and/or Mormons? Or that he was too quirky? Perhaps the tenure committee was too "young and inexperienced?" Or maybe we should blame the department chair "whose personal animosity toward Carrier was public knowledge" (an unsubstantiated claim that is irresponsible if not libelous).
Then again, it's likely that Carrier's colleagues, and several UVU administrators, all had it in for him merely because he insisted on meeting with students in the cafeteria. The possibilities are endless. Just find something controversial Carrier wrote, suggest that somebody at UVU didn't like it and, voilà, we have a conspiracy to deny tenure!
There is a simpler explanation. One grounded in facts, rather than speculation.
Here are the facts, as I understand them. Because tenure proceedings are confidential, I cannot discuss the conversations or the votes of the tenure committee members. But this is what I can reveal.
If there was animosity between the former department chair and Carrier, the chair had a funny way of showing it. Carrier received a dean's grant to assist in publishing his memoirs the year he went up for tenure. This grant required a letter of support from the chair to the dean hardly evidence of animosity.
This "inexperienced" tenure committee consisted of tenured faculty whose academic experience range from 10 to more than 30 years. All but one of them worked directly with Carrier for six years. These individuals knew Scott. They had first-hand knowledge of his strengths, his quirks and his performance within the department. Committee members carefully read Scott's file and reviewed all of the documents and after thoughtful deliberation, the committee concluded, based on department tenure criteria, that Carrier's performance over a six-year period did not rise to the minimum standard required for tenure.
Additionally, UVU administrators, applying the same rigor, agreed with the findings of the committee. And ultimately, Carrier decided not to exercise his right to appeal the decision.
So why does Abbott, a respected UVU professor, offer these scattered and unsubstantiated claims to explain his friend's failed tenure attempt? The answer is simple. He just doesn't know.
Abbott was not on the tenure committee that reviewed Carrier's performance. Nor did he occupy an administrative position that granted him access to files or deliberations of that committee. He never even worked in Carrier's department.
So, of course, Abbott's comments in this case rise only to the level of outsider speculation premised on rumor and conjecture.
It seems that Abbott's opinion is driven in part by his admiration for Carrier as a journalist and in part by rumors or hearsay drawn from reading a scattering of provocative comments written by Carrier himself, hardly a solid foundation for such an inflammatory article criticizing UVU faculty and administrators who participated in this process.
David W. Scott, Ph.D., is associate professor of communication at Utah Valley University.