I just got tenure at a small college. I'd like to thank the people who helped make this happen for me. What's appropriate?
February 10, 2012 3:31 PM   Subscribe

I just got tenure at a small college. I'd like to thank the people who helped make this happen for me. What's appropriate?

I will definitely send thank you notes to my department chair and my dean, who were directly involved in writing recommendations and such. Is an email thank you note acceptable, or should I send a paper note? Should I get them a gift?

What about the vice president who formally recommends faculty for tenure to the board, but who doesn't know me from Adam? What about the board itself, who made the final decision? Do they all get thank you's?

The most important person in this whole process was the admin assistant to my dean, who went way above and beyond in helping me make sure every i was dotted and every t crossed. (She even called me at the last minute - a half hour before the tenure committee was set to meet - to advise me of a missing form from three years ago, that I was able to slip into my file at the last minute. She didn't have to do that!) What can I do for her that would show I understand that she went above and beyond for me? Would it be awkward to get her a nice plant or candy or whatever, but not anything for the dean, who she works for directly?

And for the other faculty in my department who were supportive, but not really directly involved - would buying donuts or bagels or something for the office be ok? Thank you notes to all of them too? Individually or a mass mailing?

What's appropriate in this situation?
posted by SuperSquirrel to Education (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think this is a case where paper makes sense -- we're talking about them helping you secure lifetime employment. Five dollars for stationery doesn't seem out of place.

I probably wouldn't send gifts to anybody who had an official role in the process of selecting you, since that might look a little bribe-like or ass-kissy.

On the other hand, a gift for the admin assistant who handheld you through the paperwork would be appropriate. Giving gifts to administrative staff and not to management staff is not generally going to raise any eyebrows. There's a clear delineation there, and this isn't a 'she's more my friend than you are' social occasion.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:39 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

The admin assistant would probably appreciate the hell out of a gift, especially if you did a bit of research to find out what she liked and got something along those lines!
posted by sawdustbear at 3:41 PM on February 10, 2012

A gift to the administrative assistant is a great idea. If a faculty member who was not involved in any official way helped you pull together your portfolio, etc,...then yes, a thank you or small gift might be nice. But nobody else. No gifts or thank you notes to Chairs, Deans, VP/Provosts. You will look like a sycophant. They were just doing their jobs and you clearly did yours.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:15 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seymour Zamboni is exactly right. People who were doing exactly what their position requires of them can receive heartfelt verbal thanks when you bump into them in the ordinary course of affairs, by all means, but a gift or even a card really would be odd (and would feel very awkward for the recipient--almost an implied quid pro quo). The Admin assistant is in a different relation to you entirely and a gift would be entirely appropriate and thoughtful. Don't get her a plant unless you know she really likes plants and is happy to have another one to tend. Either find out from someone what she genuinely likes or give her something banal like chocolates (she can always share them even if she doesn't eat them herself) or a gift card. A gift card along with a small token gift (small box of chocolates, say) seems about right.
posted by yoink at 4:35 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I meant to address specifically your question about getting something for the Assistant but not for the Dean--there is no way on earth that your Dean will see that the Assistant got a gift and think "but why didn't I get one too!!" If the Dean sees it at all s/he will think "what a thoughtful person that SuperSquirrel is."

Oh, which reminds me--the one really concrete solid you can do the Assistant is to write an email to her saying how incredibly grateful you are for the superb job she did (be specific about the ways in which she went above and beyond) and c.c. the email to the Dean. That's the kind of thing that affects performance reviews and salaries.
posted by yoink at 4:41 PM on February 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Get the admin a gift. I wouldn't get anyone else anything. (and I've gotten tenure twice...)
posted by leahwrenn at 7:37 PM on February 10, 2012

Oh, and thank you notes are always nice, but I don't think they're particularly necessary in this case. For your chair and anyone else in the department who was particularly helpful, maybe, but I think it would be a little weird to send ones to the dean and provost (or whatever your setup is).
posted by leahwrenn at 7:40 PM on February 10, 2012

Thank you emails to the people who agreed to review your portfolio are appropriate. You won't know which people were selected, so email them all to thank them "whether or no you were called to provide a review." Personally, I always like to know the end result when I review someone's portfolio.
posted by Susurration at 9:40 PM on February 10, 2012

Congratulations on getting tenure! I actually am an administrative-type-person who reports to a dean and one of my job duties is to review tenure portfolios to make sure that Is are dotted and Ts are crossed. I would appreciate a thank you note, or as yoink suggests, an email of thanks to my cc'd to my boss. Other small gifts are not necessary, as I am also just doing my job.
posted by donajo at 12:31 AM on February 11, 2012

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