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Blogging While Untenured and Other Extreme Sports

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Washington University Law Review


According to Dan Solove’s March 2006 Law Professor Blogger Census (Version 4.3), roughly twenty-one percent of law professor bloggers in tenure-eligible positions are untenured, or as the authors here prefer, “pretenured.” The percentage of professors blogging who are pretenured, as opposed to tenured, is higher than the percentage of pretenured professors in the profession, so one might argue that the pretenured are overrepresented in the blogosphere. Pretenured academics may gravitate easily toward blogging for many reasons. Junior professors are likely to be younger and, as such, likely to be more familiar with and willing to embrace new technologies. New professors, fresh out of clerkships and degree programs, may be used to living their lives in the vicinity of a laptop and an Internet feed. In addition, because the market for entry-level law professors has become so competitive, new professors are almost by definition writers. In order to secure their placements, these overachievers have used most of their free time researching and writing; therefore, continuing to do so in a blog format, once teaching and scholarship becomes a day job, may seem only natural. Although this infusion of energy in the blogosphere from the junior faculty may seem laudable, well-meaning mentors may caution pretenured faculty to refrain from blogging. In fact, conventional wisdom seems to warn that blogging may be a risky venture for those academic bloggers who have not been awarded tenure and the liberating academic freedom that comes with that status.

Most agree that pretenured blogging involves inherent risks, such as inadvertently (or purposefully) being offensive, insulting, misunderstood, insensitive, or just wrong. In this view, a pretenured faculty member has little to gain from blogging and has much to lose. Blogging does not seem to fall into any of the three primary categories used to assess tenure candidates (scholarship, teaching, and service), although it will take time away from all three. However, if blogging while pretenured is such an unwarranted risk, then we must find an explanation for the high number of pretenured bloggers.

Although the risks to pretenured bloggers are real, the benefits may far outweigh the risks for many junior professors. Depending on the kind of exposure and support available to a junior professor at her home school, blogging may be the best way to gain exposure for one’s work, find mentors, and engage in iterative discussions on relevant topics. However, pretenured professors should be aware of the risks of blogging and develop strategies to avoid or mitigate the pitfalls of blogging without a tenure net.