"We don't want this to turn into a personality contest." This comment came from one of the faculty at a meeting where we were discussing how to structure the tenure and reappointment committee at our school of business. The person making the comment was concerned that faculty would be promoted, reappointed or tenured based on their personality rather than their ability to do research. Almost everyone agreed that it should not be a personality contest.
I kept my mouth shut, but I was thinking that the best teachers I ever had were, in a large measure, great due to their personalities, and that the worst ones had the personalities of stop signs. My opinion is that personality should be a very important input into the tenure and reappointment process. Given a choice between deciding on personality and deciding on research, there was no doubt in my mind ' personality should win every time. Besides, even the best research efforts have little if any reward for the students in the classroom. And often the greater the effort a faculty member puts into research, the less time and effort they have to devote to students.
Jobs in industry that require people to interact with customers demand strong, positive, interpersonal skills and friendly, outgoing personalities. If you have the personality of a cobblestone, there is no way you would be hired. So why should it be any different at the university level. Teaching is all about interacting with the public the students. Yet, time-after-time, I see teachers hired, fired, promoted, or not promoted based on their research records with little or no emphasis on their ability to teach or interact with students. I say put personality back into the equation.
Hiring and promoting professors based on their research records is like hiring firefighters based on their bowling scores. If the airlines hired pilots the way universities hire professors, there's no way in hell I'd ever fly again. Planes would be crashing all over the country.
Of course there are some notable exceptions where personality overshadows ability (How else can we explain why George W. Bush got elected). These situations can be avoided by some examination of substance.
I should have spoken out at the meeting and voiced my opinion, but when the cobblestones out number you, you learn to grin and bear it.