Document Type


Publication Date



Faculty of Music


As part of a larger mixed-methods study, this article presents findings from research on processes of tenure in Canadian higher education music faculties. The Principle Investigator and three teams of two researchers analyzed the process of tenure at three Canadian institutions to gain insight into how tenure decisions are made in relation to gender and race/ethnicity. The researchers used institutional ethnography, developed by sociologist Dorothy Smith, to examine institutional documents that organize tenure, as well as how documents organize people’s actions, studied through interviews with key stakeholders, such as directors, tenure applicants, and union representatives. The findings from the three sites were analyzed and integrated into one composite institution, and the researchers created a written analysis as well as a conceptual map of the process. The researchers found that the existence of a collective agreement created greater transparency in the tenure process for all stakeholders, contributing to a somewhat smoother path to tenure. However, ambiguities remained that created anxiety and stress, such as the “moving bar” related to publications and quantity vs. quality concerns, and the uncertainty about how artistic or musical achievements might “count” in the tenure dossier. The mantra of ‘hire the best candidates’ appears to disadvantage women and people of colour, who continue to be hired into tenure-track positions at much lower rates than men and White candidates. Policies to encourage diversity in hiring appear to be weak and poorly monitored.


Copyright © 2017 the authors. Reproduced with kind permission from College Music Symposium.

This article was originally published in College Music Symposium, 57 (2017).