Monday, January 4, 2010


So it is closing in on two years since this all went down, the second denial I mean.  I am working on setting up a meeting with the two tenured professors who supported me, primarily for the purpose of making sure we are organized if some teaching opportunity should come up in the next year or so.  I am not talking about anything full-time, but I am currently working in an IT support position at the main state university here, about an hours drive away from the small, church-related liberal arts college that flushed me out two years ago.  So, I am hoping that some opportunity might present itself to teach a class here.  That was the biggest frustration for me after the second denial; as it was all about teaching, and it was from an essentially unknown very small college, I saw it as just about driving a stake into the chance that I would ever be able to be in the classroom again.

These two people I am going to meet with, they were the two who supported me in my tenure application and in the appeal process.  Recall, this liberal arts college has a small department and only in the range of 4-6 fulltime faculty.  These two were the only tenured faculty members there during my tenure application.  One was chair for the first part of my six years, the other chair during the second part.  (Another tenured member retired a year before I put my dossier forward, and another member was on the same track as me and got tenure the same year I was denied.)

Excuse me--a digression; I promise I will get back to what I was going to say--I have not mentioned yet that one of the important details of my situation was that there was another faculty member in my department who came up for tenure the same year as I did.  And this was a person who was killing all along the board--teaching, research, and service.  Let's put it this way: they were using her in the fundraising letters before she even applied for tenure.  So she was a lock; I knew that.  But I had been led to believe that the denial rate was very small at this obscure, cash-strapped private school.  It was--before we got the new president, dean, and division chair.  So there is a whole world of hurt we could go over about the RYS (rising young star) situation and as it impacted me.  For now, I will leave it at this: the salient part of that whole situation was that she was the kind of person who was very passive aggressive, always playing the victim.  Cutting down colleagues in the department or the College but never to their face.   Before this happened I thought I had her support (or at least that she was neutral), but now I am pretty sure that was not the case.

OK, back to this meeting with the two people who supported me.  As I said, I want to try to plan out a strategy with them if a single-class teaching opportunity comes up.  It will be an uphill battle as the tenure decision letter mentioned only teaching as the reason for the denial.  It we are going to overcome that, even to convince a department chair that it makes sense to take a chance on me for even a single course, it will take some over-the-top kinds of things being said, not just in letters, but probably phone calls, etc.

Now, the question is, what else?  I have pretty much avoided much contact with them since this all went down, it being just too painful and I wanted to get some distance from it.  And the other point being it is pretty pointless from my point of view socializing with them without talking about it.  I mean if we avoid it totally that seems artificial and if we do talk about it I can't imagine it being too enjoyable for them.  OK.  But now what I have been thinking about is should I make some effort (perhaps with their help) to try to get closure to some kind of closure on this?

There are a couple of options this might take.  One is I write a letter to the editor of the paper or something and lay out everything, naming names, etc. and point out that in my opinion the revered church school is morally bankrupt.  Again, not because of the decision but because of the complete abandoment by the community which portrays itself as so inclusive and compassionate.  There is another possible option.  My next-to-last year at the college there was a very divisive denial in the humanties division.  That one was all about research.  The people over there got so up in arms they had an article in the student newspaper and the chair came before the faculty at a monthly meeting and he laid out all of his beefs for everyone to hear.  The admin. did not respond to this at all, they just allowed the presentation.  And now, get this, it turns out they did NOT fire the guy!  They found him a non-tenured instructor position!  Fer crissakes!  They get to rail before the whole faculty about their denial and the guy is still employed there.

My case, by contrast, I think there are people there who don't even realize I'm gone.  Or if they do realize it, they might think it was my idea.  I am constantly meeting people in the grocery store and amazed by the complete misconceptions they have about what happened.  So I am contemplating asking the two faculty members who supported me if they would consider asking the admin. to make a similar presentation at a regular faculty meeting.  The idea is that this presentation would say that the point of it is most emphatically NOT to address the denial, but to address the atrocious behavior of the college afterward.  You could argue that this is a win-win.  I could get some catharsis, knowing that at least my story got out to the faculty, and they (the admin.) could feel good that this story did not go out to the public at large.

But...what do you think?  It  probably is a mistake to do something like that.  At this point, I'm just contemplating discussing it, not getting close to doing it.  It will be interesting to see what my two former colleagues say.


  1. Dear Dead Prof,
    I just found out about your blog in a roundabout way. You shouldn't feel bad about not getting too many comments. I have a partner who was denied tenure twice, and it's a very lonely place to be. He feels that colleagues in general see it as a communicable disease. No one wants to associate with that type of "failure," even though the whole tenure scenario is just a crap shoot and not a failure by any means. So, know you are not alone, even if your voice is echoing a bit.

  2. Hey Dead Prof,

    Keep on writing! As a tenure-track professor at a top-15 research university, I see a lot of connections between what you say and what I see day-to-day, albeit with the focus on research. I recall being on a few committees where grad students were ejected from the program; and although it was obviously the advisor's fault, the blame was placed on the student. In my experiences with group faculty deliberations, very little of it is ever particularly rational or well reasoned, but it's treated like it was the "high truth" handed down from an enlightened body.

    Tenure is an extremely uneven process; with significant elements of luck and circumstance, but just like movie stars who become famous, faculty self-perception is that their tenure happened because of virtue. Ultimately, though, I think it's important, even as a current faculty member, not to define yourself according to their ossified system.

    Surprisingly, I have found that I have greater respect for those who don't get tenure than those that do; and many of these folks do much greater things after they leave academia than those who stay.

  3. Lauren,

    thanks especially for your comment. I like especially what you said:

    "Surprisingly, I have found that I have greater respect for those who don't get tenure than those that do; and many of these folks do much greater things after they leave academia than those who stay."

    That gives one hope at least! As I mentioned in one of my older posts, I have seen that sometimes tenured professors get settled into a sort of complacency. Not so much in the work they do but in (for instance) indulging their little wierdnesses, etc.

    One thing I know for sure at this point: I'm hungry. I don't know if an opportunity will present itself (or if I can make one) for something "greater" but I'm definitely looking for it. And I'm doing completely different things now than I ever did, so that has a certain freshness to it, at least for a while.