Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An Early Thirsty From Nella Down in Nacogdoches.

I'm one year away from tenure at a school I like, but don't love. I got an offer sheet for a t-t job at a school and in a place I've long wanted to live. I'll be 4 years away from tenure on my new clock.

I'm single, not in debt.

Q: Is tenure worth staying for, even if the school is not my dream job? Is it a comfort to the mind that I don't know about yet? What would you do?

19 comments:

  1. Absolutely not. Accept the offer now! First of all, "one year from tenure" means no tenure (yet). Second, projected over a thirty-year career span (or more) the difference between one year and four years disappears. Also, it is a mistake to think of tenure as a "comfort of the mind". As long as you're young(ish), it is not a bad policy to continue to behave as if you didn't have tenure. Continue to network, be on the lookout for a better job. After (say) their mid-40s, academics are either "marquee names" or unemployable, and tenure becomes more like serving a life sentence. So at least let it be somewhere you like.

    In case you haven't noticed, I am unremittingly negative and bitter about this. I have had tenure for more than 15 years, living in a place (and working at a school) I have come to hate with a tea-partying passion. And I'll be stuck here until retirement.

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    1. I'm with Peter K. I have tenure where I am, and much good may it do me: a series of penny-wise and pound-foolish decisions -- by administrators, not by me -- over the past few years may result in my teaching nothing but general education classes for the 15 years remaining until my retirement.

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    2. I respectfully disagree with Peter and introvert.prof. As things are right now, if it looks that you are going to get tenure, unless the financial difference is abysmal, stay where you are. You do not know that you will like it in the new school more than where you are. And it is possible to move away if you work a few years in an administrative position and then move elsewhere as departmental chair -- not as hard as it sounds if you keep yourself marketable.

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  2. If you land tenure where you are, you'll be less mobile for a while and may end up stuck there. If you restart your tenure clock at a new job, all the work you've been doing on your current clock will no longer count towards tenure. If you can walk away from a half-dozen articles and write a half-dozen more, go for the greener grass on the other side.

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  3. If I were single, I'd move to the new school with the longer tenure clock. I'm pretty conservative about my long term job security because of the family, but if I were single and had an offer sheet for a place I really thought I wanted to be, I wouldn't hesitate.

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  4. Peter K's first paragraph is very true; only you know the answer to what Lex mentioned about future research output, though.

    2 other considerations to my mind are: you've "long wanted to live there" is not the same as "know the area well and what it's like to actually spend much of one's time there". Again, only you know your own situation.

    Second, how functional are the departments? If your current place is not that good to work at, then I'd say go....on the other hand, have you found out as much as you can about the new place?

    Is tenure a comfort to the mind? Perhaps less than people assume.

    After getting tenure, I could teach better (in my opinion) because of fewer distractions, but I was also busier due to the culture of the institution in question. I would do it the same way again, but like Hiram, I have a family.

    If you really know the other area, the department, and can go through the process again, then you have little to lose.

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  5. I would take the job offer. It might be worth negotiating with the new place to say you are one year away from tenure at your current institution and would like to be in the same situation there, if possible. If that's not possible, I would still take the job offer.

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  6. I've seen folks negotiate the length of their tenure clock -- if that's a concern. Personally, much of the reason I like my CC job, large classes, high teaching load etc -- is that it's in a place I love. I grew up here and had the chance to come back, and I took it. That's an important consideration and one you should be making now when you don't have debt and kids...

    I suppose you could try to figure out how often people in your department move from TT to actual tenure, if the percentage is high, I say go for it...

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  7. I've given up tenure a couple of times, and I regret one of those situations. I have a lot of wanderlust, so normally I'd advise Nella to follow her map and her heart. But the economic realities are such that I'd be nervous about being so close to tenure and then moving 3 years in reverse. What could happen at the new school over 4 years? Anything.

    Talk it over with real world pals and family. Make sure you know as much as you can about the new school.

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  8. If you can't negotiate the tenure clock, could you delay the TT offer for a year? That would give you time to land tenure at your current school and bring it with you.

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  9. EC1 is right: wanting to live somewhere is not the same thing as actually facing the day-to-day of living somewhere. "I've always wanted to live there" often refers to high cost of living areas, so make sure that you won't be living in a crawlspace and hating your life on the new salary.

    For the rest, I think the main thing is to make sure you get in writing what the tenure expectations are at the new place. On a short clock you usually get credit for stuff you have already done. So make sure that you don't have to start over from scratch in terms of publications at the new job. If they do expect you to produce a whole new set of publications, then ask if you can start from zero. I'm not kidding. I did that in a similar situation,back in the day, so in this case I speak from experience. But my sense is that if they are putting you on a short clock, they will also give you credit for achievements to date. Just make sure before you sign anything.

    At the cost of being rude, Bison's advice is bad. You don't get to bring tenure with you. Even if you get hired at the Full Proffie level, you still have to go through tenure at your new job--external reviewers, university T&P, the Provost, the whole nine yards. There are ways that gets handled, and sometimes they set up an accelerated P&T process for favored candidates. But rank is portable, tenure isn't. Also, deans generally frown on hiring at a rank other than the one that was advertised, so that would likely not work anyway.

    On the larger question, if you can take the stress associated with being untenured, turning the clock back can be a great thing. As I said, I did it myself. My own experience of tenure is that it doesn't bring that much in the way of peace of mind. You will have the same shitty job you had before tenure. What changes is the amount of work they can ask you to do. So it is the same shitty job, now with extra work.

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    1. I'm not saying the poster should pursue that, but I have seen it happen. At my previous R1, rules were bent for favored candidates (tenure, promotion) all of the time. Of course, maybe this person isn't the all star proffie I've envisioned in my head.

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  10. One of my proffies back in the day didn't publish anything for 24 years after he got tenure. Not a single goddamned thing. It was like he was completely exhausted. They called him "deadwood" and such. No pay increases for decades, so his salary sank down to somewhere probably around minimum wage. Then he revved up, got back into it with a vengeance, became very productive, and everybody seemed to love him. Feast, famine, feast. Tenure can be a funny thing for some people.

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  11. I agree with the posters above. Moving after tenure is very, very hard. IF you think you are less likely to get tenure at the new place, that changes the calculus. If, however, you think the four years will serve you well, that the school move is at least lateral, and that the location is better for you, don't hesitate, run.

    My field is in its early death throes. There are very few positions available each year. After tenure? You only move if you're a superstar with dozens of articles and multiple books.

    Go!

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  12. What others said about making sure you know as much as you can about the nwe location --- will you really like living there? Can you find out? What is the new institution like? Again, can you find out how happy or unhappy people are there?

    Somehow, though, in reading you question, I am guessing that if you don't try this new thing, and instead stay where you are already unhappy, you will regret it.

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  13. As others above have said, do gather all the information you can, and make sure you're separating what you think/hope it will be like vs. what you're actually getting into, in terms of both location and institution. But, assuming the results of the investigation above are promising, I, too, would say go for it, for all the reasons others have named above. My answer might be a bit more cautious if you currently had tenure (and couldn't negotiate hiring to tenure; reluctant as I am to contradict Archie, I've seen people, even people without tenure, do it, though it's rare, and probably even rarer these days than when I saw it done), but the bottom line is that you don't. The balance tips even more strongly in favor of making the change if the things you need to do to get tenure at the new place (especially publishing/other research activities) are ones that will tend to make/keep you marketable should things not turn out well.

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  14. I think I failed to make my point clear. Let's say that she managed somehow--either by waiting a year as Bison suggested, or by negotiation--to get hired into a tenured position at the new place. She'd still have to go through P&T at the new place. There is no tenure-fairy who will wave a wand and magically award tenure in the new position. Generally speaking, when someone leaves one tenured position for another, they go as a visiting person the first year while they go through P&T. Meanwhile, if they are sane, they take unpaid leave at their old job and don't resign until they know for sure that everything is in place at the new job.

    So Bison's suggestion wouldn't have gotten her out of going through tenure review at the new job. It would have resulted in two consecutive years of going through tenure review--first at the current job, and then at the new job the following year. Personally that seems like a special circle of hell to me. Others may disagree.

    Ditto with CC's suggestion. Sure advanced assistants can get hired as associates elsewhere--although usually only if the search was open to other ranks. But they too show up as a visitor for year while they wait to find out the real outcome as their file went through P&T. So the net difference would be a one-year clock versus a four-year clock. Personally I'd take the four-year clock every time.

    Sometimes, and maybe this is what CC means, the hiring department will start the tenure process immediately upon making the offer--clearly not the case here--to try to shorten the wait. But that still usually takes at least three or four months: waiting for the outside letters, department vote, dean, P&T committee, Provost. That all takes time even when expedited, and unless the candidate avoids accepting the offer until it is all done, there is still a period of uncertainty.

    There is no way to avoid the review process at the new job is all I meant.

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    1. Thinking about it, what you describe, Archie, matches what I've seen, in all but one case. That case was someone who already had significant administrative experience (as head of an Institute at an Ivy League university) and was being hired as a Dean at a SLAC half a dozen states away. She (and this may actually be a case where being female was an advantage) successfully argued for a hire to tenure (perhaps with some sort of expedited review; I don't know about that), because she was unwilling to uproot her family (husband with a specialty that would require him to recertify and find a comparable partner-track job in a new state and two children) without tenure in hand. In retrospect, they must have really wanted her (and with good reason; she's an impressive scholar, administrator, *and* teacher). I believe I know of one other case of someone at the Dean level who successfully held out for immediate tenure (and was glad she did when she was pushed out of the Dean's position after barely a year, and was able to finish out her last few years before retirement as a tenured professor in the department appropriate to her discipline.

      So maybe it's different for administrators (it might need to be, given the shenanigans at UVA and elsewhere)? Or maybe those are the exceptions that prove the rule? In any case, the situations are, indeed, quite different from Nella's.

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