Tenure Misery

Life as an associate professor with tenure can be even more isolating and overwhelming, she says, than being an assistant professor on the tenure track. The path to achieving what amounts to higher education’s golden ring is well marked and includes guidance from more-experienced peers. But once a professor earns tenure, that guidance disappears, the amount of committee work piles on, and associate professors are often left to figure out how to manage the varying demands of the job—and fit in time for their research—on their own.

Of course, by that time you are already in your forties or late thirties, so maybe it’s time to grow up and actually enjoy being an adult. And these are the people who can’t quit complaining about students’ immaturity.

A lot of professors, when they get tenure, think they have arrived, but what they soon realize is that life is not that much better,” says Robert A. Rhoads, a professor and director of the Globalization and Higher Education Research Center, at the University of California at Los Angeles. “After tenure lots of faculty go through a crisis of meaning, where they think: ‘There has to be something more than writing research grants, publishing, and teaching.’ An associate professor starts to think: ‘Why am I doing what I’m doing?'”

I have no idea what these idiots are on about.

I really liked being on the TT, but after tenure it got even better. Even committees got more fun because I’m now chairing them. And research is so much better once you come into your own and fully inhabit your field. And by the way, with all I publish and all the service to the profession I do, the idea is working 80 hours a week that these losers keep harping on is ludicrous. If I worked 80 hours a week (which I’m not going to do because

Something is deeply wrong with people if they can’t even enjoy tenure. God, what a bunch of stupid whiners.

And the best quote of all:

Everybody is asked to do a whole bunch of stuff we didn’t sign on for, like sitting on an admissions committee debating whether someone with a 15 ACT score should be admitted. It all feels so much more plebeian and mundane.”

Plebeian, eh? Her Royal Highness thinks she deserves something more elevated than talking about students. And she’s not ashamed to put her name to this.

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8 thoughts on “Tenure Misery”

  1. This is so bizarre. I’m sure that soon we’ll read an article about how tough full professors have it.

    Pre-tenure was very stressful for me; post-tenure has been absolutely wonderful. Sometimes I want to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming that I’m a tenured professor. Sure, not all committee work is “fun” and sometimes I might struggle to find “meaning” in what I’m doing, but overall I’m extraordinarily happy.

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  2. Incredible! The beginning of the article reads like it comes from an academic version of “The Onion.” Amazing how whiny and spoiled academics are; it’s as though they’re working to conform to right-wing stereotypes.

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    1. Question: why does nobody ever interview happy academics like me and like many people I know? Why is it always the whiny crowd that gets the spotlight. It’s just wrong and as you say, it’s the worst stereotype about our profession.

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      1. Because there’s no story in happy academics; no one wants to hear about that. Which is fine, but the entitled whiners should shut up and stop making the whole profession look terrible.

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  3. Well — if the reason they did what they did in the first place was not because they were interested in it but only To Get Tenure, and that goal has disappeared, then they might have a crisis. I never understand why people thought they would not do service or that it wasn’t important.

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    1. They might well have a crisis, but one they should share with their therapist rather than imagining that it’s a real complaint about the world rather than their own neuroses.

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      1. Or that people who have graduate students and who manage faculty on the tenure track should think about. I, for one, was taught that the game was to satisfy others so that you could keep your TAship, live, and have some contact with things that interested you. NOT that you should take your own interests seriously. I notice this happens to many: graduate school, and the tenure track, mean either abject obedience or extreme license. That leads directly to the situation described and it’s a pedagogical issue.

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