Reverb11 Day 9: Tenure track? Tenure trap!

What was the one disappointment that has turned out to be a blessing in the last 12 months? How will this affect how you deal with disappointment in the future?

I’m not sure that my disappointment counts as a blessing, but it sure shattered a lot of dreams I had for my future.

Leaving my PhD is probably the most important decision I’ve made in my life. I had a goal and a path and I was ready to go for it. And then, something changed. Something snapped in my head.

Support for the humanities is crumbling. Universities are slashing in arts programs while they’re building new engineering or health research centres or business school buildings. Traditional liberal arts knowledge and abilities like analysis, writing and argumentation are devalued while scientific or business training is bolstered. The results of this? A lot of technically competent but intellectually shallow graduates.

This, it seems, might be reason enough to actually stay in the PhD. But I don’t see it that way. Without a really gripping project, it seemed like a waste of time. There are no tenure track jobs at the end of the line and doing this for the sheer intellectual enjoyment seemed ridiculous. I can be intellectual on my own time, thank you very much.

I often waver between happiness and regret at this decision. One the one hand, yes, feel more free and able to choose my own path. But on the other hand, I left an environment which would have kept me financially secure for another 3-4 years to take my chances in the market.

What I believed was an excellent career choice turned out to be a crumbling institution. I admire everyone who has the courage to stay–I can’t be part of this. I value these skills too much to watch them be buried under the rubble of the ivory tower. A lot of good people are doing everything they can to save it, but I don’t have the strength. I don’t want to sit helplessly in an asbestos-filled office seeing my colleagues go one by one and not getting replaced before being sent on my way because of funding cuts.

Now, the market isn’t that kind with me either, but I feel that at least I have a better chance at making a difference, somehow, even if I have to join the group of starving writers.

Maybe I wasn’t cut out for it, after all. But now, at least, I can explore other facets of myself.



Filed under Personal

2 responses to “Reverb11 Day 9: Tenure track? Tenure trap!

  1. The tenure-track system is flawed, but then again, there are reasons to participate in it. I am, simply because well, I think that’s where I belong (in a full, tenured position at a university). How I make it there is still to be decided!)

    • Anabelle

      And I really admire you for persevering… I wasn’t criticizing those who are participating in it and trying to make it a fairer system. I just couldn’t find a place for myself in it. And your tweet about the MLA conference really illustrates the general hopelessness of the language and literature fields.

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts!

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