What would make you quit a TT job mid-semester?

Just curious.

Do you know anybody who has quit a tenured or tenure-track job mid-semester.  Do you know why?  How did that work out?

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27 Responses to “What would make you quit a TT job mid-semester?”

  1. Moom Says:

    Well they may have got an industry job which isn’t prepared to wait several months.

  2. Bardiac Says:

    Hard to imagine. A health emergency wouldn’t involve quitting, but going on disability, perhaps. If I won the lottery (difficult, since I don’t buy lottery tickets), I don’t think I’d want to leave my department in the lurch. Perhaps if the Shakespeare industry really, really needed me, or the President decided to appoint me as chair of his Shakespeare council or something. (Mr President, I will take your call!)

  3. gwinne Says:

    Finding out you didn’t earn tenure (or contract renewal at 3rd year) could do it, I’d think.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Excellent answer. Although quitting mid-semester probably more damaging to career than tenure denial.

      Hypothetically, how toxic would the workplace have to be that quitting mid-semester for your own health becomes the right choice?

    • CG Says:

      I probably still wouldn’t do it even then, since I would hope to get another job and wouldn’t want to burn all my bridges at the original institution. Unless, I guess, there was some kind of gross misconduct.

    • darchole Says:

      Tenure denial followed up by cutting funding and eliminating office/lab space effective at the end of the semester, when in previous denial cases people leaving were at least allowed to use their grants and office/lab space for another semester.

  4. Foscavista Says:

    Not personally, but an applicant in hir cover letter described the previous workplace as being toxic (details were provided) and hir partner could not find employment in the area. Thus, this applicant quit a TT position before having another job lined up.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That seems like too much detail for a cover letter. Did the applicant get an interview?

      • chacha1 Says:

        waaaayy too much detail. If the workplace were that “toxic” then it should have been handled via hostile work environment claim with HR and in that case the departing employee would almost certainly be under a gag order. (personal experience)

        so if they weren’t handling it through HR then they are probably just disgruntled. I would not have called the person in for an interview.

      • Flavia Says:

        We had a somewhat similar situation with an applicant once. I don’t think s/he had quit midsemester, but s/he was a very junior person who had decided not to return to a TT job with nothing else lined up. S/he very briefly sketched out the troubling situation in the cover letter, not assigning blame (and in the context of saying what appealed to him/her about teaching at OUR institution). Seemed a rational and principled decision to us, and s/he got a first-round interview.

        But it’s a tough thing to talk about in a letter — in the candidate’s shoes, I’d probably just have omitted the info.

      • Foscavista Says:

        The committee and I found applicants who would, in theory, be a better fit at our institution due to our specific program needs.

    • Rosa Says:

      A friend of mine is the sole remaining faculty in a department that was just gutted due to budget constraints. This person is committed to sticking it out (though kind of wishing they had been axed – all those people are still paid for this semester, but have free time to jobhunt!) but I wonder if the new all-department class load is going to break them.

  5. Rented life Says:

    My predecessor at my last CC left after the fall semester instead of finishing the year. I didn’t learn that until I had been there a semester. There was a tenured bully there and that’s one reason I left too but I finished the year. The abuse was intense and no matter how high up the chain you go, no one supported you. There was no winning.

    I’ve seen people denied tenure but they always finished the year. Mentally checked out though.

  6. frugalscholar Says:

    I heard about a former friend who walked out of a class at UT Austin and gave up a tt job. It may have been mid-class! I thought it was an embroidered tale, but then saw the same story in the memoir French Lessons by Alice Kaplan–though she presented the fellow using a pseudonym (using his real name in acknowledgments, so I knew it was him). I suppose he was burning his bridges, forcing himself to leave academics.

    I was bullied by my dept head’s husband (tenured also) for FIFTEEN YEARS. Dept head was also a bully. I have no idea how I got through that.

  7. Pika Says:

    It’s probably a different situation here in Europe, but we have people coming and going at all times. This is because the notice length is normally always 3 months for permanent jobs (I think this is even by law in most of EU countries) and 1 month for time-limited jobs (e.g. postdocs), regardless of when you give in your notice, irrespective of semester times. Last time I switched jobs (academic to academic) was to end one position in mid April and start the next one immediately, and this was mid-semester for both universities (and no problem with it).

  8. Flavia Says:

    I know someone who did this, though I don’t know all the details. It’s *possible* that s/he was denied tenure or feared it, though everything looked totally on track and I think it would have been too early for him/her to have known the verdict anyway.

    What I do know is that s/he had tons and tons of bucks — family money, plus a spouse in an extremely lucrative field. And they wanted to live somewhere else. So, s/he quit abruptly, leaving students in the lurch and lots of bad feelings.

    (Not my department or institution, but I know many people there. It was decidedly not a toxic environment.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Quitting mid-semester absolutely requires big buxx somewhere: savings, spousal income, something.

    • undinenotofgeneralinterest Says:

      I haven’t known anyone who did this, but it’s likely that a toxic/abuse situation would do it. You’d need to have lots of money, though, as Flavia says. Although people say that this would mean burning bridges in academia forever, I wonder whether it would become as widely known as we always assume it would.

      • chacha1 Says:

        I’ve always wondered about that too. If you’re in an under-the-radar department like, say, History … who would even bother talking about the TT instructor who bailed that time? I mean, they might talk about it *within the department* but I can’t imagine the deans or whatever making a big news story out of it. There’s always some more interesting scandal going on, it seems. :-)

      • Flavia Says:

        I’m not sure that the fact that s/he left mid-semester is widely known, but s/he is no longer on the TT, which — at least in the humanities — makes it very, very hard to return. (Not sure this particular individual wants to return, however; s/he’s teaching the occasional class and otherwise living a drool-worthy existence in a glamorous locale.)

        But I agree that doing something “scandalous” rarely actually winds up being major gossip of the sort that hurts most people. For example, I also know a new hire who broke his/her contract over the summer to take a different job (both institutions are rich and well-known). Many people said it would haunt him/her forever, because “people talk.” But since s/he is now at a third and even better institution, I’m pretty sure it hasn’t caused one iota of damage.

  9. delagar Says:

    If, like Flavia’s friend, I had tons of money, *and* I hated teaching / the Academy, *and* I was angry enough at (just being hypothetical here) my dean, I can see walking out mid-semester. Kind of a FU to the college, which would have to scramble to replace me.

    But yeah, absent being independently wealthy, I don’t see how anyone would do it.

  10. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    I can recall several mid-semester deaths (including one suicide, but I’d count that more as succumbing to a longstanding medical condition than deliberately quitting/burning bridges), and one case of being banned from campus (and hence from teaching) pending resolution of legal charges, but no mid-semester resignations. Since I tend to think the reason not to quit mid-semester is that it adversely affects students, who are rarely the main cause of toxic work conditions, I suspect I’d feel justified in a mid-semester departure only if I felt that the institution was failing to serve its students in some egregious way, and I, by continuing to teach my classes, was directly perpetuating that mistreatment. It’s hard to think of a situation that fits that description; maybe an extremely regimented curriculum that I somehow didn’t get a look at before the semester, that I was required to follow exactly, and that I thought was outright wrong in some important way(s)? I can’t imagine agreeing to teach in such conditions in the first place, but there’s always the frog-in-gradually-warming-water scenario. Even then, since I’m not independently wealthy, I’d probably stick it out until I reached a natural quitting point, while searching frantically for other work.


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