Ask the grumpies: When do I tell my department I’m taking unpaid leave as a NTT prof?

Liz asks:

I am in a NTT full time faculty position and finding it is not for me. I am going to take the 2021-22 school year to see if there are any changes that will make me happier in my position (and look at non-academic careers that I may go into), but if after that I choose to leave, when should I let my department know?

I am contracted through May 2022 and am going through the renewal process for the 2022-2023 school year right now.

This is a really hard question to answer because so much of it is, “it depends.”  Like if your department has been evil to you and you have zero intention of going back and you don’t think you will ever need recommendations from them, and they would definitely treat you even worse if they knew you were on the way out, then you definitely would put off telling them until the last possible minute.  If, on the other hand, your department was extremely supportive and just wanted what was best for you and was desperate to keep you and you’re hard to replace, and you had an idea for a one year replacement as a visiting position, then you’d want to let them know as soon as possible so you could help them plan and set all that up.

You’re probably somewhere between those two end-points.  It sounds like from your email that you’re not actually taking next year off, is that correct?

[Correct!]

I haven’t talked to my chair about any issues I am having with this job and plan on talking to [hir] at the end of the semester. Some of the issues I am having would have to be changed at the college level, so I am not optimistic about changes my chair can implement to make this job something I want to do long term. At this point, I would want to walk away sometime in summer 2022.

Thinking of the leave of absence, I would need to justify that this would be beneficial to the university. If I left academia, I would probably not do something related to my field and a leave would probably not be approved.

Ok, so it sounds like you’re thinking of taking a year leave of absence and you’re not sure if you would then return after that.  So you want to leave your options open so that you can return.

Well, first off, there’s no reason to say anything to anyone until you know what you’re doing the year after next.  (Unless there’s some standard procedure for applying for sabbaticals for non-tenure-track faculty?  If there’s a timeline on that leave of absence approval, then you may want to follow that even without something lined up.)

How much time should you give before the end of the 21-22 school year?  That one is harder.  If you knew you weren’t coming back ever for sure (and you didn’t want to burn any bridges), you’d want to give them as much time as possible to find a full-time replacement.  It would also be nice to let them know before classes are scheduled for Fall 2022-23, though of course you don’t have to.   Other than that, there’s not much advice to give.  They would prefer you tell them as soon as you know for sure what is going to happen.  You might want to hold off because it can be weird when it is known someone will be leaving.  If you give them more time, they might be able to replace you fully and you’d be less likely to come back after, but also if you give them less time they might not *want* you back after a year.  If your chair wants to keep you, more time might make keeping you easier.  If you’re not planning on coming back and aren’t going to need rec letters, none of this matters, so you might as well be kind.

Grumpy Nation, what advice do you have for Liz?

Ask the grumpies: Should I report a racist comment?

K asks:

My job is full of awful people but today I very clearly heard my director making a racist comment about one of his employees. I still cannot believe it was said and it clearly is an inside joke with the two managers he was on a zoom meeting with(he was virtual, they were in an office a couple doors down from me). And they clearly did not know I was in the office based on their attitudes when later on they encountered me.

I have always had a target on my back in this office for being smart and asking good questions.

If I complain they will know who reported. I cannot live with myself if I don’t do something about what I heard.

What was “weird “ too was this same “joke” was made years ago by someone in the small town I grew up in, I was out with my daughter one night who was maybe 4 at the time and a dude thought it was funny or some shit to say this same thing about another black child in the area, who was also out that night.
F*cking sucks.

Racists suck.

I appreciate the conversations here. Not because I am looking for people who necessarily think exactly like me but because the community is intelligent, thoughtful and REAL things are talked about…..all sorts of things.

That sounds terrible and it’s a terrible position to be in.

You will have to decide whether to report or not.  The trade-offs are probably pretty clear to you– they’ll potentially make your work-life worse if you report, but morally you feel that you need to report it.  You know your calculus about how much you need this job and what your options are if you need to walk away because you can’t take it anymore.  You’re not in an at-will state and you’re likely high skill, so it may be difficult for them to just fire you, but there may be a non-zero probability.  We can’t give advice about whether to report, only you can decide.

In either case, you should be looking for work at a different company if you can’t trust upper management to take care of racist managers if brought to their attention. Similarly for being punished for being smart and asking good questions.

Racist managers make employees less productive.  Hopefully you will find a place that doesn’t have a culture of racism.

Good luck!

Grumpy Nation, what thoughts and advice do you have for K?

link love

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