Top 5 reasons to leave academia–and to stay

 (Thanks to Darren Rowse’s Top 5 Group Writing Project for inspiring this post.)

Today I had to say goodbye to a valued colleague. She has taught at my university for two years, as an adjunct professor (that’s a year-to-year contract), so she’s been on uncertain ground since day one. We were conducting searches for two tenure-track professors in her field, but were able to hire only one. The administration put off asking my friend to come back in the fall until just last week–a thoughtless act. My friend said she’d think about it, but yesterday told our chief that she would not be back.

She feels ill-treated to have been left to twist in the wind for so long, when it was unnecessary. It’s not like she has no life of her own, and has nothing to plan for. So although she has no job to go to for the time being, she is certain one will come along, and she’ll freelance until it does.

This experience makes me again reassess my position. I’m on tenure track, just got a decent raise for the next year, and seem to get my share of perks in the department. But academia can be so screwy sometimes. Here are my Top five Reasons to Leave Academia:

5. Adminstrators who hide behind the concept of “shared governance,” and as a result, get nothing done

4. Job searches that bear no relation to real world needs

3. Academic collegaues who have never held a job in business, and have no idea of how to work efficiently and productively

2. Career advancement based not on the real world duty of teaching, but on the ethereal world requirement to produce research–whether relevant or not

1. Students who are in college to get a degree so they can get a job–and not to get an education so they can get a life

It occurs to me after reading the list that I come across as a misanthropic curmudgeon–which may be so, sometimes, but isn’t the aura I try to project. So let’s re-examine my assessment. There are also five good reasons to stay right where I am.

5. University and department are moving forward–growing in numbers of students and faculty. Standards are higher than they were just a few years ago.

4. Travel budgets to present original research have grown. It’s easy to be funded for two trips a year now.

3. The department chief is genuinely interested in the well being and advancement prospects of the faculty.

2. I’ve moved into a new, larger office–that actually has a window.

1. The students. Most of them are interested in learning the material, interesting to get to know–and they keep me young.

For the time being, I’ll stay where I am. I wish my friend well, but her decision has no bearing on my situation. For me, life is good.

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 14, 2007 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Another negative. The way they ‘move the cheese’. I’m finally doing well at the “publish or perish” game and now it’s become the “get funded or perish” game–and I’m not even on the tenure track! I think they want me to get a sandwich sign that says “will do research for money”.

    The main reason I stay?–I’m stuck. I’ve become so super-specialized that I’m no longer employable in the real world.


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