Due to low enrollment, my college's administration sent out letters rescinding all non-tenure full-year appointments (against our contract, too) and replacing them with a fall 2020 appointment only. This would be my tenured year if I made it through, and spring is unknown as of now.

I just interviewed with another institution that loves me (Zoom, informal), but I have not gone through with the official interview, and they hinted that they'd be willing to hold the position for spring for me. They are hiring urgently and my tenure is uncertain. I won't know until maybe November 2020 if I have a job next spring at my current institution.

I'll obviously need references, etc. from my current place of employment. My chair, several colleagues would gladly do it for me, but I'm afraid to tell them I'm about to leave... and I don't want to. But I have bills to pay and would hate a gap in employment and the loss of (potential) tenure, too.

What would you do?

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    Hard to think they could punish you for wanting to assure your future.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 22:50
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    Are you sure you want to use your real name in asking this question? Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 23:11
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    If someone happens upon this, I don't think I said anything negative.
    – user120938
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 23:14
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    Probably worth having at least an informal conversation with your chair about this. They likely didn't have a lot (or any) say in this move from the College, but might have better insight into your specific situation (including an idea of how much influence they have). One would ideally hope that the chair would reach out on their own to everyone affected, but if this was a recent announcement they're probably scrambling as much as anyone else.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 23:33
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    Is the other position tenure-track or otherwise intended as permanent? Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 23:38

4 Answers 4


What would you do?

Disclaimer: I have never been in this situation before, so I don't speak from experience. Following my advice would be risky; that said, so would any other course of action.

Act like a rat on a sinking ship.

Your university has unilaterally rescinded your contract. Go on the official interview. Ask your chair and colleagues to be references. Make every effort to find secure and permanent employment.

Tell your chair and dean that you love your university and would like to stay in the long term. (If this is true.) Bargain with them if possible, if you decide you trust them.

One option you may (or may not) have is to go on unpaid leave if you accept another job offer. Sometimes people accept a job at University B while going on unpaid leave at University A, go to B for a year, and then decide to return to University A.

If your chair and colleagues are worthy of your loyalty, then they could not expect it under these circumstances. Good luck.

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    agree, but I don't think you can really bargain til you have a formal job offer elsewhere.
    – tom
    Commented Aug 22, 2020 at 9:54
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    This is one of the few times you can tell/heavily hint to your boss that you're job searching (who wouldn't). Your Dean/Chair has to know profs would be looking. It's probably worth a conversation where you ask how to leave the door open as you'll have to get another job. Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 3:58
  • Sometimes people accept a job at University B while going on unpaid leave at University A, go to B for a year, and then decide to return to University A. Sounds like they screw University B then... Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 7:27
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    @RichardHardy Maybe, sort of. In my opinion, if you accept a permanent job at B, then you should at least be open to the idea of staying. But I don't believe that anyone has a duty to prioritize their employer's needs over their own. Especially since, these days, any university wanting to hire tenure-track faculty will be able to choose from excellent candidates.
    – academic
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 9:29
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    @RichardHardy - University B knows the game they are playing. This is not that unusual...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 14:03

First, this sounds like a horrible position to be in. The academic life is not easy and you must have put in a huge amount of work to get to where you are now.

Not sure I understand the situation completely, but if there is another institution offering you a better contract then why would you not move to it now rather than wait til spring?

If your current institution has placed you on a contract that will expire in December 2020 (I am guessing from the question) then you only have 3 or 4 months of contract left and you need to look for jobs elsewhere.

In my experience once a job is formally offered then you can start thinking about start dates and going into some sort of negotiation between your current academic institution and the new one.

I would not start to attempt to negotiate anything without a formal job offer.

I have some similarish experiences from quite a few years ago when I worked on some temporary academic contracts.

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    if there is another institution offering you a better contract then why would you not move to it now rather than wait til spring? Well, the risk is pretty clear. OP's current institution had them on tenure-track with this year being their tenure year. If the COVID disruptions are only temporary then perhaps OP retains a high probability of completing their tenure transition at their current institution in a similar timeframe (albeit without any contractual guarantees). The risk in moving institutions is giving up that accumulated seniority in exchange for a more secure contract.
    – J...
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 19:12
  • @J... plus one for your comment - you are completely correct, but then the risk on the other side is that in a few months time there appears to be the possibility of being forced out of the current position.... ........ I think so much of this depends on what the current institution is planning because there appears to be a risk that to balance their books the current institution are going to let people go. We can debate this, but at the end of the day this is the OPs decision, I hope that all of the answers and comments are helpful because this is a horrible position to be in
    – tom
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 9:35

Perhaps you can arrange a meeting with others in your situation and someone in authority (dean, say) and ask what the college is willing to do to help boost the careers of those that circumstances are putting in jeopardy. If you have to do it alone, ask the same question.

They owe you something, even if they can't keep to "normal order". But asking, puts them on the spot. Maybe it just means that you get your letters and no prejudice against you if you wind up staying.

  • It's not about worry of" punishment" I think (maybe a tiny bit), I think more about accepting an offer elsewhere before I do not know about my retention for Spring and Tenure. It's all based, so says our President, on State/Fed funding (public university)
    – user120938
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 22:57
  • Have you been given a tenure decision?
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 23:09
  • Won't get it until Spring, when it's not determined I'll be employed.
    – user120938
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 23:10
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    You might want to talk to the other place about a shortened tenure cycle if you join them, say two years. I think that would be a reasonable ask in this situation. It might change your calculus. Tenure at hire is probably not an option.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 23:14

Someone just graduated recently and COVID struck. He had a job at a startup which he gave up just before graduation so he could take a break for a few months. Someone else got that job. And now he is unemployed and in high stress.

I would say be proactive, be selfish and ensure that you are not out of a job in these stressful and uncertain times. Consider the fact that the other university might soon find better candidates to fill your shoes.

The someone I mentioned above would love to get an offer like yourself.

But note that you know your circumstances best.

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