I work at a midwestern university in a very small department in a specialised field in the Humanities. I've been working here as a non-tenure track assistant professor, and have been offered a TT position. I genuinely dislike the place I live in, not for aesthetic or social reasons, but because I have experienced racial harassment fairly consistently since last year (the area is extremely conservative, and does not look kindly on difference of any kind. I'm brown, female and immigrant). It got so bad I had to file a police report against someone who had been harassing me at my apartment. That's not the only instance, though. I've been abused on the streets and told to 'Go back home where I come from, you b*&T*h' while out running. Among other things.

I was offered an extension on my non-TT contract a while back and would give anything to go back to the non-TT track with the possibility of leaving for another TT position outside the university after an undoubtedly difficult application season or two.

I'm happy to continue working here, as I like teaching here, but I can't do this for another 20 years, which is what my department head talks about when he refers to the tenure track. I don't think I can live or work here for that long, no matter how nice it is to be wanted in the department. I've tried approaching him with a long list of the encounters I've had here, and he seems genuinely nice, but also said that there is nothing he can do, which I understand. Most faculty I discuss this with keep telling me to 'forget the racism, it's just a few idiots'. I can't be quite that sanguine about it. They don't seem to understand the psychological effects of living in a place where you run the risk of harassment every time you step out of the house.

And yes, I get that the market is bad. By dint and design, however, I work on a rather niche subject which IS rather marketable.

I am rather anxious about taking this offer, and was wondering what to do. Any tips or advice would be much appreciated.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ff524 Oct 15 '17 at 5:49
  • 2
    Related: Just got tenured and promoted, but need to move for family reasons, The etiquette of leaving a faculty position, Proper “notice period” for resigning a tenure track position?, plus probably several others I can't find, on moving on to other institutions after getting a tenure-track job. – E.P. Oct 15 '17 at 17:39
  • 1
    I don't have any suggestions for the long-term, but for the short-term, I've always found it fun to take people's words as something other than what they obviously meant. At least for me, it helps take the sting off. For example, when I get called a "fag", I just take it as a compliment -- I mean, millions people smoke cigarettes every day to relieve stress and anxiety, so clearly they're implying I have the same effect. Someone yelling at you to go back home could be warning you about a horde of angry ducks ahead. It's hard, but it gets easier with practice. This is not a long-term solution. – Nic Hartley Oct 16 '17 at 1:30
up vote 142 down vote accepted

There's nothing to prevent you from accepting the TT position (which presumably carries better pay and more prestige) while still pursuing positions elsewhere. Indeed, having a tenure-track position may improve your chances of getting an offer outside, or may increase the leverage you have to bargain with if offered something elsewhere. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with accepting the TT job and then leaving (after a year) for another position. Your department head might not be happy, but this kind of thing is not viewed negatively by the academic culture at large.

In short, I see no downside for you to accept the tenure-track offer.

  • 4
    Thanks, that does help clarify things. I was worried looking for something might mark me down as flaky. But, thanks. – juno41 Oct 14 '17 at 6:07
  • 2
    Im not sure what you mean, SSimon. David recommended taking the job offer and going back on the market. Neither the answer nor my comment mentioned refusing an offer. And yes, Im sure in most places that is the case, generally speaking. – juno41 Oct 14 '17 at 11:34
  • 21
    In my field, and I’m not sure how universal this is, accepting a position is only a firm one-year commitment on your end. That is if you accept the position you shouldn’t be still looking this application cycle because you’ve committed to teach next year, but you’re free to find another job the next cycle if you want. – Noah Snyder Oct 14 '17 at 13:01
  • 52
    When you leave your tenured position, perhaps also mention that it is due to the hostile environment. It's important that people know that among other things, the local racism makes it hard to attract and keep excellent scientists (and probably other excellent workers). – henning Oct 14 '17 at 13:08
  • 7
    Tenure-track is a commitment from the school to you that in sixish years you will be fairly evaluated and if you are found to match the standards set out be awarded tenure. The candidate is not promising their career to the school, they are only promising one year. That said one shouldn’t apply for jobs unnecessarily and one might need to take care in putting out feelers in a way that won’t make your colleagues upset. But the bottom line is that the school isn’t being promised that if it’s up to standards the candidate will never leave, the school is making the promise to the candidate. – Noah Snyder Oct 15 '17 at 23:38

An answer to the general question (the one in your title):

Tenure track positions should be the default - they essentially mean you don't get arbitrarily fired. So, you've just been offered a regular position. Take it. If you later decide you want to leave, then you'll leave.

Adding the specific information about racism and harassment:

Well, one option you could consider is actively fighting against racism - in the university and in the community. As a TT you'll be in a better position to do this, as well as to promote and support others - students, graduate researchers, teachers (in the university) and public figures / community organizers (outside the university) when they do the same or when they're targeted. Now, I realize not everyone can/wants to shoulder this burden, so it's perfectly understandable if you decide not to. In that case - still, take it. Look for another position on the side, and if one comes up - then you'll have a proper decision to make among two concrete alternatives.

  • 8
    I've been abused on the streets I am not sure the university is the place the OP encountered racism. And I am not sure you had lived in that kind of place before. I am a Chinese male. I used to live in the deep south of the US. I had encountered numerous similar incidents the OP did. May I tell you it's not that easy to live in that kind of place. At least, I couldn't. This is why I left the US. – scaaahu Oct 15 '17 at 13:57
  • @scaaahu: 1. Edited my answer accordingly. 2. Indeed, I've not lived there, which is why I didn't claim that was the right thing to do. But - there are plenty of non-white people for whom it's not so easy to just go elsewhere, and they will have to stay and bear it... so it's at least a valid option. – einpoklum Oct 15 '17 at 14:14
  • 3
    Good points, @einpoklum, I especially mean the one about actively fighting racism. I am active on campus in diversity initiatives, and teach and train on diversity. Increasingly, though, Im realising that some deep-rooted ideas will be resistant to our efforts on campus. And another faculty of color on campus was doxxed for their anti-racism work and needed police protection for a few weeks. All things considered, it seems a tense time to be in this part of the world, and not look and talk a particular way. – juno41 Oct 15 '17 at 16:06
  • 3
    +1 for mentioning "Well, one option you could consider is actively fighting against racism - in the university and in the community". Obviously this is a difficult path, and no-one would criticise the OP for deciding not to go down that path, but it is a good option to suggest. – user Oct 16 '17 at 1:32

protected by Community Oct 15 '17 at 8:52

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.