Life After Tenure

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

One of the few tenured professors to get laid off found that there is life after academia, and a more productive one at that. “Three years ago I joined an elite crowd: the tiny number of tenured faculty members terminated or ‘asked to leave’ their jobs,” Jim Garman wrote in The Chronicle Review. “Statistics describing this group are hard to find.”

“A 2005 Wall Street Journal article estimated that only 50 to 75 tenured professors out of 280,000 are fired each year.”

Gorman now runs an organic farm, and he interestingly contrasts academic work with, for want of a better description, genuine labor.  “Farming is hard, physically demanding labor,” he wrote. “When I think about the days that allowed me two-hour lunches with colleagues and the luxury of reading The New York Times from front to back, I laugh.”

“My typical day now consists of cultivating 100-foot rows of plants on a hot July afternoon, planning crop rotations, and trying to control potato beetles with organic remedies.” But Garman is far less descriptive of the reason for his banishment from academe.

“The reasons for my dismissal aren’t relevant to what I want to say here,” Garman wrote. “I can tell you that I did not steal funds, threaten or harass colleagues or students, or find myself in the back seat of a police cruiser.”

“I was not fired for plagiarism, malfeasance, or incompetence; on the contrary, I won two of the three major faculty awards at my small institution and developed a creditable record of research and publication.”  So what went wrong?

“I was, however, enormously indiscreet and on a religious campus, that indiscretion was more than adequate to bring my life crashing down around me.”  One indiscretion his colleagues may not forgive him for is his success: If some reform-minded college presidents get the idea that they can make a golden parachute of an acre of arable land, they may have figured a way out of tenure for life.

 

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