Chronicle: Careers, Interrupted

Of the 11 tenured and tenure-track professors in the closed programs at Washington State [i.e., theater and dance, community and rural sociology, and some foreign languages], five have retired, some before they had planned. Five still work at the university, a few with mixed feelings. Among those who remain, some have advanced in new departments while others have had to step backward, even off the tenure track. One found a new job elsewhere.

For professors who choose retirement when a department closes, the choice is often a difficult one. And for some, the result is an unsatisfying closure to their careers.

Ms. Harris, a 37-year veteran of Washington State, says she oversaw her program’s transition to a full-fledged department [of theater and dance] in 2007. The closing of the department in the middle of last year makes her feel like “everything I ever did is just gone.”

“I have a very small pension, so I’m just relying on the private means that I’m just lucky to have,” says Ms. Kolb [former professor of French at Southeastern], who along with her former colleagues has sued the university, which the American Association of University Professors added to its censure list in June for violating the rights of tenured faculty by terminating their appointments as part of budget cuts. “I’m also able to continue living in Louisiana where the cost of living is low. I guess I just have to count my blessings.”

More poignant stories, including the particular difficulties facing junior faculty, at The Chronicle. We’re looking forward, with support and curiosity, to hearing the outcome of those legal complaints.

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