The Walk of Shame, part 1

So yes, it’s true. Walking the walk is not the same as talking the talk. I read the blog posts (see blogroll on the right-hand sidebar), I did my time at the shrink’s, I discussed with my SO, and I talked to my committee.  The common topic was: this is going to be rough.

Well, now I have lived through the roughness.  Basically, everyone inside the ivory tower -TNRU campus was mad at me. But rather than pushing me off the tower, they decided to make me walk down its main staircase. Wearing a giant dunce cap, of course.

For the warm-up lap, I was instructed to write to all academic jobs I applied to to withdraw my application. Yes, even the universities that hadn’t expressed any interest in me. Of course you should write to places that interviewed you, as a professional courtesy. But other places? I think it was just so I had to write that I was leaving a bunch of times.

Next up, the e-mail was to say I was withdrawing “for personal reasons”. Like I am sick. Leaving aside the part where this suggests post-academia is a disease, I consider my reasons to be completely professional: I want a different work environment that involves more team work, tangible results, more short-term professional development, and a 12-month salary. Saying I leave for personal reasons is a lie, but then again I had told so many lies during the season…

As I expected, the third lap involved cancelling my participation at conferences. You know, because of my illness. “It’s just not useful for you anymore.” This led to a smooth transition into the next lap: if I am not presenting at conferences and I won’t have a tenure clock, it really doesn’t make sense for me to continue being on those co-authored projects. I thought the professional thing to do was to finish what I had started and honor all my existing commitments. Furthermore, I wasn’t worried about the tenure clock when I started these projects. I got involved because I think they are interesting and challenging questions that will yield useful results inside and outside of academe. These lines sound very cheesy, but whatever. It’s true. The real bummer is I will never get the hours I invested back. Hell, I might not even get a “thanks”.

Enough shame for tonight.



  1. Anonymous

    I must admit that I’m a new follower here but why to you *have* to do any of these things? I’m planning my own quit announcement in the next couple of months and if my advisor tells me to do some of these things, I will promptly tell her that it’s no longer any of her concern how I proceed professionally. That’s one silver lining to “the decision,” IMO – you reclaim the ability to make decisions about your own professional future without the oversight of certain people. Then again, I have no expectation of a positive reference from this person to begin with.

    I don’t think you should carry any shame about any of this. Just a semi-informed, anonymous opinion.

  2. Anonymous

    Why are you still listening to them?! If anyone is suffering from personal problems it is those who continue to perpetuate the toxic academic environment that is built upon shaming others so that a handful of useless twits might feel somewhat important. Do what feels right to you. You are the one who is smart enough to know you should get out of there, after all.

  3. Anonymous

    Oh- – and did not mean any hostility towards you whatsoever with the previous comment, on the contrary. It just makes me angry to see people treated in the manner you mention in this post. Keep your chin up and best of luck to you! You deserve it!

  4. Lauren

    This is horrifying. I can’t believe they cut you out like that — unnecessary, like some kind of sick academic pillorying. You don’t deserve that. Completely wrong. (Sometime, if you’re up for it, please consider writing this up for the e-book or website we’re doing. People need to know how cruel departments can be.) I am really disturbed by the way that departments/advisors are coaching people to sugarcoat their leaving and chalk it up to ?? mental illness, “personal difficulties,” etc — REALLY WEIRD AND DISTURBING.

    Again — I’m sorry it was so rough.

  5. Tilde

    Inappropriate. Awkward. Unprofessional. Fucked up.
    I’m sorry. I hope that you insist that your name go on the projects you’ve been working on, but I understand that a hasty exit regardless of the terms might be easier for you.

  6. WTF have I done with my life?

    Holy crap! That is what I call bullying. I would sue their m*****f**** arses. Get thee to your union rep asap. But then, as an adjunct, you probably don’t have any workplace rights in any case. Oh the irony. As if making all those decisions in the first place and being decent enough to tell them wasn’t difficult enough! I can’t believe they insisted on all that crap. NO-ONE writes to anyone to say they are “withdrawing their application”. EVER. You just don’t accept the job if they offer it to you. It’s called “the real world”. The employer then moves on to the next person on the list. It even happens in academia. I have seen it a hundred times (ok, maybe ten, there aren’t a hundred jobs in academia). And no-one pulls out of projects – they finish them anyway. If they want to that is. Otherwise they just say they can’t do something when their colleagues ask. And how many conferences have you been to where there are no shows? Who cares? No-one by day three of the conference when you’re all bored to tears and busting to get out of there. Maybe you could do some serious bridge-burning and write to all those places where you never even received acknowledgement of your application and say that you “are no longer interested in working for such an unprofessional department that does not even have the courtesy to let you know that they have received your application”. anyway…. I am really really really angry that you were treated this way – it’s not fair, it’s not just and it’s highly inappropriate. I think swearing like a teenager and telling your committe to go F*** themselves would be the best course of action (if you felt like it that is – I know I do!). Best of luck with your new professional career.

    • dissentingscholar

      Thanks for the sympathetic feelings. Yes, I am upset that I won’t get to wrap things up the “professional” way. But, I’ve decided to get out of here, and if the way out is messy and thorny and includes giving up things I cared about, I have to suck it up and keep going. I’ll be out soon anyway. Science is the ultimate victim: I think our project was neat and I was looking forward to the conferences.

  7. martinalynne

    Hoping in late to the game here. I’m planning my own exit at the moment, and the discussions I’ve been having with trusted advisors and even peers all parrot that “personal reasons” narrative. At first, I didn’t mind, because having an easy answer did feel good — and easy. Plus, I was diagnosed with a severe medical condition in my exam year, so it was an excuse that had some traction. But it’s also a lie, for me just as it was for you, and after a few weeks, I’ve begun to get insulted by this narrative. I mean, it implies that my desire for a different kind of work and a different life is either (a) a symptom of my illness (hello, ableist bullshit)), or (b) an illness in and of itself. And I’m just getting so exhausted by fighting against this narrative at the same time that I feel I’m fighting just to get myself out of this riptide.

    So. Any advice?

    • dissentingscholar

      Yes, having an easy answer feels great. I have to admit that at the time, I also felt it was easier to give the reason I had been told. It would have been unprofessional of me to spill my guts out to most of these people, but given job market etiquette and my committee’s role in it, it would have also been unprofessional to stay quiet.

      After the instance in this post, nobody really asked me why for a long time. Maybe that was because they made up explanations or heard the “personal reasons” explanation. Maybe it was because I’m not that important and nobody cares what I do with my career. Still, I prepared a brief, un-emotional explanation for leaving. I thought of leaving academia as switching from one company to another, or from one industry to another. Outside of academia, people do this all the time. I thought of academia as a job and what I expected from my dream job. Academia cannot provide that, so… it’s time to move on. To a job involving more team work. To a job with tighter deadlines. To a job where weekends are respected. To a job where I can get promoted. I always repeated how difficult it was to make this decision, but in the end, I had made up my mind.

      I hope this makes sense. It doesn’t even have to be the whole truth 😉 Just… keep your reason brief and assertive.

  8. catryn2013

    Ok, I am super late to the game but there was absolutely no need for you to be removed from co-authored projects. You started it and you contributed equal amounts of time and efforts; therefore, you should be recognized. I think that your supervisor had no idea of how things work in the non-academic world. Guilt-tripping you about making a career move– urgh!

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