Tenure limbo

There are some things that one expects about the tenure process:  the deadlines set by the dean’s office, the format of the prospectus and the student letters, the general flow of events, etc.  And then there are the many things that don’t come to light until one is going through the tenure process.

Nobody warned me about “limbo time”.

My dossier was handed in a month ago, and earlier this week I got the call that my student and external reviewer letters are in and ready to be read.  I made appointments to read the letters, and to meet with the dean to discuss the letters, for next week.  I finally get to see the letters on Tuesday afternoon, for the first time.  Since then, I’ve felt very much….detached, for lack of a better word.  In a sense, like a dead man walking, or maybe a living ghost?

I’m guessing this is because right now, my future truly is in limbo.  I don’t know what those letters say, but I do know that they will have a huge impact on what happens between now and December.  I also know that next Friday, when I meet with the dean, will be my last chance to have any say in my tenure case.  But I can’t actually do anything at this point: all I can do is wait, wait, and wait some more.

Campus life, and real life, of course, go on, and I go on with them.  But I really do feel detached.  I discuss future plans with my colleagues, about hiring and what we all want to teach next year and what I might want to do on my next sabbatical.  I go about my committee work, plan my classes, think about textbooks for next term.  But in the back of my mind, I’m wondering if I even have a future here.  I think and discuss and do all of these things almost in the third person, because I can’t really commit myself to them unless and until I know whether my future lies here.  And it’s not that it’s scary, it’s just….weird.

I don’t know if limbo will go away even after I see the letters, or if it will just persist until the final decision comes down.  I suspect there will be different shades of limbo between now and then.  But I do know one thing:  I really dislike being in limbo.

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