Most of you who read my blog probably also read the inestimable Dr. Crazy. If you don't, you should be. If you haven't been over there for a little bit, you may have missed her recent post about why it's okay for junior faculty to look for other jobs. That post was a response to a fairly nasty comment by someone calling themselves "webmaster," and it elicted an even nastier comment by someone calling themselves edsmithers, from which I've taken the charming image in today's title.
Since for some reason posting about this seems to bring troglodytes out of the woodwork, I thought I'd just chime in here with my support for Dr. Crazy on a subject near and dear to my heart:
There's not a thing in the world wrong with looking.
There are ways that an individual junior faculty can handle job searching badly, and cause his/her department some stress or trouble, and there are ways to go about it responsibly and maturely (like Dr. Crazy is doing).
But the idea that once junior faculty have a tenure-track job somewhere, we're not supposed ever to think of leaving - regardless of what the conditions of the job are, regardless of what we feel to be in our best interests, hell, regardless even of our preferences - because to think of leaving is to reveal ourselves as "children" who believe ourselves to be "big bright gumdrop unicorns that rest in the center of the universe" - well, that - to put it plainly - is bullshit.
Apparently it's better to stay in a job where you're miserable - and stay there for the rest of your life - and hence be miserable for the REST OF YOUR LIFE - than to discommode that department in any possible way. Because the problems that your departure might cause for your colleagues and students are far more important than your lifelong misery.
But let's leave aside misery. What if you have a perfectly fine job, one you're happy enough with, but there are advertisements for jobs in your field that are just that much better?
Apply away. It's your prerogative. This is your life, and you're the one living it - not your colleagues or your students or your institution. You did not sign a contract saying you would never look at other jobs. Hell, you didn't MARRY your institution. And the sooner this profession stops using the metaphors of marriage, family (hello, I HAVE a family, and they don't sign my paychecks), and religious calling (I don't recall any vows) to describe itself, the better off we will all be.
And personally, I actually think that faculty changing jobs can benefit institutions as well as the individual faculty, because doing so leads to a much greater exchange of ideas and approaches. If you stay at one institution for your entire career, it's very easy to mistake the way that your institution does things with the only way to do things. But working at different institutions makes clear that the way one institution does something is often more a result of that institution's culture than any objective superiority of that particular method. If more faculty moved around more often, I think we'd be able to have a more fruitful discussion about what REALLY works in academic settings, rather than see the unthinking entrenchment of an institutional culture currently in place.
But again, I don't have to look out for institutions, I have to look out for me (because lord knows the institutions aren't going to). So, like I said over at Dr. Crazy's: If being selfish means that I put my own interests ahead of those of an institution - an institution which has far more power over me than I have over it - then I am proud to be selfish.
And I'd welcome company here at the center of the universe. Just watch out for my gumdrop horn.
ETA: Oh, and by the way, while I realize I'm frequently snarky here (First Person columns, I know, it's like shooting fish in a barrel, I can't resist), I also try to be reasoned and at least somewhat balanced, open to different perspectives, and polite. I like to think this is a blog where everyone is welcome. I realize the authors of some of the First Person columns I discuss might not be thrilled with me, but I'd love to see them come over here and engage in discussion, and I would be unfailingly polite to any who did so. On this subject? No. This is not something I'm willing to be polite about, mostly because those who see junior faculty looking out for their own interests as selfish children are invariably rude and hostile about it. No one said over at Dr. Crazy's, "but don't you think this might cause your department problems?" That's a legitimate question deserving a legitimate answer. Instead, commenters simply started slinging around words like "selfish fucks," "uncaring and selfish," and "children with overblown egos." So if that's your policy, believe me, I will respond in kind.