In this month of Ramadan, I expect to be above worldly concerns. I find myself facing a spiritual challenge.
I’m thinking of certain colleagues I worked with in the past who were deceitful and unconscionably backstabbing. At a time when my career just taking off, I was diligently teaching and publishing my research. I was courted for my scholarship, my ethnographic work, my rich experience, and yes, the “diversity” I brought to the White institutions I served.
But due to certain colleagues/supervisors in my past, I am now in a non-tenure track position.
At my first tenure track job, I thought, if I worked hard, I’d be safe from internal politicking among a mixed bag of underperforming academics, xenophobic White evangelicals, and dogmatically anti-faith Islamophobes. Not to mention some White anti-Muslim students whose consistently rude behavior inside the classroom shocked other students. The year I was supposed to get my 3-year reappointment, just a month or two after an excellent evaluation with good teaching and *outstanding* publications and no red flags: I was denied reappointment. I still remember my utter shock and speechlessness at that meeting. I still remember the White woman who had been mentoring me and listening to all the accounts of backstabbing against me, as she turned, baldfaced to me and said, that despite my evaluations and my work, “we know you.”
Of course the paperwork didn’t add up, so the Provost overruled it, but each of these events threw me into a fury of legal activity and job-seeking – instead of publishing and scholarship. Instead of staying put in a position where I might get tenure but would definitely be miserable, I was heavily courted for a position at a small college and left. Tenure would not be a problem. I’d go up for tenure the next year.
Turns out, I got hired into the middle of a turf battle between a Dean and a VP.
My new dean held my paperwork back for a year because of his grudge against the VP who hired me. Only the Faculty Council’s expression of great concern got him to meet me for annual evaluations and start paperwork. Soon after the VP got hired by a new institution, the Dean took action. Turns out (according to my department head) he had planned to get rid of me all along. Months after he communicated this decision secretly with bigwigs in the small college, he moved against me.
The year that I was supposed to go up for tenure, with my file ready to go, I published an award-winning book. Everyone told me I was a sure thing. I was at a teaching institution, with good evaluations, a heavy load, and a new book (which few of my colleagues had). That same year, one week after giving me a great evaluation, my dean gave me my termination letter.
Sometimes I think of those colleagues, deans, department heads, and the people who could have been allies but chose to throw their lot in with the powers-that-were.
I think, I should have been tenured by now. I could have been full professor. I could be focusing on publishing instead of job security. I am in a non-tenure track position with an uncertain future.
I’ve had cancer twice in this journey, which made it even harder to pull myself up off the ground by my bootstraps and overcome my terror of venomous colleagues.
Everyday that I wonder about my academic and professional fate – and my ability to support my family …
… In my heart I have difficulty forgiving these people.
Oh, I do nothing to hurt them. I only blog, to warn others of the dangers of higher education institutions – often, waters infested with smiling crocodiles.
But I struggle because I bear wounds in my heart, and injury in my soul, and it holds me back.