Tenured, Trapped, and Miserable in the Humanities

William Pannapacker:

Why are so many tenured professors unhappy with their jobs yet unable to change careers?

Is the chronic morale problem in the humanities — and many allied fields — attributable to tenured professors feeling trapped in positions they no longer want?

Earlier this fall, I wrote about my decision to go on leave (from my tenured post at a midwestern liberal-arts college where I’ve worked for 21 years) in order to write, retrain, and look for new career opportunities in Chicago. The many responses that column received emphasized two themes: how unhappy many professors are (even the lucky ones with tenure), and how those professors feel unable to change their circumstances.

I raised this issue in a recent survey on Twitter: “What makes it so hard to leave academe?” Nearly 200 responses from a self-selected group are not solid data, of course, but they are suggestive and worth reflecting upon: