I was denied tenure — how do I cope?

Nikki Forrester:

I’m a developmental biologist who secured a tenure-track position at a university in the southern United States. I spent eight years building my laboratory, training graduate students, applying for grants and publishing papers. At the end of the eight years, when I went up for tenure, I felt confident. My research was in a good place, two of my students had graduated and gone on to excellent positions and I had several notable publications. My department recommended me for tenure, and my colleagues told me that I had nothing to worry about. Then, despite my strong record, I was denied tenure at the university level.

When my department chair told me the decision, I was shocked. I had never considered what I would do if this happened. My chair and other department members are convinced that I should appeal, because personal relationships might have influenced the decision — but I’m not sure what to do. I feel like I did the best I could, and it wasn’t good enough. Do I accept the decision and walk away? Do I fight it? Do I ever get to know why I was denied tenure? — Sincerely, a bereft biologist