Upon the conclusion of my first year as an Assistant Professor I find myself preparing for my third long distance move in three years as I have accepted a job offer at another university. When I started at Old Dominion University I had no plans to apply for any other jobs as I am not one that has an innate desire to jump around and try to climb the academic ladder. I was largely just happy to be in a tenure track role and planned to stick around until I got tenure. However, within a few months at ODU a few things bubbled to the surface and it became clear that I needed to seek out an exit from the university.
Issues of Academic Freedom
My mother always tells me not to talk politics at work. What she does not understand is that it is next to impossible to be in academia and to avoid politics. The position itself all but requires it as one of the two major political parties in this country is hell bent on destroying places of education and stifling research. I have even had conservative family members say that professors should be dragged out of their classes and hung…this is not a joke or exaggeration. And this is not an isolated sentiment.
Because of the attacks on academia it is important that your institution be supportive and be able and willing to protect you. Unfortunately, within a couple of months ODU showed that it was unable and unwilling to defend academic freedom or to protect its faculty. In November 2021, an assistant professor of Criminal Justice became the target of right wing fury due to their research that was being misrepresented by those in the right wing media. The professor was the target of death threats and protests erupted on campus. The new president of the university had an opportunity to rectify things, but instead, made things worse and mirrored the ignorant and incorrect talking points of those wishing harm on fellow faculty. This professor was forced out of the university in deeply problematic procedures that violated the policies of the institution.
Conflating matters is that the state (or commonwealth if you prefer) of Virginia decided that 4 years of Trump was not enough and elected a Trump wanna be governor who immediately set the state back by several decades. Within the first few months of the governor’s term he removed all health and safety regulations at pubic schools and began to attack academic freedom (among things). As part of these efforts he set up a hotline to report educators for teaching Critical Race Theory (i.e. the facts of this country) and has begun the process of trying to attack tenure. My work and research exists within the field of education which has many intersecting lines of inquiry with topics that the deluded right wing of this country would despairingly call Critical Race Theory. In fact, in my Educational Games class I invited a guest speaker to discuss matters of representation in video games and media. After the class ended I received anonymous feedback that was critiquing the fact that I brought ‘racialized content’ to the classroom. It became increasingly clear that my job and livelihood was not safe. I had already seen that the president of the university did not value academic freedom and that the institution on the whole would not step up and defend its faculty. Because of this I knew that I needed to find a position at a university with an AAUP presence.
Cost of Living/Housing
It is no secret that inflation is absolutely out of control with corporate creed being one of the biggest contributors. However, I never expected to find myself in a situation where I would be working as a full-time tenure track professor and be struggling to get by. Yet here I am. When I moved to Virginia it was next to impossible to find a house to rent as houses and apartments were being taken off the market in the matter of hours. I ended up having to settle for the first house that I could even get my application in on, and had to do so completely sight unseen. The house ended up being okay. It was not the worst house, but it definitely was not the house I would have picked if I had any actual say in the matter. Yet renting this house cost me over half my income every month. No joke. MORE than half my income went to renting a house that I barely even liked. When I got settled in I started to look at buying my own house. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that buying a house here was even worse than renting one. Houses in Norfolk are an absolute rip-off. Tiny ass 1930’s 1100 sq ft houses sitting right on a major road that floods anytime it rains for more than 5 minutes were being listed at $350,000 and selling for even more. I simply could not afford to buy a house in the city that I was working in.
So here I am….once again moving across the country. I am thankful that I was able to find a job at a university with a strong AAUP presence and one that better compensates faculty for their work and ensures that they can live in the city that they work in. It is time to pack some boxes.