Tenure in the time of COVID-19

T&P excerpt

The e-mail came amidst a bunch of others, all with words like “COVID-19” or “urgent” or “time-sensitive” in the subject line. I almost missed it, to be honest. Then there it was: A simple two-line e-mail from Human Resources: “Please see the attached e-mail from the Provost. Should you have any questions regarding the attached, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

I bawled when I opened the letter. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting to have, but then again, nothing about getting tenure during the middle of a global pandemic is what I expected it would be like… Staying at home, practicing social distancing, and unable to go out and celebrate.

My mind immediately went to those who are losing their jobs, have already lost them or are still struggling to get one. A wave of guilt swept over me. I moved past it. Each of us is on our own journey. My journey has involved working for 26 years in higher education – 22 years as a sessional (or for friends outside of Canada, as an “adjunct” or “part-time lecturer”) and 4 years full-time, so to say the road has been long is an understatement. To paraphrase Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, I have grown old waiting.

I moved past the tears, then the guilt, and finally felt happy.

Old or not, we find ways to celebrate. A quiet glass of wine at home. A virtual happy hour with the family. A hand-made card from a dear friend that arrived via “snail mail” because we can’t go out to celebrate. The card shows how we practice social / physical distancing… and still celebrate. (Of course, I washed my hands after opening it.)


So, this is what getting tenure in the time of COVID-19 looks like.


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

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