I am an adjunct assistant professor at a four-year public university. Due to funding cuts, we have not had any tenure-track jobs available in many years. We have one opening this semester and everyone expects me to apply for it. I think I have a decent shot at it, but I am struggling with whether to even apply. It would be a tremendous amount of work just to apply and compete against applicants from all over the country, and I am already overwhelmed with work. I also have major family responsibilities, young children—including a special needs child with multiple medical issues—and a very long commute. Achieving work-life balance already feels like a losing game. I am loath to add more to my plate and fearful of what would fall through the cracks as I prepare for the dog and pony show. If I got the job, I don’t know that I would have the bandwidth over the next five years to do the research, writing, publishing, travel, and presenting necessary to achieve tenure.
What’s more, I feel resentful about having to compete for a job I am already doing. The whole enterprise feels like a political game I don’t want to play. And I am already reaping the emotional rewards of teaching and working with my students without playing the game. But by not applying, I am potentially missing out on the financial and social rewards that come with tenure: the respect of my peers, a better benefits and pay package—not to mention job security. So do I leave this tenure-track opportunity to others who may be more free, with fewer family responsibilities, who will have greater capacity to jump through the hoops? Or do I reach for the brass ring and try to grab something for myself as a reward for the years I’ve already given to this institution as an overworked, underpaid adjunct?