publish or perish
Definitely don’t want to be glib about or otherwise make light of a terrible story, but there’s probably not a junior academic out there who didn’t drop an underbreath No shit… or some variant upon hearing about the murders at Alabama-Huntsville.
The shootings opened a window into the pressure-cooker world of biotechnology start-ups, where scientists often depend on their association with academia for a leg up. Ms. Bishop was part of a start-up that had won an early round of financing in a highly competitive environment, but people who knew her said she had learned shortly before the shooting that she had been denied tenure at the university.
On Friday, Ms. Bishop presided over her regular neuroscience class before going to a biology faculty meeting, where she sat quietly for about 30 or 40 minutes, said one University of Alabama faculty member who had spoken to people who were in the room. Then she pulled out a gun and began shooting, firing several rounds before her gun either jammed or ran out of bullets, the faculty member said.
Mr. Garner said Ms. Bishop was first been told last spring that she had been denied tenure. Generally, the university does not allow professors to stay on after six years if they have not been granted tenure, and this would have been the final semester of Ms. Bishop’s sixth year.
The university does have an appeals process, and people who knew Ms. Bishop said she had appealed the decision.
Ms. Bishop was quick to talk about her tenure worries, even to people she had just met. A businessman who met her at a technology open house in January, and who asked not to be named because of the close-knit nature of the science community in Huntsville, said, “She began to talk about her problems getting tenure in a very forceful and animated way, saying it was unfair.”
Believe me, I know it sucks to complain about the business when I’ve got (for now anyway) a really good job at a really good place, but the truth of the matter is that the stress only gets worse the further along you make it. Any line of work that can leave a 42-year old Harvard PhD basically completely out of the game after a six years of apparently solid teaching is bound to make people go mad. It’s clearly getting worse on the tenure front, as university administrations cynically use the “tenure hurdle” to keep costs down.
If only this story would make university administrations take pause to consider their policies on promotion. What they’ll do instead, I’m sure, is dump a ton of cash into the coffers of “career transition” consultants and campus security forces.