So I came late to the whole "debate" re. the purported "selfishness" of junior faculty who apply to other jobs, and I've made a decision not to blog about it at length--in part because so many other people have already made such strong arguments on their blogs (see Dance for links to the relevant posts), but also because I find the whole argument so shocking that I'm not sure I can respond rationally. The amount of vitriol spewed against people who feel that it's acceptable to change jobs at some point in their careers is appalling. I'm also just flabbergasted that anyone could sincerely believe that there's a moral requirement for Ph.D.s to stay, forever, in the first jobs that they get. It's so nonsensical that I don't even know how to respond to it. I mean, obviously we'd all prefer to get jobs near family/partners/friends, in places where we don't feel culturally marginalized and alone, with ideal teaching-to-research ratios and decent salaries/benefits, our first time out on the market. We'd love it. Of course. But I know exactly zero people (of my academic generation) to whom that's happened, and I know a lot of young Ph.D.s.
Everyone I know has moved. Most did the wandering VAP/adjunct thing for a while before settling down. Several went from a one-year to a tenure-track job that they didn't like to a tenure-track job that they like and plan to stay in. Oh wait--no, I can think of one person who has come out of my (pretty highly ranked) graduate program who got a tenure-track job her first time out and hasn't moved yet. But it was the only job she applied for (!!), she had personal connections in the department, and she didn't even have to move apartments. This is not typical.
I'd like to highlight the wandering VAP phenomenon. This profession, at least in my field, expects and demands that we move frequently before even getting a tenure-track job. This is financially and emotionally draining and unstable; from personal experience, I can say that moving to a strange town far from everyone you love for a one-year position with mediocre pay and no job security, where the culture is rather different from what you're used to and you can't get the foods you like in the grocery store, kind of sucks. So yes, I'm looking forward to settling in someplace and committing to my job. I want to commit to a job. But given the sacrifices that we are already expected to make just to secure a tenure-track job to begin with, it is the height of unreasonableness to then demand that we accept wholeheartedly, like, forever, whatever position the Job Market Gods finally deign to hand down to us. As much as I know that this is the career that I want, as committed as I am to the profession, I am not, ultimately, identical to my job. Our selves do not end where our jobs end. We are, in fact, full human beings, and those who would call our commitments to living full human lives "selfish" can bite me.
See? I said that I couldn't approach the subject rationally. So I'll just leave it at that.