In my last post in this series, I set out a series of three questions that I've identified as central to deciding whether I should stick things out until tenure or go look for greener pastures. I actually started writing this post thinking I'd address the first question, but I seem to be stuck. Mainly, I think, because a lot of "good day" vs. "bad day" is tied to the second question, which is "how much of the good/bad is tied to the institution/department, and how much is tied to the whole idea of what makes an "assistant professor?". So I'm going to skip to the second question, and mainly deal with the first part of that.
In other words, what are the good and bad things about my institution and my department?
I'll start with my institution, because this is where I find many things to like. My institution treats its faculty well---there is a lot of support for various forms of development, travel, special projects, etc. It has good resources. Smart people. Some good people in the administration, even. :) The service requirements are there, but not stifling. I've made lots of great friends here, and there's a cohort of strong junior faculty women (which I think scares some of the senior faculty a bit, to be honest). The students are by and large one of the better parts of this job, too---for the most part, smart and engaged and neat people. I've been incredibly lucky to only have a few "problem students" so far (of course, those problem students were *real* problems...but on balance, I think it's been fine).
What I don't especially like about the institution: the pace of change (but I suspect this is true most places); the gender balance, especially in positions of power (see previous note); the "strong department" structure, which can be dangerous; the amount of "homerism"---"this place is so great, why would we ever want to change a thing?". I'm not sure how prevalent that last one is in other places, but I feel like it's especially pronounced here, and in weird ways.
OK, now on to the department side. I'll start with the good stuff. As much as I complain about them, I personally really like my colleagues. We do lunch and chat in the hallways and share resources and some of us are friends outside of work. Again, good resources and pretty decent support if there's something you really want to do or try. The senior faculty do a pretty decent job protecting junior faculty from overcommitment---my chair, for example, really went to bat for me to protect my time during sabbatical. There's a lot of faculty interest and energy put into improving the community among our undergrad majors, and I can see that starting to pay off. On good days, it's a great place to work.
Now for the bad stuff. Well, there's the whole I-don't-trust-the-senior-faculty that's a direct result of my third year review. I still don't trust that they will give me the feedback or support that I will need as I try to earn tenure here. (I still don't trust them, because I still don't see them doing those things, even after lengthy conversations with them and with much prodding on my part.) This is a biggie, unfortunately, especially given the "strong department" structure we have here. I feel like my department prizes getting along over all else, and as a result disagreements are seen as Bad and there's a bit too much "groupthink" that occurs as a result, at the expense of honest discussion. Alternate opinions are viewed as suspect---not always, but often---which is not good, because I'm often the one with the alternate opinion. Conflict is avoided at all costs, even when doing so is detrimental to one of us or the department as a whole. And I often feel like I'm not listened to or supported by my department in general, like my ideas are not taken seriously (unless suggested by someone else) or are immediately discounted. I'd say that about 70% of my bad days are a direct result of an encounter with one or more members of my department.
So that's kind of the landscape in which I'm working right now. I've had a pretty good sense for most of my time here about what the good and bad things are (and the fact that the good things seem to be more skewed towards institutional things and the bad towards department things), but as I mentioned in my first post, figuring out the balance of good and bad is tricky. That will be the subject of a future post...probably the one after next, since in the next post I think I'll address the whole role-of-junior-faculty aspect of this thought process.