There is a tempest brewing in the teapot that is the academic blogosphere. It all started with a post over at Dr. Crazy's (scroll down to October 26), to which she has since posted a couple of follow-ups. It then got commented on by a poster at RYS, which comment/post provoked a veritable shitstorm of comments, both pro and con (first installment here, with apparently more to come).
The topic: Are junior faculty who look for other jobs selfish brats?
I am disturbed by the level of vitriol heaped upon (can you heap vitriol?) the heads of untenured faculty whose sole offense seems to be keeping their eyes open for working conditions or job locations that might better suit their own needs. What is startling to me is how some commenters have cast as traitorous wretches those who have not considered their first tenure-track job to be the only job they will ever have. These faculty have been portrayed as not caring about their colleagues, their students, or their institutions. Faculty who think they can get better pay or working conditions are vilified as egomaniacs who are seeking "a place where their own peculiar preciousness will be admired by all." Faculty who wish to move to be near family (and we all know about the two-body problem so rampant in academia) are derided as wanting to be "close to mommy." Junior faculty, apparently, are supposed to practice a level of self-abnegation comparable to medieval saints.
Let me be clear: When we do a job search, we want colleagues who will stay for the long term. Nobody hires someone thinking, "Great! I hope we get four years out of this person before we have to search again," and losing a faculty member means a lot of work doing another search, and the danger of losing the line permanently. And, of course, there are those perennially unhappy job-hoppers who move every two years, looking for a perfect job that probably doesn't exist. But I suspect that these are the exception, rather than the rule. Most people with tenure-track jobs go on the market -- if they do at all -- for entirely legitimate reasons: salary, cost of living, family concerns, or to escape a toxic environment. And no one should begrudge them that.
I very much like my colleagues, and I would be sad to see just about any of them leave to take a job elsewhere. I think our department would be poorer for the loss, and I, for one, would miss them. But it would never occur to me to label them as selfish for doing what anybody in any other job would do.