This month's contributor:
I was teaching at a state university in a department that was rife with pettiness and hatred. The department was divided right down the middle on almost every issue. For a year or two I had no trouble with anyone though I learned who hated whom. I was the only non-tenured member of the department and every year, my contract was up for renewal pending performance evaluations. These evaluations depended on the good faith of my tenured colleagues who carried them out. These evaluations went well enough for the first two years.
Eventually, the department chairperson turned against me and got two others to do the same. The chair was an insecure man who did not have a Ph.D. or M.S. He was extremely deficient in his content areas but somehow had figured out how make office politics work for him and to get the students to respect him. Others said that he viewed me as a threat. In my third and fourth years, my performance evaluations began to worsen even though student evaluations and peer evaluations all showed upward trends. The Dean and Provost did not provide any checks and balances. I think they turned against me when I failed a quarter of my students in two sections of remedial math.
Anyways, in the middle of my fourth year, my contract was on the President's desk with a recommendation of nonrenewal. I went into a deep depression. My faith in others was shattered. I lost hope in my futures. I began to pray and cry many times each day. A psychiatrist started me on an antidepressant. A psychologist got me to talk about the similarities between my chairperson and my father. Another thing I did was to pray to St. Jude. I found a .jpg of him on the internet and printed it. I got down on my knees and started a novena while firmly holding an image of him in my mind. I did this 9 times each day, for 9 days. My request was for a contract renewal--stupid. Although my mind wanted it, my heart knew it was a bad idea. The environment I had worked in was so toxic, my psychologist and psychiatrist both recommended taking a leave of absence. As the ninth day approached, my request was morphing into something else--to get another teaching job within driving distance.
Openings in my field are few and are usually advertised in November or December so I didn't have time to apply to many places. In fact, I only applied to about seven positions--two of which were not in my field. Nevertheless, the novena was soon answered. My contract was not renewed. It appears that St. Jude did not have enough pull at the state university. It was in many ways a hell on Earth--a place where truth and love wither; a place where no good deed goes unpunished; a place where conflict between faculty and administration was so great it often made it into the newspapers. Nevertheless, a couple of months later I received a phone call from a Jesuit university asking me to come for an interview. A month later, I had a job offer. I was in the middle of RCIA classes so the decision was easy for me. Another university offered my a two-year visiting position. Another institution asked me to come for an interview.
It has been almost a year now. This is too long to wait before publishing a message of thanks but I wanted to make sure things worked out for me at my new institution. Thank you, St. Jude! I come out of this with a strong sense that God already knows my needs and most of the good things that have happened to me have happened in spite of what I might have wished for myself.
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