Listicle: How to Resign From Your Academic Job

Note: I am a recent convert to dogfooding assignments. The modest proposal outlined by the Cult of Pedagogy calls for professors to test their assignments and see if they have realistic expectations, clear instructions, and what assumptions about time, content, critical thinking, and creativity are embedded in the assignments.

The students in my Foundations of Media Research class are tasked with creating listicles about their learning experiences in the class. (Psst: It’s also a way for them to reflect on the semester, obtain experience with another type of article writing, and get content for their portfolios. Win-win-win.) Here is my attempt at writing a 500-word listicle. It’s not about my class, but enjoy! 


The end of the semester is upon us. Although many of us will be neck deep in grading, some of us have the additional burden (or delight) in switching positions. It is a burden if you didn’t choose to leave and were asked to go. It is a delight if you are moving to a “better place” or a dream position.

The tricky part of this separation is the resignation letter. Here are some tips for writing the academic resignation letter:

  1. Make sure you have another job (or something else lined up.) 

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Triple check the mailbox to make sure the formal letter is in hand. Make sure you have a job or plan before you resign from the current gig.

2. Check your faculty handbook and your contract about when your contract ends and if you are requested/required/ruthlessly forced to submit your letter.

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Some schools like Pitt make this explicit and easy to find. Others do not.  If you can’t find any guidelines, consider the AAUP’s statement on appointment ethics. Section 3, Part C reads:

An offer of appointment to a faculty member serving at another institution should be made no later than May 1, consistent with the faculty member’s obligation to resign, in order to accept other employment, no later than May 15. It is recognized that, in special cases, it might be appropriate to make an offer after May 1, but in such cases there should be an agreement by all concerned parties.

Use the AAUP statement as a guardrail during the resignation process.

3. Think about your professional reputation when you sit down to draft your letter.

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Reputation management is important in all jobs, but it is critical when you are in a field that counts collegiality as a value and a tenure metric. Reputation is an intangible entity, but it is based on your behavior, others’ perceptions of your trustworthiness, and your (real and perceived) performance.

Given that, how much of your reputation do you want to shed in this resignation process? Questions to ponder before you start writing any resignation letter: Do you want to burn bridges? Do you want to keep connections and ties between you and your colleagues? Do you want to come back? Do you want the department to collapse into itself like a black hole? Will this letter be forwarded out to those in my professional field? Do I give a damn? The answers will guide you in the next steps.

4a. Write a succinct letter.

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“Deuces, baby” may not be the most appropriate email resignation. (But thank you, NeNe Leakes, for a great gif.) You should have a bit more substance in the letter, but not too much. Fresno State offers a letter template that is 3 sentences long.  

I am writing to inform you that I am resigning my position as <classification title/job title> in <name of department> effective <insert date>.  I am resigning my position because <state reason why resigning position>.  Thank you for the opportunity to work at California State University, Fresno.

Use that. Note: If you don’t have a job secured, don’t send this just yet. Put that in a Word Document, Google Doc, or the draft folder.

4b. Or, give them the business in your letter.

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This professor went in on his administration. You can do the same.

Open the door to the reading room, and read them for shade, filth, and heat, honey. Tell them how you really feel. Lay out your grievances. Tell your story and get it off your chest. Explain and justify. Detail and point out flaws. Let them that you did not come to play but to slay them (with metaphors, juxtapositions, praxis, or epistemology). Do what floats your boat. Just know that the university (a) may not care and (b) may not respond (see the professor’s example above).

5. Inform those who are closest to you and those who are your mentees/proteges in person.

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Your work friends will appreciate the heads up. Your students deserve the advance notice so they can plan accordingly. Bring tissues, doughnuts, and/or wine just in case.

6. Above all, be gracious about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the whole process.

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Not only is Beyonce always on beat, she is sage wisdom personified in “Formation.” Being kind and pleasant in the aftermath is a good strategy. Even better: The best revenge in academia is always your paper (be it conference papers or banknotes).

What do you think? What are some other tips and strategies that people should know when resigning from their academic jobs? Drop a note in the comments.

 

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