Professors depart for a variety of reasons

by Sarah Gerry | 5/8/98 5:00am

During his five years at the College, Assistant Chemistry Professor John Bushweller has worked toward completing the structure of a "very important" leukemia related protein, has received substantial grants from the National Institute of Health and has enjoyed teaching Dartmouth's "bright, capable students."

But there was one thing Bushweller, a biophysical chemist who studies the structure of biological molecules, missed in Hanover -- the opportunity to confer with other professors doing similar research.

Bushweller will leave the College in late August to work as an associate professor with tenure at the University of Virginia Medical School, despite "significant efforts" the College made to keep him here, including an offer to match the equipment the University of Virginia is going to provide for his research.

"This was a situation where another institution was looking to strengthen its research offerings in a particular area," Chemistry Department Chair John Winn said.

Winn said that, by "historical accident," the College does not have the same number of people working in Bushweller's area of interest as the University of Virginia.

But Bushweller said the opportunity to "be in an environment with other people who do related types of work" is not his only reason for leaving, although it is his primary one.

"I don't like the cold," he said.

Reasons for leaving

Bushweller's decision, and his reasons for making it, are not uncommon. The College has a "huge turnover of assistant professors," Engineering Department Chair Ian Baker said.

Professors' reasons for leaving the College range from failure to receive tenure, and from to spousal issues to Dartmouth's harsh climate.

Former Sociology Department Chair Raymond Hall said during his first three-year term as department chair, one professor left the College because of a combination of "spousal issues and a desire to go to a research university."

Although the professor had received tenure, he and his wife left the College before she was considered for tenure.

Hall said spousal issues similar to the ones faced by this professor are becoming "more prevalent."

He said professors may also leave the College because of the pressure to publish their work, and because of a perception they may "do better in terms of research support" at a university with more graduate students.

History Department Chair Michael Ermarth said that, in addition to the improved research opportunities at some larger institutions or offerings of higher salaries, "professors sometimes leave for the same reasons students leave," including New Hampshire's long winters.

Mary Lou Guerinot, who has chaired the Biological Sciences Department for four years, said one professor left during her time as department chair to assume a "100-percent research position at Columbia."

Better offers and tenure

Some assistant or non-tenure track professors decide to leave the College simply because they are offered tenure or tenure-track positions elsewhere, Baker said.

He said an assistant professor in the Engineering Department left this year after he was offered tenure as an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Baker said another assistant professor left Dartmouth about two years ago to take a job as a full professor at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Joseph Getz, a visiting assistant professor in the Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures department, said he is planning to leave the College for a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at Emory University, a position he found after a search for tenure-track professorships.

He said he has "tremendously enjoyed the students here in the Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures Department," and he also enjoyed the department's "collegiality."

But Baker said better positions in academia are not the only job offers luring professors away from the College.

He said he could recall one professor at the College who left Hanover and the teaching profession to work in industry.

Another common reason why professors decide to leave the College is a failure to be granted tenure in their respective departments.

Winn said about one of the five or six Chemistry professors considered for tenure each year leaves Dartmouth when tenure is not granted.

Drama Department Chair Paul Gaffney said that, during his tenure as department chair, three tenure cases have been considered, and two of the professors under consideration had to leave the College because they did not receive tenure.

He said that professors denied tenure are allowed to remain at the College for one year while they make other plans.