The Stigma of Tenure Denied: An Exploration of Individual and Institutional Implications

  • Nathan F. AllemanEmail author
  • Justin J. Nelson
  • Cara Cliburn Allen


Although tenure denial is a familiar feature of the faculty profession, the dearth of specific research on the subject indicates that it is a phenomenon not sufficiently understood. The analyses that do exist are largely a-theoretical and unsystematic. In this qualitative study, we employed Goffman’s social psychological concepts of stigma and moral career to examine whether tenure denial is stigmatizing, and if so, how individuals navigate the personal, social, and professional implications of this undesirable label. Findings highlight the implicit burden of responsibility placed solely on individuals for their tenure denial, the challenge of managing social and professional situations, and the factors that contribute to or mitigate against the establishment of a new sense of self. We argue that just as the profession is learning that non-tenure track faculty should be treated with respect without regard for their non-traditional professional status, so tenure denial, although painful, need not be stigmatic. Rather, individuals may become advocates, activists, and employees (faculty or otherwise) who are able to serve with greater professional clarity and self-understanding as a result of their tenure denial experience.


Faculty Stigma Denied tenure Goffman 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Baylor UniversityWacoUSA
  2. 2.Campbell UniversityBuies CreekUSA

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