It happens everywhere. People in the public have no idea what a tough, sometimes savage, business academics is. Well over half of those hired don't get tenure, and at Duke and other top research universities that proportion is even less. Fired, sacked, out the door....it can happen for a lot of reasons.
I don't know if I was oblivious, arrogant, or just lucky, but it never occurred to me that I might not get tenure. I didn't even tell my wife when I got it; just seemed like one of those "sun rose in the east this morning" things. About five years ago, may 1999 or 2000, she came up to me at a party, obviously worried. "All these people are talking about tenure, and it sounds hard. Do YOU have tenure?"
We got married in 1986, so I was enough of a veteran husband not to laugh. I told her, as gently as I could, that yes, I had gotten tenure in 1992. "Really? Oh, good, that's good." She patted my arm.
Donna is an attorney. Even after being married to an academic for nearly 20 years, it is hard for her to put herself in the place of a professor. If I am sitting, staring at the wall, working on some equations, she asks, "What are you doing? Are you okay?" Later, when I come out to have a glass of wine with her before bed, she says, "Are you done? Did you finish?"
Well, no, I'll never finish. When I finish this, I have to do something else. The advantage of being an academic is that you can schedule the 70 hours you work anytime you want during the week. But that doesn't change the time commitment, and that is what so few people see.
From a woman's point of view