I work at a regional SLAC with a 3-3 teaching load. The position is not bad, but the location is. I am in my fifth year, and will go up for tenure review next year.
I have been on the market for the last couple years looking for a position that would be in a better location. I have had success (1-2 offers both years) but ultimately turned them down for various reasons - teaching load higher than current, larger class sizes, not sufficient research support, etc. This year I have had two interviews; one that was horrible and I would never go there, the other looks good, but apparently I am not the first choice and am anxiously waiting for the final outcome. There are few positions of interest left for me, so it is likely that this year (which seems to be an off-year compared to previous, yes?) will be a wash.
There is little doubt that I would receive tenure at my current post. I say this not simply from my subjective impression. I have received positive evaluations every year and the department chair has stated pretty clearly that receiving tenure should be expected.
And so this is the problem - the 'golden handcuffs'. My question is whether it is possible to apply for positions while going up for tenure. That is, I know that I can do it, but is it advisable? My three letter writers are at my current post. They have been very gracious in agreeing to write for me, and haven't shown any outward distaste for what less secure people might view as an implicit rejection of them or this school. But how would they feel about agreeing to write for me next year? Is it rude for me to even ask them? They will be appraising me for the tenure review process, and so this might negatively impact me.
Further, how would other schools feel in getting an applicant who is currently under review for tenure? I'm sure that they would think the worst of me; after all, it actually feels dishonest to have my school go through the labor of tenure review, while at the same time shopping around.
I'd appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.