Negotiate or rescind the offer of a TT job?

March 13, 2014

Inside Higher Ed reports a tale of a woman who was offered a position at Nazareth College in Rochester NY. She submitted a list of requests including more salary, a delayed start and guarantees of maternity leave.

In my view the totality sounds excessive, but that is what you do in a negotiation. You start with your most expansive list…the other side can’t be expected to give you MORE*.

Normally the College would come back with a sharply abbreviated list like “No on everything except maternity leave. Oh and maybe a quarter of the salary request.”

After a little back and forth….the candidate decides if she can live with the terms.

In this case, Nazareth College simply rescinded the offer.

This seems very strange and complete weak-sauce to me. Not to mention rude.

You folks ever heard of an offer of a tenure track job being rescinded during negotiations?
*unless you are dealing with some seriously committed DFH types.

66 Responses to “Negotiate or rescind the offer of a TT job?”

  1. DJ Says:

    Yes, My institution recently rescinded an offer to an associate-level candidate because negotiations over a solution to the “two-body problem” didn’t go well. But make no mistake, despite the candidate’s request I know for a fact he/she was prepared to consider accepting the offer even in the absence of sposual accomodations. The search committee/dept chair simply claimed the candidate was being arrogant and decided to rescind.

    Mind you, my institution is a bit dysfunctional so I’m sure this is not the norm.

    Incidentally, anyone have first hand experience or heard of candidates reneging after accepting a TT offer, but before actually starting. I notice a few universities are lining up positions well ahead of proposed start dates (as in 15+ months, for some). This seems like a risky maneuver, though. Gives people a lot of time to keep looking around. I think this is especially a problem for Associate and Full Professor searches.


  2. Stochastic Sam Says:

    Note that the position in question was an Assistant professorship in Philosophy at a small teaching college. The comments on the thread at PhilosophySmoker (which is where I saw this first) are voluminous and thoughtful.


  3. Chris Says:

    I have only a second hand example of a university rescinding a job offer (from a job candidate who is back on the market for this reason – argh!).

    I do know a person who accepted a TT offer but then changed their mind. When I was starting my first TT job, the department hired two faculty members. I was excited to have a “startup buddy”, but the other person withdrew. In retrospect, it was probably better for me not to have the direct competition come tenure time, but at the time, we were all quite upset about it. The other person accepted another offer elsewhere and seems to be doing OK, I don’t run into their work very often but do see the name occasionally.


  4. Alex Says:

    First, let me make it clear, I would not do what that college’s decision-makers did. Especially once the issue of maternity leave got thrown on the table. I would have surrounded myself with lawyers and PR specialists at that point.

    That said, before anyone judges them, one thing to keep in mind is that tiny colleges are different from most of the rest of academia, whether R1 schools or Compass Direction State or whatever else. They all consider themselves the most unique snowflakes to ever crystallize in the atmosphere. They are thus the touchiest of the touchy. Also, and much more reasonably, they are very, very focused on teaching. If somebody comes to them and says “My conditions are limits on my course preps and an exception to the usual sabbatical schedule”, that is a giant red flag screaming “DOES NOT GET WHAT WE ARE ABOUT.” The maternity leave is of course undeniably reasonable, the salary demand should be utterly unsurprising (and should be something that they’re used to, whatever their response might be), and the year to finish a postdoc may be a Rohrschach test, but the sabbatical and teaching requests are giant red flags for a school like that.

    Being at a Compass Direction State type of place with a heavy teaching load, I spend a lot of time around other people from schools with big teaching loads, including folks from tiny colleges. At tiny schools, they’ll actually brag about their new course preps. It’s a mark of pride to say “I completely redesigned Course X to include [whatever]” or “I’m in STEM, but I taught a writing-intensive freshman seminar focused on social issues and had a blast.” It’s in the culture. Maybe you think that’s ridiculous, maybe you think it’s admirable. Either way, it’s what they do, and demanding a limit on new course preps is a giant red flag.


  5. Grumble Says:

    Chair made verbal offer, candidate accepted, and chair prepared written offer. Went back and forth with candidate until both were happy. Chair sent offer letter to Dean for signature. Dean said, we don’t need this kind of research and we don’t want this person*. No signature.

    Not sure if that qualifies.

    *…despite the fact that Dean had met with candidate, and never told Chair not to proceed with an offer**.

    ** Yes, dean is asshat.


  6. Jim Thomerson Says:

    I once went on a TT interview at the Associate Professor level. I fairly soon decided I did not want the job, but did not say so. They told me they would inform me of their decision by next Monday. I never heard a word. Later, at the meetings, I talked with a colleague who had also interviewed, and was told he had the job. Fortunately he did not submit his letter of resignation, waiting for an offer on paper. It never came. He inquired and was told they had hired the buddy of the chair of the search committee. This at a fairly large and active state university.

    Don’t believe anything you don’t have in writing, and be a little cautious even then.


  7. DJMH Says:

    I think it’s terrifying that they didn’t even respond by saying, no to most/all requests. If they were worried she wasn’t liberal arts material, they could just see if she acquiesced to the offer as is. To withdraw it, especially given that maternity request, makes them come off badly.

    But there are probably six thousand philosophy would-be profs to take her place, so they can get away with doing this and people will blame the woman for leaning in too much. Again.


  8. Viroprof Says:

    I was on a second visit at a large school about five years ago and had brought my family along to look for houses. After a very good visit and fruitful negotiation with the department chair I was feeling good about the position. However, I was told by the department chair on my exit interview that the Dean had canceled the position that day due to the state budget going into the toilet. Later on, a colleague who was in that same department told me that his start-up funds had been taken back by the university to cover short-falls, and he decided to leave. Guess I dodged a bullet there!


  9. miko Says:

    Defending this is bullshit. Unless there is a LOT more to this than meets the eye, there is nothing wrong with asking. I don’t care if she asked daycare or a car. Creating the perception that negotiating your (by the way totally legitimate in this case) interests can lose you a job is poisonous, and this is 100% bad faith on the Nazarenes.

    As for the SLAC snowflake argument, like all snowflake arguments, fuck that. The fact they are deluded about their speshalness doesn’t make it so.

    This is deeply bush league garbage, and heavily tinged with a potential (and potentially actionable) gender problem.

    As for that blog, philosophers are best known for knuckle dragging and sophistry, and that thread is a fuckin buffet of both.


  10. miko Says:

    And as long as I’m pissed, this “two blogs” situation is also bullshit.


  11. Physician Scientist Says:

    Heard from multiple reliable sources about a top 15 institution that gave a post-doc an offer. Post-doc moved his family there, bought house and then moved down himself 2 months later. Upon moving there, he was told the offer was rescinded.

    I was doubly mortified because this school was where I got my degrees.


  12. DJMH Says:

    “And as long as I’m pissed, this “two blogs” situation is also bullshit.”

    Rescind his wordpress account!!!


  13. drugmonkey Says:

    I can rescind your comment privileges if you like, wiseacres.


  14. Grumble Says:

    I think DM is putting the number of blogs he writes on his resume or something. Blog inflation. Each one is a LPU.


  15. The Other Dave Says:

    I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what ‘negotiation’ is about. It’s not some weird war where the job candidate tries to get everything they can. That just looks greedy. If you’re going to telegraph that you’re shallow and problematic before you even have the job, you should totally expect the offer to be rescinded. Remember — you don’t have the job yet. And you’re a problem already?

    This is how it is supposed to work:

    1) Institution makes offer based on what they think you’ll need to be successful.
    2) If you agree that the offer includes everything you need to be successful, then accept it.
    3) If you think there is something else that you need to be successful, then you explain what that is and why you need it to be successful.

    Remember that both you and your prospective employer have the same goal in mind: You both want you to be happy and successful. You are not adversaries. You should be beginning a working relationship.

    4) The institution does not want you to fail any more than you do. So if you have convinced them that your requests are reasonable, then hopefully they can come up with the extra stuff you need. If they can not, and believe that you cannot be successful without it, then they will rescind the offer so that they can hire someone who is able to be successful given the resources they have.

    Sometimes, the resources they do not have include patience dealing with annoying greedy postdocs with a sense of entitlement.

    Make sense? It shouldn’t take a Ph.D. to realize that no one wants to work with a pain in the ass.


  16. Ola Says:

    Something that has not been discussed here or there: who is “W”?, will she be identified (even in closed circles)?, what will her job prospects be after this little outburst. I would imagine the SLAC philosophy community is a small one, wherein the chairs are all friends. Her biggest obstacles may be ahead. Sure, Nazareth made a foolish/hasty move, but squealing about it online may have just cost “W” her chance of a job anywhere else.


  17. I know of three instances where an offer was rescinded. One involved an assistant professor negotiation where the negotiations were long and protracted. They were almost finalized when the candidate asked for one more thing. The institution lost patience and rescinded. The others are similar stories from two separate institutions. Big names came back from sabbatical right as the paperwork was about to be signed and pitched fits over the hire. Offers rescinded.

    I also know of two times when candidates accepted faculty offers and then took other jobs before starting.


  18. miko Says:

    “1) Institution makes offer based on what they think you’ll need to be successful.”

    LOL. Yeah, that’s the only concern.

    Anyone who accepts the first offer is fucking moron.


  19. The Other Dave Says:

    The best negotiation I have ever had was with a department head who said “This is the offer. I know it’s good. I don’t negotiate. I need an answer by next week, because if you’re not interested there are others who are and I need to talk to them.”

    I didn’t end up taking that job. But I always loved his style. And he built a great department.

    Where I’m at, we rescind offers all the time to people who are taking too long or playing games. You should know what you need and why BEFORE you go on the job market. Otherwise… why are you looking for a job if you don’t even know what you’re looking for?

    And it’s not just because it’s a buyer’s market. It’s because, as I said above, if you’re already proving yourself hard to work with before you’re even hired, then how bad will it get after you’re there? Damn right any sensible place wants to run away from people like that.


  20. iGrrrl Says:

    I was only anywhere close to one place where the offer was rescinded, and that was about 25 years ago. The department felt like the negotiations seemed more like demands, and the tone was Diva, and they didn’t want a diva in their collegial circle. I wonder now what level of sexism played into that–‘tough negotiator’ vs ‘Diva’ characterization.

    On the other side, however, I have made people cry in my job three times, and two came down to the Assistant Profs* dealing with the fact that they had botched their start-up negotiations, and couldn’t do what they needed to do for sufficient preliminary data to be competitive in the grant game. In the worst case, the person had never been mentored to ask for start-up, and was dual hired between two departments, one experimental and one theory-based. The latter never gave start-up, and the former assumed the other was taking care of it. The young prof had never even asked.


  21. miko Says:

    ToD, what you describe is the opposite of the advice and experience of everyone I know.

    After a lot of back and forth, I can understand saying “look, we’re not getting closer to agreement, I’m calling it off.” If what was described here is the whole story, that just isn’t what happened.

    “I don’t negotiate” is just a negotiation tactic, and a fucked up, bullying one.


  22. Dr Becca Says:

    “I don’t negotiate” is just a negotiation tactic, and a fucked up, bullying one.

    So much this! ToD, how was that your “best” negotiation experience?


  23. ANON Says:

    We had an absolutely fabulous person who was hired to teach 1 yr, temporary position. The tenure-track position came up that year and he applied. He got it hands down, he was by far the best candidate. His wife also had a similar degree and taught part time for us. It was a big help, we needed both of them.

    He got the tenure-track offer, but another faculty didn’t like his wife, got in a big argument with her over nothing behind closed doors, but he threw a fit and went to the chair and others and demanded that the tenure track offer to her husband be withdrawn. Get this: Said that we couldn’t hire someone who couldn’t control their wife. Sure enough the administration supported him, withdrew the tenure track offer to him, and they both have since left academia.

    Yes, it was an utterly horrible institution. I also fled shortly thereafter.


  24. The Other Dave Says:

    @becca, miko

    The offer *was* very good. A LOT of cash use-as-you-want startup, beautiful space, everyone one should need. The dept head knew it was a good offer, and I knew exactly what the deal was. I loved it because there was no wondering. We could make a decision, and move on.

    That’s what it’s about. matching people and positions, getting on with the science. The rest is bullshit.


  25. Susan Says:

    I admire the efficiency of that story, TOD; but it’s still far from the norm, and we as candidates know that if we haven’t negotiated, we’re leaving something on the table. It’s very rare for any side to put all their chips on the table up front.

    ANON, I thought I was done being upset over the sexism that came along with this story until you added that tidbit. Thanks.


  26. DJMH Says:

    “Where I’m at, we rescind offers all the time to people who are taking too long or playing games. You should know what you need and why BEFORE you go on the job market. ”

    The only time I wish these comments weren’t anonymous is when I want to be able to rule out institutions as places to work.

    A postdoc couldn’t possibly be taking a while to decide on a job because all of the offers (all two of them) had some advantages and some disadvantages, could they? No, surely the world is never this complex.


  27. Kim Says:

    Looking at her list of requests, the things she asked for sound like matters of policy (how much maternity leave; whether sabbatical is granted to all pre-tenure faculty or whether it is only post-tenure) or things that would ruin the whole point of hiring someone at a teaching college (limiting preps, not starting when the department needed someone to teach). The salary I could see responding to with “ha, NO” if it were more than tenured faculty make. So I could see why the requests she made might be non-negotiable, and why a department would see her as a candidate who would leave within two to four years. In a small school, you don’t want to hire people who treat you as a stepping stone. Searches are expensive and time-consuming, and you risk losing a position entirely every time a hire doesn’t work out.

    That said, I haven’t been in negotiations to know whether offers have been rescinded immediately. The ideal situation is to identify people who want to be at a research university from their application materials, and avoid interviewing them in the first place. (Interviewing people who would prefer another job risks a failed search.)

    I don’t know how many of your readers are interested in teaching schools – I get the impression that they are considered so far out of the mainstream of academia that nobody would want a job there. But for people who do, it really is important to understand that the institution would be hiring you for a very different job than you may have been trained for.


  28. DrugMonkey Says:

    I do not agree PUI are out of the mainstream of academia at all. I’m a big fan, particularly of the SLAC.


  29. The Other Dave Says:

    Hmmmm… I think there’s still some misunderstanding about my views on TT job negotiation.

    I think negotiation is fine and absolutely appropriate in many cases, as long as the negotiation is focused on things needed to make the candidate successful at that particular institution. Negotiation is not about ‘trying to get everything you can’.

    For example, let’s say you get a TT job offer at a prestigious R1 institution, and it’s great: Great salary, teach only when you want as much you want, and all new lab facilities. But they don’t have a fizzleniffer in their core facility, and a fizzleniffer is absolutely necessary for your type of science. What do you do? You negotiate. You explain that a fizzleniffer is required for your work, and you can take the job only if they’re able to get one or provide the funds for you to get one.

    Negotiation can involve startup and salary too, but it’s got to be driven by need, not greed.

    I asked for more salary when I took my job because I was moving from a relatively cheap area to a big expensive city. I explained how I had a family and was worried about our ability to live in the new city safely and comfortably on that salary. They increased the salary, and even gave me a signing bonus to help buy a house in a nice area.

    At another place, the salary was more than enough, but they lacked a lot of the infrastructure needed to be really competitive at an international level. I worked with them over the course of a couple days helping them figure out what they’d need to have a top-notch program, including what I’d need to have a top notch research lab in that environment. In the end, it was more than they could afford, and by the end we all new it would be foolish for me to take the job. That’s a case where I asked for more, and they thanked me for it.

    Get it? When a place offers a job, it’s because they want to improve themselves. They need the candidate’s help. They don’t need new problems.


  30. drugmonkey Says:

    Well put. And then there’s the thing where the Dept is using the candidate’s demands to leverage stuff out of the Dean…..


  31. The Other Dave Says:

    Yes, DM, right! I forgot to mention that. Thanks.

    @Newbies: Hiring departments don’t have locked rooms full of cash or inherent ability to pay anyone. They get all their resources from somewhere else. Usually they are ‘pre-authorized’ to offer certain things. But those things are usually minimal (because the college doesn’t have rooms of cash waiting to be spent either). Thus, if you want to negotiate for more, it’s *critical* that you give your prospective department head a good argument to use on your behalf. Work with them!

    For example, when I took my current job, part of what I needed to do my work was some stuff typically found only in a core facility. But there was no core like that in the new department, and no convenient access to it elsewhere. I could have simply demanded it, and probably gotten it anyway, but I sweetened the argument by pointing out that several other faculty members could really benefit from having the equipment too, and I’d be happy to share and help them. And I did. And years later, when I wanted hundreds thousands more to replace/upgrade the stuff, I was able to pretty easily because I pitched it to the college as a ‘core’ facility essential to several people’s work. Sure, my lab exclusively used it 90% of the time. But I listed all the papers and proposals from all the faculty to show how essential it has become. I got almost the equivalent of another startup package (my third at this same place, actually), and they *thanked* me for my service to the university.

    You prospective employer is NOT your adversary.


  32. qaz Says:

    Miko – if you are in conflict with the powers that be at your institution then you are destined for a difficult and unpleasant faculty life. You want to be at a place where the goal of the institution is for you to be successful. And negotiating in good faith is important for both sides. TheOtherDave is exactly right. Your goal in the negotiation should be to make sure you have what you need to succeed at that institution. (And their goal should be to make sure you have what you need.)

    The idea that accepting the first offer makes you a moron is only true if your goal is to get the most out of the deal. If your goal is to get what you need to succeed so you can become a great scientist and contribute your share to the world, then your goal is to get what you need. (When I was looking for a faculty spot, I had worked out what I thought I needed. The offer included twice that, I said great. So we went house shopping. To be fair, my department chair had a better sense of what I needed than I did and I did need that larger startup.)

    That being said, unless there was something else going on, rescinding an offer after this request is very weird. I wonder whether there had been red flags raised during the interview, people were worried about some issue (interest in teaching?), and then the request seemed to confirm it. Still it’s very strange. We’ve never rescinded an offer, but negotiations have certainly failed.


  33. rxnm Says:

    You guys really don’t get it. Negotiation is not conflict. There are limited resources at every level, and you need to make your case. When I negotiated with my department chair, I wasn’t fighting with him, I was giving him arguments to take to the dean. I asked for a lot of things and got some of them, including a TT spousal hire (which was more based on the obvious excellence of the hire than any leverage I had). When I finally met the dean, there were no hard feelings, no one felt like they had won or lost. There was genuine happiness that it worked out and they were able to recruit us.

    I find this a far more collegial, supportive, and happy environment then “take it or leave it.”

    There is no defined quantity X that I need to succeed, no more no less. There is of course a bare minimum, but then there is a large list of things that would be advantages. They might not all be in an initial offer because my chair is not an expert in my field, or because he was given a limited initial range to offer in from the dean, or because they are not possible for them to provide.

    Asking for things during a negotiation (and throughout your career) is how you get them. It is not conflict, it is not “being difficult.” That’s like saying applying for grants is greedy.


  34. DJMH Says:

    ” I explained how I had a family and was worried about our ability to live in the new city safely and comfortably on that salary.”

    Ah yes. One of the devious ways that men up their starting salary, because family to support! whereas women are more likely to have working husbands so they don’t make this argument, and then hey presto who’s earning more? Whose percentage raises each year go further?

    I know women who have been asked, “Why do you need this raise? Isn’t your husband earning a good salary?” Which is the logical extension of TOD’s argument. So fuck that, big time. Salary should be negotiable because money is useful to everyone, not because your wife doesn’t work.


  35. drugmonkey Says:

    While you are not wrong in outline, DJMH, saying this is a devious way men up their salary implies the candidate is the problem. So men shouldn’t negotiate just because institutions discriminate against women? As a wag once put it, fuck that, big time.


  36. drugmonkey Says:

    I was once post doc’ing in a place where the stories of male postdocs getting higher salaries “because they have a family” were still very fresh. It was an eye opener at the time though. I would’ve thought that stuff went away in the seventies, not the nineties.


  37. drugmonkey Says:

    Additional comment from the rejected candidate:


  38. becca Says:

    There is no real moral distinction between a man asking for a higher salary because he has a family to support and a white person negotiating for a higher salary because ze wants to send their kids to private schools in an inner city hollowed out by white flight.


  39. Grumble Says:

    Um, I don’t get it. Why, exactly, is it that people seem to think that only a man can ask for a higher salary because he has a family to support? Why can’t a woman use this justification as well?

    Two-income households are the norm now. A family needs both incomes. So either earner can say, “gimme more, I got a family.”

    It’s all kind of moot anyway. As an employer, I’d never in a million years pay someone more because he or she claimed to have a family to support. The decision is based on performance, qualifications, experience, etc, not the employee’s private life, which is none of my business. And I do not expect an employee to try to make it my business.


  40. rxnm Says:

    The same reason men use parental leave as a sabbatical while women use it to parent. It’s not what “can” happen, it is what does tend to happen.


  41. DJMH Says:

    DM, not saying men can’t negotiate, but that particular justification is BS. What, do you think people with families deserve more money than DINKs?


  42. DJMH Says:

    Also the further comments from W are realllly depressing. Essentially all of us on her side are correct, eg the maternity leave thing had been dangled verbally and she just wanted it in writing, she wanted some extra time to make good course preps etc. So Nazareth fucked up. But she then goes on to excuse them and blame herself. It is sad reading.

    Becca, there is a little distinction, in fact, because a bad public school system can be a feature of one city but not another, so a candidate considering two offers could be looking at the difference between their kids going to good schools and to bad ones. It is not the candidate’s fault to prefer functional schools.


  43. The Other Dave Says:

    Nice theory, DJMH, but my wife is actually a more senior scientist. We used the argument to improve both our salaries. I simplified the example for the internet.


  44. becca Says:

    DJMH- Every institution that I’m familiar with that is located in an urban environment has the basic recruitment dance of “where are the white kid’s schools” for faculty. It’s an extremely instructive process to scrutinize, though it’s hardly any one person’s fault.
    Cost-of-living and opportunities for a spouse frequently vary between locations, so the argument that a man needs a higher salary to support his family is also frequently realistic to tie to a consideration of two offers.

    Grumble- the issue is that, in the aggregate, asking for salary to support one’s family would be expected to HURT women and HELP men… Mention of families in generally is likely to be seen as a sign the woman isn’t serious about work/is too dedicated to family, as opposed to a sign the man is responsible/stable/a person of fine character.


  45. Going anon for this one Says:

    “Every institution that I’m familiar with that is located in an urban environment has the basic recruitment dance of “where are the white kid’s schools” for faculty.”

    Ah, yes. It is very, very important that the schools be white. Let me tell a story about something that a friend of mine witnessed at a school that I am not working at.

    Some people were having a meal with a candidate, and each person took a turn saying that their neighborhood is so nice and the schools are so great. After one person chimed in with the usual spiel, one of their colleagues said to the candidate “The only problem is that most of the people in that neighborhood are Chinese, so your kids would be minorities. Also, the parents have their kids do a lot of tutoring and test prep, and that really hurts the environment.”

    So one person interrupted and called out the racism in all the broad-brush stereotyping, the “You don’t want your kids going to school with those people” assertion, and the big assumptions. (How do we know that the candidate’s kids aren’t of Chinese descent? Mixed racial backgrounds aren’t always apparent from appearance and name, we don’t know if the candidate’s spouse is Chinese, and we don’t know if the kids are adopted. Not that it would be OK to say this if we knew that the candidate’s kids aren’t Chinese, but it’s pretty bad that they felt comfortable making certain statements based on assumptions about the candidate’s kids.)

    Everyone else at the table was more scandalized by the calling out than by the racism.


  46. The Other Dave Says:

    Watch the racism, becca. This is what I originally wrote:

    I explained how I had a family and was worried about our ability to live in the new city safely and comfortably on that salary.

    Nowhere did anyone but you start assuming that majority white schools had anything to do with anything.

    We’re talking about post job-offer negotiation skills. Let’s stay on track.


  47. Davis Sharp Says:

    I read the actual list of requests, which the applicant emailed to the search committee, not just the Chair. I haven’t been in her position for quite some time, but I would have sent it to a single point of contact.

    1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years.
    OK. Sure. Not my area, but sounds like a reasonable request.

    2) An official semester of maternity leave.
    16 weeks of maternity leave? Regardless of your opinion of maternity leave in the US, this is a huge request.

    3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock.
    Also seems like a huge request.

    4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years.
    A reasonable negotiating request.

    5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc.
    If you overlook the rookie mistake of e-mailing the entire search committee and even the maternity leave and sabbatical requests, this one is too much. Given the caveat that I didn’t see Nazareth’s initial offer, employers are looking to hire now, not next year. If she’s not ready to take the job this year, she shouldn’t have applied.

    Slate has positioned this as differences in how women are compared to men when it comes to negotiation. I think that I would not be interested in a male candidate who wanted me to wait a year.


  48. anonymous postdoc Says:

    I think the “waiting a year” aspect would be the least controversial in biomedical science, ironically. At least I have more friends who were hired and convinced their hiring institution to give them a year to finish stuff up, than I have friends who were hired and started at that position in less than 6 months. This has been framed to me as part of the “what I need to be successful” argument, i.e., I need to get some final fancy shit done and papers sent out from postdoc in the next 12-18 months so I can focus on building my empire once I arrive in my new home. You hired me because you wanted my science and if you did, you can stand to wait to get it in its perfect form. Often lab renovation is part of this as well, the hiring institution might need the time to get the space prepared and the applicant would just as soon not have that time be part of the tenure clock (lol tenure).

    On the other hand, I think a SLAC would be more interested in getting a body in a classroom to give some lectures. So maybe that is the part that read “research focused” to the hiring insitution – why would someone need to delay teaching for a year to finish their research, if the hiring institution doesn’t particularly value the outcome of that research? Not that SLACs hate research but its kinda secondary to the mission. I admit, I would worry that the candidate wanted that year to buff up her research so that in a few years she was an attractive hire elsewhere. I can believe, however, that she could have made such a request naively thinking it was normal, when it was really just normal for future research-focused faculty.


  49. drugmonkey Says:

    Please dear sweet Jebus let “going anon for this” not be who I think it is….because I already dislike humanity enough this month…


  50. Drnightcheese Says:

    The perspective of ToD and others is supremely privileged, they’re operating on good faith that employers will offer fair, equal salaries to both genders of the same caliber, when we know that’s simply not true. So women are supposed to “lean in” and “ask for it”, but in this kind of buyer’s market, sexism persists, and when women negotiate, offers are rescinded and female candidates are regarded as “divas”.


  51. Going anon for this one Says:

    We don’t know each other, DM. I comment on a number of blogs, but I’m not somebody that you know other than by an occasional comment. Hope that helps you feel better.


  52. New Hire Says:

    I think the biggest mistake here was writing an email. As a new hire, who had multiple offers on the table, I was very worried that one of the two jobs I really wanted would retract during the process if they thought I was using them as a tool against the other school (I was open about multiple offers). So, I was on the phone all the time during the negotiations to avoid misunderstandings and to motivate what I needed and to quickly pick up on the subtle tones about what’s actually possible. I only used email to confirm the points we agreed to on the phone.

    And to male privilege with respect to money for family. Here’s the thing. If it is legitimate to ask for a job for your spouse than it is certainly legitimate to ask for more money to support your non-working spouse, especially because there is often some difficulty for the spouse to get settled and up and running in the new city.

    p.s. On the start date. I am in biomedical research and all three offers I had were happy to wait at least a year. The one I took was willing to wait 16 months.


  53. Zuska Says:

    Yeah – no. Asking for more $$ to support your family & nonworking spouse is in no way like negotiating for a dual hire/spousal hire TT position. Give me more money! does not equal Hire this other qualified person too, who will work for the department & bring it honor & glory etc.

    What do they teach the kids in school these days? Obviously not logic. Or how not to be accidentally sexist.


  54. The Other Dave Says:

    OK, so the original negotiator was probably out of line to ask for a year delay and extra time off* at a small teaching school, even though a wait for a research job isn’t that unusual.

    [*not counting the maternity leave, which is appropriate for someone of either sex, albeit probably covered by institutional policy that trumps departmental anyway].

    I think no matter how you slice it, the negotiator we are discussing handled things poorly and naively. At least she can take comfort in the fact that she is helping educate others.

    So it’s probably not some sexist conspiracy that triggered the offer withdrawal. At least in this case.

    Nevertheless, I *do* agree that there is sex bias in the negotiating tradition. Guys are sort of expected to be hard-ass demanders, and can sometimes get away with it whereas the same behavior by women is labeled demanding or bitchy. And definitely this is a problem that contributes to women getting less.

    So how is this fixed? Well, besides poisoning all the guys in academia (especially the white ones), I think women need to simply stop listening to advice from guys (me excepted). OF COURSE your old white male advisor is going to tell you to negotiate hard for everything you can get. And OF COURSE you’re going to look at how well being an ass worked out for all the big swinging dicks populating the place, and assume that’s the way things are done. But that would be a mistake, if you’re not a white guy. Because that strategy only works for white guys.

    There’s nothing that says women can’t play the game differently. The object is to get the job and work conditions you want. Is anyone seriously going to claim that women are not good at negotiating and getting what they want? The U.S. has become the greatest superpower in history within the last quarter century, and most of that time was served by female secretaries of state. I have never seen a woman in academia or elsewhere who was not capable of getting what she wanted… as long as she didn’t try to use the same blunt instruments often used by men.

    So… women… let’s pretend that this is a woman applicant to an all female college with all female administrators. Teach us guys how the negotiation SHOULD have happened.


  55. New Hire Says:

    Zuska. It is far from obvious that the second job will bring the department additional resources and prestige. Of course, it may be that the spouse (male or female) would have been hired for the next job in true competition. But on the other hand – the second hire may not have otherwise got a job at that institution had they not been coupled with the prime hire. As such, hiring the spouse would constitute a real opportunity cost. So what’s the difference between asking the department to pony up to hire your spouse (who they may have otherwise not hired) or to pony up and compensate your spouse for the disruption in (non-academic) career when changing cities or towns.

    FYI, I’d appreciate you deal with the facts instead of turning to immediate cries of sexism.


  56. becca Says:

    The Other Dave- Watch which racism? I am describing how the system is. Regardless of how we’d like it to be, “good” schools in public perception is pretty much equivalent to “white kid’s schools” for larger metro areas (often via city vs. suburban districts). What’s interesting to watch is when people try to talk you into “good” schools that *test more poorly than the more diverse schools*; i.e. when “public perception” has little to do with “objective reality”. That’s when I get super creeped out by racism. Other times, it’s more “I feel slimy about how the world is, what the heck should I do for my kid?”, which is how I presume most people feel about it.

    As an aside, do try to keep up with the added details supplied on the blog re: maternity leave. She was asking for what she had been verbally told was the standard, she was simply getting it in writing.
    If the maternity leave bit had anything to do with the institution’s response, they ARE in legal trouble. And for how the negotiation should have gone? In a sane world, getting things in writing is the sign of a sensible person who wants everyone to be comfortable with a plan, not a selfish or untrusting bitch. The institution should have responded with a counter offer, explaining why each specific request was difficult to meet, and which they might be willing to bend on. Which almost certainly should have included the maternity leave.


  57. iGrrrl Says:

    ToD: “live safely” is a dog whistle for “not in an ‘ethnic’ neighborhood”. That’s why becca called you on it.

    New Hire says, “Here’s the thing. If it is legitimate to ask for a job for your spouse than it is certainly legitimate to ask for more money to support your non-working spouse, …” No it is not. Asking for more money with the excuse of ‘family to support’ is not legitimate IMnvHO. People should be paid what they’re worth for the work they do, period, regardless of gender or family status. The two-body problem is a separate issue, and most of the time, the second hire is a benefit to the university, IME.


  58. rxnm Says:

    I can’t believe this attempt to equate some bullshit breadwinner bonus with a dual hire. Obviously the former is paying more money for the same work, the latter is paying twice the money for twice the work. There is good evidence that spousal hires are not statistical underperformers, as discussed recently on this blog, and there is no a priori reason to think they would be given the policies regulating them in universities that routinely do this. Anecdata that they are seems to always come from the usual TDF assholes.

    Key is to have clear policies. For example, a defined interview process for spousals and cost-sharing among hiring department(s) and administration. What the university gets is 2 good hires who will never leave. (Experience indicates that when spouse not offered TT in an 2-body situation, >half of hires leave pre- or immediately post-tenure, with attendant disruption and sunk costs). The couple gets the 2-body problem solved. It is harder to imagine more overall winning.


  59. New Hire Says:

    More overall winning is the best candidate getting both jobs. That may be the spouse but I bet it is often not the spouse. In any case, I am not against spousal hires and I was not arguing for some patriarchal bread-winner bonus. At least I was not trying to do so. I was trying to suggest that, given many departments arrange spousal hires if the want the main hire, that a department may be willing to up salary – or more likely give a signing bonus – to compensate the main hire for the burden placed on their non-academic spouse when changing cities.


  60. rxnm Says:

    “More overall winning is the best candidate getting both jobs.”

    There is no “both jobs.” The university creates one for the spouse.

    And no it’s not, if you routinely throw away start ups and hiring efforts on junior faculty you lose because you can’t solve the 2-body problem.


  61. New Hire Says:

    The university does not create a job from ether. It costs money and it influences future positions. Your logic about long-term outcomes only works because universities – unlike other industries – routinely hand out jobs to spouses. So if your department does not, you will eventually lose your main hire to a place that gives a job to their spouse. That’s reality and it makes sense and, to be frank, I’m not against it. But it hardly seems optimal is it would logically tend to get lower qualified people into jobs that would otherwise have been competitively adjudicated. If you don’t think that’s true because of highly suspect statistics than you may as well suggest that all single new hires get to hand a job to their closest science buddy.


  62. The Other Dave Says:

    Seriously? I can’t even believe some of the crap I am reading. Some of you can do better.

    First off, it took me about 1 minute on the web to Find Nazareth College’s policies with regard to Maternity Leave. Twelve weeks. She wanted an extra 4 weeks, but with no acknowledgement of existing college-wide policy or explanation. That’s. just. annoying.

    Second, I know plenty of minority people who feel uncomfortable in a certain types of white-majority neighborhoods. Think white schools are always easy for a black kid? A muslim girl in traditional clothing? And besides that, the top three public schools in my city are all ‘non-white’ (67-74% minority enrollment). So shove your white assumptions up your ass.


  63. becca Says:

    The Other Dave- if what someone at the college verbally suggested is possible ( differs from what their official policy is, that is all the more reason to get it in writing one way or the other.
    Read.The. Link. Or. Your.Comment.Will.Be.Very.Annoying.
    Heck, did you even read the link YOU posted carefully? It discusses a policy that simply covers the university’s legal behind with respect to the FMLA, which is the *legal minimum for the US*. This is NOT specifically maternity leave; this is unpaid family or medical leave. It is NOT paid. There IS no legal minimum paid maternity leave in this country, and there is apparently none at Nazareth College (at least according to that document). The faculty contract in question may also be a 9 month form, in which case there may even be legal grounds for denying FMLA coverage, even given that HR document (NB: I have no idea whether many colleges actually do disqualify faculty on those grounds, but some specifically craft policies that explicitly include 9 month faculty, and Nazareth does not appear to do that). That. Is. Extremely. Annoying.

    A more subtle point is that the link you provided is specifically referencing staff, not faculty. From an FMLA perspective, faculty are staff. But from a college perspective, faculty are not staff in many cases. For example, at my current institution staff get free basic health insurance, faculty do not. Policies are not always exactly the same, though there are some legal ramifications to offering benefits to faculty and NOT to staff from what I understand (I learned about that first in the context of tuition benefits for offspring, where universities got sued for offering to faculty but not staff). For example, one issue that may impact faculty but not staff is tenure clock stoppage. Is that part of what she was discussing? It’s not clear from the original email, which may or may not have caused any of the hesitation on Nazareth College’s part.

    Second, you’ve run completely off the rails on the race thing. Suffice it to say that the existence of a subset of minority kids who would not be best served by being in a particular majority white school does not in any way contradict the notion that many prospective faculty members (who are often otherwise liberal on matters of race and social justice) *in practice* avoid schools with “too many” minorities like the plague, and that that phenomenon is a reflection of some very deep systematic racial problems.


  64. Alex Says:

    Yeah, that “policy” is just legal boilerplate with zero detail that is useful for understanding how it will actually implemented. Maybe for people who teach 3 weeks/year, family leave can be a bit simpler (take X number of weeks off), but if you teach in a 15 week (or so) term, and the number of weeks is less than 15, what happens? Do you have to teach for part of the term and then hand the class over to somebody else, or take over for somebody else near the end of the term? Do they do what some schools do and release the person from teaching for the term but come up with some sort of service task that will ostensibly occupy however many weeks remain in the term after the official leave is over?

    My original inclination was to say that family leave should not be a negotiating point, because start-up packages are usually something that can be handled case-by-case while family leave is supposed to be uniform. However, after searching the Nazareth HR website and failing to find any useful clarification, I can’t blame her for wanting it in writing. The best solution would be for Nazareth to clearly articulate a uniform policy that addresses the key issues. Until then, I can’t blame new hires for asking for something in writing.


  65. erickttr Says:

    I was taught that the key to negotiation was justification and I feel (allegedly, from what is presented in the email) that justification was lacking. I interviewed at a SLAC, and the search committee chair (who was the Department Chair) made it clear to me that she will be my advocate when negotiating with the Dean about the contract and she needed (like advocates in a study section) ammo to work with.

    I think this individual made some pretty key amateur mistakes that could have been avoided. The request for maternity leave was a gimme. They have an institutional policy that they will follow, you had the opportunity to discuss this (likely) with senior female faculty about their experiences. The request for an “official semester” of maternity leave seems reasonable except that the policy is 12 weeks. She should have asked for an official semester free from teaching duties. Those four weeks could be spent on scholarship and service. She could interview candidates and host a round-table, get a publication out the door, or plan next years’ campus wide seminar series during those four weeks between the maternity leave dictated by institutional policy and the length of a semester, but she asked for “official leave.” The justification for this is easy, it’s damned hard to find a replacement for 12 weeks of a semester with no notice, so might as well take the whole time semester free from teaching, but not necessarily free from your appointment.

    Even the salary justification could have been done better. She could have said, “the average assistant professor in this field in our region, makes 65K, as published in this database …. or in aggregate from the info I gathered from the three nearest public U’s where the information is public.”

    The sabbatical request seemed off-key. I spoke with several faculty about their sabbaticals at the SLAC I interviewed at. It seems like something ingrained in the culture at the SLAC. Something the department plans for far far in advance, and they don’t like surprises. It’s clearly in their faculty handbook or governing rules. (which you should have read if they were available before you interviewed). If what you are requesting differs from what is in the faculty handbook, you better damned well justify why you need that. There are totally legit reasons (field work in Tibet … you need time on a particle accelerator), but they weren’t explained. Give your advocate some ammo. In the context of a SLAC, explain how this will better the department or benefit students (using field time to plan a study abroad program with my counterpart at La Sorbonne).

    All of this said …. I feel like she should have run her email by several rounds of mentors, spoke on the phone with the search chair first, spoke with a few committee members she met during the visit about the realm of possibilities … and (if true), that email revealed somewhat a lack of professionalism or least strategic thinking on the part of what’s best for the department or institution that’s doing the hiring. If I were in the search chair position (which I won’t be because I’m as noob as noob can be at an R1), I would have written back suggesting a phone call and recommending evidence and justification for each request.


  66. erickttr Says:

    … another amateur mistake is CC-ing the whole committee. You should take the time and effort to communicate with the each individual member based on why you think they would be best equipped to answer your questions. Any official communication to the committee or the university should be to the designee. Which in this case seems to be the chair (in smaller SLACs it may be the Dean). Any written communication should never be a surprise to anyone and CC-ing the entire committee (if true) shows a lack of good judgement. When she did this, she took discretion our the the Chair’s hands. When I wrote above that, “if I were the chair, I would have ….” …. well maybe I wouldn’t have had the power to do that if big-effing-deal-grey-haired is on the committee (but not the chair cuz that’s too much work) or the majority of the committee said to rescind. Agree it makes them look bad …. but my goodness, this is a perfect storm.


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