Friday, June 10, 2011

By the way

Although this exact scenario no longer applies to the reader who sent me the question, I was nevertheless intrigued by the situation because it seems like a near-perfect storm of complex personal situations that can arise during the negotiation stage of a faculty hire. Consider:

Some of us have been in the situation of getting an offer of a faculty position and then having to bring up the fact that our spouse is also searching for an academic position and would it be possible to hire a second person as well? In some cases, the two-body problem is common knowledge throughout the process, and in some cases it is news to the hiring department.

And some of us have been in the situation of getting an offer and then at some point needing to bring up the fact that we are going to give birth just before or soon after starting our new faculty position.

I was in both situations, but consecutively. When my husband and I were hired at our current university, there was a gap of about 3 months between signing the contracts and my calling up the department head to have an "Oh, by the way.." conversation. He was very nice about it, mentioned that other faculty had young children, and emphasized that the department was family-friendly. I had been very nervous about calling him, but everything turned out fine.

But what if you are in both situations at once? When and how do you communicate about these issues with the department head or other administrators?

My advice is to bring up the spouse situation soon after getting the offer if you are going to be asking for some sort of second position. That is necessarily going to be part of your negotiations and decision.

Issues involving parenthood, however, are not typically part of the negotiations, although I know some faculty and administrators who have circumvented the long waiting list at on-campus childcare centers by making guaranteed childcare a part of the negotiations. Unless there is some practical reason why you need to announce your parental status, however, I don't think you should bring it up if you aren't comfortable doing so and if it is not relevant to the negotiations.

Some women feel that it is deceptive not to mention it at an early stage, including before the contract is signed. If you are going to ask for family leave or tenure clock stoppage very soon after arriving, administrators would certainly want to know this as soon as possible, but it is not deceptive if you wait to convey the information.

That would be my preference, but only because it makes sense to me to separate 'things that are relevant to the negotiations' from 'things that are not'. What I don't know is whether or how making an early announcement of pregnancy (i.e., before the contract is signed) might affect the negotiations. Could it weaken your negotiating position?

Or am I wrong that it is in fact useful information at the negotiating stage, and, if you have a family-friendly department head, you can work out an amenable arrangement re. teaching (for example) proactively, as part of your hiring?

If you have any direct or indirect experience with needing to tell your new department "By the way, I'm in the family way..", I hope you will share your story and note (1) when you told, (2) why you decided to tell when you did, and (3) how things went.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reproductive status should never, ever be brought into a hiring decision.

It's not deceptive to mention it, as it's not relevant as long as the person intends to follow through on the job and both parties comply with federal law. If a person expects additional concessions to raising a child than can be provided by the policies of the university and the law, then this probably should be mentioned ahead of time.

Barefoot Doctoral said...

I had a bad experience with this, coming into my post doc. On the negotiating table was which classes I would teach. This had to be set many months before I started at the new job, and through a long chain of events, my to be department chair got news of my as yet without a detectable heartbeat fetus. I committed to a set of classes, without realizing what type of leave I was eligible for (I had yet to receive my contract). My mistake was, honoring that commitment several months later when I got to campus, and signed my contract, and learned about my leave options.

Take home lesson: A verbal commitment made to your department chair is not worth honoring over the written commitment the university makes to you regarding maternity leave. Even if it seems like you'd be leaving the department short a warm body at the blackboard by letting them know so close to the start of term. Ask the department chair what your leave options are, even if he doesn't bring it up himself.

Anonymous said...

I was exactly in this position. I found out I was pregnant a week before interviewing for a position, which I was eventually offered. I did not mention the pregnancy during the interview at all. However, my dute date was approximately a month after my original start date, which didn't seem to be a good fit. So when I was offered the job, I had the "Oh, by the way" talk with the department head as it significantly affected my start date (which happened to move earlier, but also had the possibiilty of moving later, i.e. after the baby was born). I don't feel like it affected my negotiations at all -- the only time it was mentioned was during the talks about start date. My salary and start up is competitive/comparable to others in my field. That being said, it was obvious from the beginning of my interview that this is a laid back, family friendly department.

Anonymous said...

I was nine months pregnant when I did my job talk, so they knew. I had to by two special outfits that fit the occasion of a two day interview and my rather different body. I found it really reassuring to my family friendly preferances that they didn't find it a factor, and that several of the (male) faculty told me about taking a day off per week to spend with their preschool children during the interview process.

AM

mathgirl said...

I interviewed in my current university while pregnant (and not showing it yet). I decided to be open about my pregnancy during the interview, since I wanted to defer the moving for a year, partially because I didn't want to move with a 1 month old baby, partially because of some 2-body problem issues. The committee members were very open and they immediately started talking about child care options and such.

However, I'd say "don't try this at home" I was totally clueless and extremely lucky!

Female Genetics Professor said...

Regarding spouse/significant-other "issues," I recommend bringing this up early, not necessarily at the initial interview but certainly before a second visit. This situation is one that academic departments have to deal with all the time. We would be very limited in hiring new faculty if we restricted ourselves to people who had no partner or one who could easily find a position on his/her own. My institution has a "spousal hire" policy through which part of a faculty salary is paid by the institution and part by the department hiring the original applicant, if the spouse is hired by another department. We also have resources for helping spouses find positions completely out of the academic sphere.

In my own case, my spouse and I, who met in grad school, are in our second institution as faculty. If the recruitments hadn't been coordinated, we may never have found positions in the same places.

Anonymous said...

Re. pregnancy, my lab had a postdoc interviewee who was open about her pregnancy at interview. My (female, with children) PI did not hire this applicant because she was pregnant, and was annoyed that she had not disclosed this prior to interview (because she'd never give a pregnant person an interview).
This was nothing to do with taking paid maternity leave, as the university doesn't grant any, and unpaid leave is at your PI's discretion. This was at a US research-intensive institution, 2004.
Personally, I think the applicant had a lucky escape from a bad PI.

Anonymous said...

One reason to bring up pregnancy during negotiations is that you may not qualify for some benefits until you've worked at the institution for a specific period of time (e.g. FMLA, which is all my R1 provides, requires 6 months on the job for it to kick in). So, you may be able to negotiate leave that you otherwise wouldn't be eligible for.

lost academic said...

The pregnancy issue worries me personally, but I'd like to share my recent experience in which our department was hiring up to 4 faculty members (t-t) (and we are NOT a large department, and we had the option to partially fund up to 2 more, in conjunction with 2 other departments also searching). I served on the hiring committee and we discussed the two-body issue as a part of 'what you don't ask about or start conversations about with candidates, either because it's illegal or just a Bad Idea'. This meeting was being led by the male Director of Graduate Studies and the female, tenured, committee chair. She emphasize very strongly how important it was that the faculty know very early on in the process if there was any sort of two-body situation so that work could begin immediately on finding positions (in our dept, at the college, at other colleges, in private practice) for that spouse. I was surprised at this tack and commented that I didn't think it was a common desire and that candidates would not likely find it a question or topic brought up in a positive manner, even if this was how it was to be presented. I believe that she truly meant and operated in the fashion she described, but I don't think I'd ever personally volunteer that kind of information before I had a formal offer.

Does anyone have experience related to hiring committees and their approaches, stated or unstated? Am I appropriately surprised at the desire and willingness to work on the problem by this committee, or is this favorable attitude more widespread than I think?

John V said...

Reproductive status should never, ever be brought into a hiring decision.

This is a difficult point. Some faculty jobs (such as mine) have an element of continuity of operation and 24/7 availability in civic emergencies. Other jobs, usually post-docs, which are addressed in some comments if not FSP's post, have specific products already promised on a fixed and short timeline, which are funding the position. ARRA projects, for example, must be complete by a rigidly-fixed date or the funds returned.

Taking such a job and immediately applying for leave, even if legal, and even if unpaid, may not be helpful. So never, ever statements seem out of place, and common sense the more relevant guiding principle.

Anonymous said...

"My (female, with children) PI did not hire this applicant because she was pregnant"

That's illegal in the US, right? Or is that a state-by-state thing?

John V said...

In my case, we've laid all the cards on the table in all negotiations. Including a pregnancy in a negotiation for two positions at the #2 school in our field, which didn't converge, although probably not for that reason.

Life is too short to spend time guessing which cards are still face down. As a literal-minded scientist, I like plans that match reality as closely is possible, even for personal situations.

SocSci Adjunct said...

Re: lost academic - I had some interviews this year (nothing panned out, though) and during both of them, a female member of the search committee mentioned that she was hired while pregnant, and during one of them, a male member pointed out the on-campus childcare he sent his daughter to. But during one interview, after I casually asked about maternity leave, among other sorts of leave on offer, an older and retiring male faculty member started grilling me on how many kids I had, how many I planned to have, even whether I kept my last name or had my husband's! So there are good ways for search committees to show they're family friendly, but also bad ways - sometimes in the same interview. In spite of the retiring male faculty member's comments, I take it as a good sign that search committees are proactive in letting female candidates know subtly that they're family-friendly.

Eileen said...

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that discrimination based on marital status or pregnancy is illegal: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/qanda.html.Title VII says that pregnancy is to be treated as a temporary condition like an illness, and to do otherwise is sexual discrimination.

I'm not a lawyer (humanities grad student here), so I don't know how this would play out with precedent or in a specifically academic setting, but it seems like not giving someone an interview because they're pregnant would be on pretty shaky legal territory. I would also think that the federal protection would be a good reason not to mention it either as an applicant or a hiring committee (but again, no experience on a hiring committee either).

Anonymous said...

What about a situation when you are not currently pregnant but may be planning a pregnancy in the first couple of years at a new institution? Would you inquire about child care options and parental leave? Would you try to negotiate a lighter teaching load in a semester following childbirth?

Anonymous said...

My wife was 3 months pregnant when she gave her job talk, so nobody noticed. When she got the offer it came with one semester of teaching relief to be used before tenure. When she asked to use it during her first semester the chair said, well, that's not really a good idea, we want you to integrate into the department as soon as possible, etc. Then she pulled out the pregnancy card but the chair still said no, why don't you apply for maternity leave instead, which she did, and as a result got the first semester off and another free semester in the bank.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed while pregnant (4 months) and hid it (though it was apparently noticed by some female faculty but none of the men). I also had a two body problem and my spouse interviewed at the same institution. I didn't mention being pregnant until we both had offers in hand. We had to mention it because the due date was such that we both had to change start dates. The institution was great about it and found very good ways to make our start dates work. If I was to do it again, I'd probably do it the same way unless I was so far along as to be showing.

Anonymous said...

When our department was hiring faculty, we were aggressively trying to keep the process to a short timeline, in part as a competitive strategy. In this case, we really did need to know about 2-body issues at the time of the interview, or there would be no hope of coordinating spousal hires. So in our case, we needed to know about it long before making the offer. As it is, many applicants are up front about the issue at interview time or even before.

DrDoyenne said...

There are certain science jobs involving work in remote and/or hazardous settings for which a person with a physical disability, illness, or pregnancy might be unsuited. If a PI has funds in a project to hire someone for only one year, what happens when the person who is hired turns out to be pregnant and unable to do most of the tasks required or cannot accomplish them within the time-frame of the grant?

I've had students and employees who failed to reveal their condition during interviews. They were brought on board with the expectation that they would be capable of carrying out the work without delay and without extraordinary concessions.

For example, I had a Ph.D. student who entered her graduate program pregnant (and did not inform me when she applied to work in my lab). Her research involved extensive fieldwork. I worked out a solution (involving my staff doing some of the work). Although she had the law on her side, her actions were questionable (and predictive of her future behavior).

Even if a pregnant student or employee insisted that they could do the work (fieldwork or labwork involving toxic chemicals), this situation puts a huge burden on their employer/supervisor, who will be held responsible in the event of a mishap.

Even if I believe that a pregnant woman is capable of doing fieldwork (and I've worked alongside women in their 8th month in remote jungles), I, as a supervisor/advisor, have to consider the consequences. In most cases, to send a pregnant woman out in the field is not wise from a liability standpoint. In the lab, a supervisor must worry about potential repercussions due to exposure of the fetus to toxic chemicals. As PI and director of a lab, I need to know if someone I'm hiring is pregnant so that arrangements can be made to minimize hazards.

In addition to the above concerns, someone else must shoulder the burden of that person's duties while they are indisposed, a period that can last up to a year for a pregnancy and maternity leave. If the lab is small, and there is no one else who can carry out those duties, then what?

Bottom line: Your current or potential employer should be given all the facts (and in a timely manner) regarding any potential limitations to carrying out your job.

Alex said...

Related to the comment by anon at 11:07, having seen a search fail (fortunately not a search that I had to do any work on) over a 2-body issue, I wonder whether institutions could require people with 2-body issues to inform HR early in the process, via some standardized inquiry made to all candidates (or all candidates at some stage of the game) so that planning could begin.

I suspect that there are legal issues, but I wonder if those legal issues would be easier to address if the institution could show that this info would be used to make timely plans for accommodations, rather than to rule out candidates.

The scenario I envision is this: HR asks everybody at some stage of the process whether they have a spouse who requires academic employment, and what field or type of position. HR can then go to the appropriate departments and say "A candidate for a faculty position on this campus has a spouse in Specialty X. What resources would you need to make a position available for such a person?" or go to administrators with that question, or whatever the proper avenue is to start the resource discussions. This is NOT the same as saying to the search committee "Candidate so-and-so has a 2-body issue."

There are downsides, but:
1) As the anon poster above said, you can't plan for a 2-body situation unless you know in a timely manner what sort of resources are needed.
2) If there is no formal timing for these disclosures, people often fish for information on interviews. This sort of unofficial fishing is more likely to damage the process than a formal, confidential disclosure to HR.

What downsides am I missing here?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Dr. Doyenne, but I think that an "open" system would result in fewer women being hired because they might get pregnant and couldn't do research. Women whose research involves toxic chemicals and/or field work would have an even more difficult time getting hired (unless they could prove they were sterile?).

I am sure there are exceptions, but in the searches my department has done recently, I don't see how it matters in terms of administrative planning whether a 2-body problem isn't revealed until the offer stage. The difference is a matter of months.

Anonymous said...

Re: DrDoyenne

It seems better (and safer legally, and morally) to inform applicants of special issues that may come up due to pregnancy, etc, instead of assuming they are not pregnant because they don't tell you.

Also, someone who is hired and then learns that they won't be able to fully function in his job because of an issue he wasn't informed of would reasonably be as upset, if not more so, than the person who did the hiring.

Anonymous said...

I have found that it is risky for me to take on grad students and postdocs who have participated in certain sports -- they have a significantly higher chance of having a knee injury or other problem during field work in steep terrain. Most of these are male. It's less of a risk for me to hire a woman who might get pregnant than for me to hire a male footballer.

John V said...

re anon @2:55

It can be more than a "matter of [extra] months" if a two-body problem is revealed late. Most often there is no 2nd job available, which means the search needs to move on to the next candidate or be re-opened. Or never filled at all, when shifting funding or priorities go in a different direction.

Also, a 2-body problem is not binary - couples are willing to consider long-distance relationships and search for 2nd jobs elsewhere but near enough to commute, and sometimes just plain break up, so 2 jobs may not always be necessary, if the first job is attractive enough, which may not be known early in the process.

A complicated business.

Alex said...

Regarding the speed with which a second position can be created:

1) If somebody were to say tomorrow "We need you to find enough lab space to add another person" how much time would this take? Could this be done in a few days? Perhaps on some other planet lab space is never hard to find, but on our planet, it tends to be a contentious matter.

2) At the risk of sounding like an apologist for power, if somebody were to say to your Chair/Dean/Provost/whoever "We need you to find the funds to pay another TT salary and appropriate startup" how much time do you think this would take?

3) Suppose that the department needs to accommodate a second hire (which may or may not be the same department as the first hire) is already running a search. Will this make it easier or harder to find funds and space and other resources to add another person? Should this spouse be considered during their current searches, or only be considered after those searches are already complete?

4) Although I think we can all agree that spousal hiring is the enlightened, progressive thing to do as a matter of general principle, departments should still vet potential spousal hires for their qualifications and have some sort of standard. Examining the person's record and plans, examining letters of reference, interviewing, deliberating, these things take more than a day or two.

5) While all of these things are going on, candidates are getting and considering other offers. If you make an offer, discover that the person has a 2-body problem, and then start the process of figuring out whether you can accommodate, the candidate might have other offers, and the clock might be ticking on those offers. Meanwhile, your #2 choice might get other offers, and the clock might be ticking on those. This means that time is not abundant when trying to decide whether to hire a spouse.

So I stand by my assertion that 2-body situations should, in general, be identified earlier in the process rather than later. If you're worried about biasing the search committee, then HR can keep the matter secret from the search committee, but SOMEBODY should know. Perhaps the relevant department chair can simply be told "Dr. ABC is the partner of an unidentified candidate for an unidentified position in an unidentified department on this campus. Based on Dr. ABC's area of specialization, how much time would the department need to vet this person as a potential hire, and what resources would likely be needed if this person were deemed a suitable candidate?" Or maybe somebody else should get the info. But however the info flows, SOMEBODY should already be working on the possibility of hiring this spouse, so that the process does not start from scratch on the day that the candidate gets the offer and replies "We need to talk about my spouse."

DrDoyenne said...

In my workplace (government), job candidates are fully informed as to work conditions they might encounter (heat & other extreme weather, biting insects, poisonous animals, toxic chemicals...even extensive computer work requiring sitting for long periods) as well as how much travel time will be expected (e.g., 5 days per month). This information is provided in the job advertisement and in a written contract. When I interview people, I specifically inform them of work conditions and gauge their reaction to determine how well suited they are for the job.

All new employees are immediately put through several required training sessions: basic lab and field safety courses plus special courses, depending on the work. All employees are required to take First Aid and CPR training and refresher training (paid for by my lab). My lab has a file folder of chemical MSDS sheets in a prominent location as well as extensive safety gear (although we rarely use anything requiring such precautions). I've even paid for medical testing of my employees when there was a chemical spill in an adjacent lab to make sure they were not contaminated.

I'm the one who is held responsible in the event of an accident. Even if I weren't, I would still take all of the above precautions because it's my responsibility as a PI and supervisor to ensure that all employees and students are fully informed as to hazards they might encounter.

If an employee or job applicant fails to inform me about a pregnancy or other physical condition (heart problems, diabetes, allergies, etc.), I cannot take appropriate steps to eliminate or minimize their exposure to hazardous conditions or to know how to respond in an emergency.

Deceiving a (potential) employer about your condition can have huge consequences.

John V said...

getting an offer of a faculty position and then having to bring up the fact that our spouse is also searching

This situation strikes me as unwise except in two special cases:

1. The offer did not arise from a wide search nor a prolonged negotiation, or

2. the applicant is so strong that the second position is lost in the noise of a large start-up package.

Consider if the first member of the pair had no offer and wasn't even in the picture. It would be an extremely long shot for the other member of the pair to land a job just asking for one at a particular good university.

I simply don't see the advantage of hiding the need for a second position until late in the process - the late notification makes it HARDER to get the second position, the second position is clearly motivated by a desire to follow through and get the first offer accepted (no matter what good words are spoken), and personally it would annoy me on a search committee to find an apparently complete offer suddenly had new hidden constraints added at the last minute, much like car salesmen try to add those last five $200 charges.

The tactic may not doom the opportunity, but IMO it hurts more than helps and disrespects the second member of the pair. Just adding this grumpiness because people (rightfully) look here for advice, and I don't buy this piece.

John V said...

I forgot a common third case when the 2nd job demand shows up at the last minute, semi-legitimately.

3. in the case when the primary member of the couple already has a tenure-track job, and their home institution comes up with a second position as a retention offer. Then the searching institution may see a late demand for a second position. This is somewhat unfortunate, as multiple institutions must wrestle with offering multiple positions (and space and set-up funds), and can gum up their hiring efforts for as long as the process takes to get a decision.

Anonymous said...

Going anon for this one:

We had an admin search fail over the 2-body issue. One complication is that the admin candidate insisted that the wife must have a TT position. The wife's current position is at an institution that has a very different teaching/research balance than our school. If a teaching-oriented person wants a position at an R1, you can make them a lecturer (or whatever). If a research-oriented person wants a job at a PUI, you can put them in a soft money post. Or, in either situation, you can tell them that they can become an assistant professor and work toward tenure by the normal standards of the school.

What you cannot expect is for a school to give tenure and release time to a person whose primary activity is research when everybody else is mostly teaching, or give tenure to a person whose primary activity is teaching when everybody else is writing lots of papers.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

One of the worst cases is when a 2nd offer is made to someone who is below standards and then the couple splits up and the good one leaves (or, as has happened, dies).

Anonymous said...

How can an institution be prepared in advance for all the possibilities? What if an institution insists that interviewees reveal in advance their possible 2-body situation. Imagine that 3 of 6 would need some sort of accommodation for a spouse: in one case both would be in the same department, in a second case one is in science and one is in engineering, and in the third case one is in science and one is in humanities. What would the institution do? I am asking seriously. Would contingency plans be drawn up to possibly create a second position for these spouses of unknown quality? Will interviewees with these spouses have to provide their spouse's CV as well at this early stage instead of later, during negotiations related to an offer? I am not against a proactive system designed to help both faculty and institutions, but I lack administrative imagination to see how it would work well.

DrScience said...

How can an institution be prepared in advance for all the possibilities? What if an institution insists that interviewees reveal in advance their possible 2-body situation. Imagine that 3 of 6 would need some sort of accommodation for a spouse: in one case both would be in the same department, in a second case one is in science and one is in engineering, and in the third case one is in science and one is in humanities. What would the institution do? I am asking seriously. Would contingency plans be drawn up to possibly create a second position for these spouses of unknown quality? Will interviewees with these spouses have to provide their spouse's CV as well at this early stage instead of later, during negotiations related to an offer? I am not against a proactive system designed to help both faculty and institutions, but I lack administrative imagination to see how it would work well.

Alex said...

Dr. Science,

Maybe early in the game, when the department is getting 100 applications per open position, is not the best time to start looking at spousal hire scenarios. But at some point after that, when lists are narrowed down, and prior to the phone call that goes "We'd like to make you an offer, and you have two weeks to respond", information could be collected (confidentially) so that the institution doesn't have to do this process from scratch once the offer is made.

I'm sure that some places do this from scratch, and I'm sure that if it's just a few requests per year, in flush times at a large place that finished a construction spurt, it's not a problem. But if a department has its own hallway instead of having its own building (or two), and cash is tight, it's not quite so easy to make things happen quickly.

Anonymous said...

Maybe part of the disagreement among some commenters relates to the fact that different institutions seem to have very different decision time frames. I was surprised to see that some places expect an answer within two weeks of an offer. My department will wait as long as a candidate needs. Some have interviewed elsewhere and need to find out all their options before making a decision. This is fine with us, although it does increase the chances of a failed search. On the other hand, it gives plenty of time to work out arrangements with two career couples if this is necessary and possible

Anonymous said...

what percentage of applicants for faculty positions have spouses who are also needing faculty positions?

I mean, I'm sure there are plenty of academics who are married to non-academics or stay at home spouses. Among those married to working spouses, even though they may also face the 2-body problem I'm sure many of them are in professions and industries unrelated to academia.

thus I'm curious what percentage of applicants (a) have 2-body problems (b) where the spouse has to be employed by the university as well.

is this much ado about a very small fragment of the applicant population or is this very common situation?

for me personally, most male faculty in my department are married to stay at home wives and thus did not face any 2-body problem. Most women faculty I know are married to non-academic professional men (doctors, businessmen etc). My husband is a business owner for example. I know very few academic faculty couples but maybe I'm an exception.

Phillip Helbig said...

The impression seems to be that while children might not be appropriate to mention, a spouse is.

Is there any solution to the two-body problem which doesn't involve giving something to someone which he otherwise wouldn't get? If not, isn't this just as bad as getting a job for some other reason irrelevant to one's work?

inBetween said...

We recently interviewed a woman who was very pregnant, and coincidentally was the same stage of pregnancy as me (and we were both obviously showing). I was surprised that she seemed to only want to talk about pregnancy stuff with me. I hated doing it, but I ended up ranking her very low in part because of it. I felt like she was trying to get me to like her because we were both pregnant and divert attention away from her not-so-good job talk. It was a weird situation.

Quark Chowder said...

I'm a female graduate student in physics and a mom to a four year-old. When I was applying to physics graduate programs, I was dissuaded, by a faculty member I divulged the information to, from mentioning anything related to motherhood, family, having a child, etc. I was told that no rigorous grad program would admit me if they knew I had a kid.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed this year obviously pregnant. Because it was so obvious, I mentioned it in passing to the search chair. She was very positive. I also brought it up to the provost when negotiating to see I could get teaching relief for my first semester. That didn't work but I did negotiate to defer a semester. If the department had been very negative about my news, I would not have wanted to be there.