Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ask Not?

The tale of a rescinded-offer of a faculty position, owing to an email from the woman offered the job to the department re. the terms of her offer, has been widely strewn about the internet. I will reprint the email and department/college response below in case anyone hasn't seen these, and then will give my take on the matter (joining the thousands who have already commented online elsewhere).

The apparently dangerous email:
As you know, I am very enthusiastic about the possibility of coming to Nazareth. Granting some of the following provisions would make my decision easier.

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.
2) An official semester of maternity leave.
3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock.
4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years.
5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc.

I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think.
And the harsh reply:
Thank you for your email. The search committee discussed your provisions. They were also reviewed by the Dean and the VPAA. It was determined that on the whole these provisions indicate an interest in teaching at a research university and not at a college, like ours, that is both teaching and student centered. Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you.
Thank you very much for your interest in Nazareth College. We wish you the best in finding a suitable position.
This unfortunate event has been seen by some as a cautionary tale for what can happen when a woman tries to negotiate for better pay and working conditions. She is seen as asking for 'too much'. In this case, a woman attempted to "lean in" and was severely punished for it.

I don't know if there is a gender angle to this incident or not, but speaking as someone at a research university, there is nothing in the candidate's email that surprises or offends me. I have been asked for many of the same or similar things by candidates; some of these requests are routine, some of them require discussion. I say 'yes' when I can, and 'no' when that is the appropriate response for my department/university. Negotiations can be constructive and interesting discussions.

I know nothing about Nazareth College's research expectations for faculty and why the email apparently revealed an inappropriate level of research focus that was not detected during the interview. Maybe the moderate number of requests, none of which the college was going to accommodate, was the problem. Whatever the case, it is puzzling why the college didn't simply say no to some or all of those requests and let the offer/decision process proceed. If there were concerns, the department head or other faculty could have had a serious talk with the candidate about teaching expectations and criteria for tenure, so that as much as possible was clear during the candidate's decision-making process. Maybe there is more to the story than just these emails.

I don't want to speculate more about that particular case. My main point is that it would be very unfortunate if well publicized situations like that one made faculty candidates reluctant to ask for what they realistically feel that they need to succeed in the challenging job for which they are potentially being hired.

Even though I don't think anything in the polite list of requests is unreasonable, perhaps a bit more asking around of faculty in the department or institution, or other general digging around, could reveal important information that would avert an 'unreasonable' request before it is asked. Some strategic questions such as "So, is it possible/typical to get a term (or two) off prior to the tenure evaluation year?" or "How many new classes did you prepare in your first few years here? Is that typical?" (etc.) could indicate how requests about leaves and new class preps might be viewed by administrators.

It might also be possible to find out how firm the start date is, and whether the department has a track record of pushing back the start date to accommodate postdocs or other commitments. In my experience at a research university, the asking and granting of delayed start dates is routine. At a smaller institution, however, it might be more difficult for a department to cover essential courses for an extra year; they may want their new hire to show up in time for the next academic year. They might expect a candidate to understand this.

I think the request about salary is entirely reasonable. Candidates for faculty positions should be well informed about salary averages and ranges and should be able to discuss salary with the department head.

In summary:

- I would not have sent that particular list of requests pertaining to a job at a teaching-focused college, but
- I think that anyone (male or female) should be able to do just that as a starting point for discussions (even if the answers are no, no, no, no, no), and
- I would not blink if I saw that same list submitted by a candidate for a faculty position at my institution, and
- in fact, I am interested to know what a candidate thinks is important for succeeding in the job. This is a good basis for discussion and negotiation.

Depending on what your situation is, what, if anything, do you think the 'take home' message of this saga is, in particular regarding the question of whether/how to negotiate after receiving an offer of a faculty position?


Steve W said...

As a STEM PhD student with very little knowledge of the faculty hiring process, I thank you for posting this story. Reading the comments has been very helpful.

What I don't understand is why these issues were not hashed out in person, or over the phone. Is it common to address such issues over email? How often would a candidate not know expected teaching loads after going through the interview process? From what I've read, the department in question is rather small, having only four full time faculty; it seems the personal touch would have been especially useful in this case. In the email that was posted the candidate also does not addressed why the demands are in line with her own goals, or the goals on the institution. From my perspective, negotiations are about meeting eachothers goals, not eachothers demands - if those goals are not well defined it doesn't allow for negotiation.

Finally, both the candidate and the institution obviously have a vested interest in the candidate ultimately achieving tenure. As such, it is important for the candidate to be assertive about their perceived requirements for success, and I feel that most institutions would be grateful for such information. For example, it would be a waste for a new hire in the STEM field to start up a lab and find themselves severely underfunded. However, it is also important for the candidate to find out how the department defines that success. I recently visited a small teaching-focussed institution and had a conversation with a faculty member about a tenure candidate (X) in their department. He said, "X has shown her ability to teach a variety of courses, and the students all really love her. She will have no problem with tenure."

Naively, it seems if teaching load and ability is the main basis for tenure, then being granted a reduced teaching load, and pre-tenure sabbatical would potentially hurt the tenure package. Are the candidate's goals in line with those of the institution?

Phillip Helbig said...

I agree; nothing unreasonable in the request. We can conclude from the questions that the college is in a country which does not have mandatory maternity leave by law.

I don't see a gender angle at all.

What puzzles me is the withdrawal of the offer. Normally, one mentions requests like these only when a firm offer is in place; at this point, the candidate can withdraw, but not the employer. Is this legally regulated in the country in question?

David Stern said...

The take home message from the discussion on the Chronicle fora was that you shouldn't put the list in writing and should feel the water first for what is possible before making any request.

This isn't the first time I've heard of a college pulling an offer. So, it is a risky to pushy negotiating.

a physicist said...

Wow, scary story. I hadn't heard this story yet so I just spent some time looking at other articles about it.

I'm at a R1 institution and as department chair, I have negotiated with several faculty candidates. None of the requests (or how they are worded) raises any red flags for me. They seem like quite reasonable requests.

I did read elsewhere the argument that "3 new class preps per year max" is somewhat unreasonable at a small liberal arts college. But even then, the Chair can reassure the candidate that while they can't promise that in writing, or maybe it's just unreasonable, nonetheless here are reasons why the candidate shouldn't be concerned. And then offer assurances that people get to teach the same class more than once, or that faculty in the department share their syllabi to ease new class prep work, or whatever. There are ways to deal with these requests even if the requests are unreasonable.

To reiterate, at my institution, they are not unreasonable.

NightOwl said...

The take home for me is that it's important to do exactly what you suggested - sniff out the norms of the department before asking. And maybe phrase asks as "is there any wiggle room on..." rather than a list format, which could be (uncharitably) read as a list of demands.

I maintain though that any department that gets so prickly about what was at most a minor overstep is not one where you want to work anyhow. I ran into this during grad school interviews - I had several that were out of state for entire weekends. My long term boyfriend who I was living with (now my husband) was going to be moving with me wherever I went, and I asked if it would be ok if he stayed in the provided hotel room with me for the weekend so he could get to see the area (I offered to cover any extra costs). One program was *extremely* gracious and accomodating and even got him a pass to a conference that was part of the activities. Another department replied with a terse email about it being an "inappropriate" request AND a current grad student emailed me privately tipping me off that my request had become the subject of department gossip! That department did offer me a slot, but then threatened to rescind it because they wanted a decision in advance of the actual deadline of April 15, violating the agreement made when the offer was extended.

Long story short: I think responses like this are a good indication of department culture.

a physicist said...

My further thoughts: I agree with NightOwl. If the department is so touchy that this negotiation style is a problem, then that's not a good sign. Apparently the department / school in question are delicate flowers who cannot stand to hear perhaps naive requests from a young candidate.

@Steve W: In my experience it is common to has these issues out over email. I am negotiating with a candidate right now over email and he's making far pushier demands and this is fine. Even unreasonable email demands are still an opportunity for the school to educate the candidate on expectations, culture, etc. The FSP blog+comments section often discusses the importance of mentoring young people. This was an excellent opportunity for that department to have mentored this young person who they are trying to hire, to show that they are sympathetic to her concerns and that they will accommodate the ones that they can. They could have done this, but they didn't.

John Vidale said...

The description leaves open several interpretations to me. Of course, the option that the college is simply high-handed and arbitrary is possible, and even so, the college would have been better served by explaining why they were not negotiating. They look bad in the aftermath.

But it may be that some deadline for filling the position was rapidly approaching, and they had not enough confidence this candidate would take the job (and show up for the job) in a timely manner.

It may be that another preferred candidate had appeared or gained a leg up, or they had learned more about this candidate aside from the demands.

It is difficult to be definitive drawing broad conclusions from anecdotes, especially those heard from only one side, although it is not so rare on the internet.

Anonymous said...

If a man could have made this request (sans a parental leave request) and not had his offer rescinded, then there is definitely a gender angle to this rejection.

Either way, there is something "off" about the offer being rescinded rather than negotiating the reasonable requests.

Lastly, if I were the applicant and had discussed all these things during the interview process and gotten satisfactory verbal responses, I would ask for them to be written down before accepting the offer.

Probably the take away is that there are so many excellent applicants for every academic job, that employers can do this any time they want and still fill their position with an excellent candidate. It's a seller's market and the law is on their side.

Anonymous said...

I am astonished that the college pulled the job offer.

But, the comments along the lines of "this would be fine at my institution" somewhat support the college's view that the candidate did not understand the nature of the position very well. A 4/4 teaching position is really not the same as a research position at an R1. Yes, a missed opportunity to educate, but the email undoubtedly fed the fears of insiders who saw a mismatch in the making.

Anonymous said...

Reading the candidate's list, I was most interested in how she in essence said "here are some things I'd like and I understand you probably won't be able to grant them all". She wasn't making even a single demand. So it's particularly outrageous that they would react in a way that implies she's making demands.

I do think that some of the requests were slightly strange - in particular it seems odd to request both a semester of maternity leave (presumably pre-tenure) and an additional pre-tenure sabbatical? I've never heard of anyone who had a pretenure sabbatical. And maybe It's the workaholic American in me or whatever but an entire semester of (paid?) paternity/maternity leave also seems excessive unless that was already standard at the university. They would have to hire two full-time people at once to cover all her courses.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that faculty candidate is lucky. Taking her story at face value, losing an offer from a department that petty/crazy/off is probably the best thing that could have happened to her, especially since it seems she had another offer.

Nothing on that list seemed particularly unreasonable (maternity leave?!) and even the stickier parts could have been either denied or addressed through a compromise, like 3 new preps in the first year only. However, I feel like there is more to this story. Maybe she made some unseemly remarks after her offer. Maybe the chair's favorite candidate lost the vote. I doubt that it was simply the list of requests.

biology major said...

I read the email as a lot of "me wants' (which is the point of the negotiation though) and not as much "I want to teach at your place". I would've written the 'demands'/'questions' differntly and reiterated how interested I was in starting at the small college.

On of my former places was such a small college and the teaching obligations were more than 3 different classes, but most of all - it was more of a feeling of "we are all in this together and we can crank these classes out and research on the side". Maybe that is what they refer to as "bad fit". However, one would've hoped that they would check these things during the interview process and not in the end phase "details about starting.

Anonymous said...

" I've never heard of anyone who had a pretenure sabbatical. "

My friends at two different 3/3 SLACs had pre-tenure sabbaticals. Standard.

Anonymous said...

It sounded to me like a poor fit between the candidate and the college, but the college came out looking like a terrible place to apply to.

The bottom line may be "don't work for religious colleges". They seem to pay less and have much worse problems with academic freedom and shared governance than other schools (based on what AAUP publications report).

Anonymous said...

The advice I received on negotiating (at R1 institutions, but I feel applies broadly), was to place your requests in the context of how they would make you successful (and by extension help the department - very few places want to hire junior people that fail!). So, for example, if the reasoning behind fewer teaching preps was to do a better job teaching or to have an appropriate research program (whatever that may be), then frame it that way.

As for the maternity leave - we do not have them at my university, but there are informal ways to get essentially a semester 'off'. Nothing that can ever be put in writing, so that is something possibly best done by asking a female faculty member on the phone or at a 2nd interview. There is usually the 'official' policy and then the 'unofficial' method to make it possible.

Anonymous said...

In my limited experience a common form of pre-tenure 'sabbatical' is a semester without teaching in the 3rd year.

MD said...

I think this candidate is well out of it. I once had a post-doc offer rescinded, with a very harsh message about making unreasonable requests, when I asked to delay the start date for a month. I was very upset at the time, but now I know it was for the best. The same person who rescinded the offer later tried (unsuccessfully) to publically undermine during a conference talk and privately with my supervisor in the job I eventually took. I now consider myself very lucky that this problem happened during negotiation and not when I was already tied to the job.

FWIW, I am female, but I do not think there was a gender issue there per se. Though, since I was quite tentative in all my requests, I probably led the person to believe that I would be desperate for the job and super accommodating, which I was not, in the end.

Alex said...

On the specific requests:
1) Her salary demand sounds a bit high, but negotiating salary is utterly standard. The institution should be used to such requests, and should either negotiate or have a polite canned response of "Sorry, we cannot budge on this number, for budgetary reasons."

2) Maternity leave really ought to be covered by a uniform institutional policy, rather than something negotiated case-by-case. The search chair should be able to point the applicant to an institutional policy and say "Here's what we do for every faculty member needing family leave." If they can't, there are bigger problems than this one search.

3) At some schools, pre-tenure sabbaticals are utterly normal. At others they are unheard of. Either way, they should be handled by institutional policy, not negotiated case-by-case.

4) Course preps: With a 4-4 load (which seems typical from examining the philosophy dept website at Nazareth), 3 new preps/year is a tall order. However, I'm at a teaching-focused school that gives a reduced load in the first year. If you teach a reduced load in the first year, and teach multiple sections of some courses (commonly done by people who teach intro and GE classes) it's not completely impossible. The department could at least counter with a good-faith offer to meet half-way. If the institution values good teaching, they should try to do what they can to let new faculty really focus on quality of preps over quantity of preps.

5) Delaying a start date is common in some fields and unusual in others. I think this may be the most problematic request for a teaching-focused school, and the only one that would raise a red flag.

Beyond the specific requests: I'm at a teaching-focused state school, and I talk to a lot of people from teaching-focused state schools and private schools. Every teaching-focused school, whether large and public or small and private, is convinced that it is the most special thing on the face of the earth. What Nazareth did is extreme but sadly not surprising. Faculty at teaching-focused schools can spend endless time debating whether a candidate really gets "what we do here." Um, what we do here is teach a lot of classes, carry out a research program that can connect with undergrads in some way, and try to shirk committee work. It's not rocket science (except in the aerospace engineering department). If a candidate keeps saying "Yes, I want to teach a lot, and yes, I'd be comfortable doing research in this setting, and here's my teaching experience and here's how my research would fit", at some point you have to take them at their word.

Anonymous said...

I asked a related question based on this story ("Difference in culture between negotiating startup package at teaching vs. research university") on Academia.SE, you may be interested in the answers there.

storm_at_sea said...

What I find questionable about Nazareth's response is that only one of her requests can legitimately be taken to be about furthering a research rather than a teaching career. Salary is salary. A semester of maternity leave is a semester of maternity leave. The pre-tenure sabbatical, I can see as indicating a desire to concentrate on research rather than teaching (though Nazarath might well be one of those SLACs trying to move up in the research rankings). Minimal new preps mean you're focusing on doing the best job you can on the courses you're teaching, not that you're trying to skip out on teaching. And wanting to finish a postdoc you've already committed to (and which could well have teaching included) shows commitment.

Also, given the known problems in philosophy as a whole regarding gender equity, I would be extremely surprised if a male applicant would have been treated the same way.

James Annan said...

Well that reply certainly screams "uppity woman, know your place" to me. I suppose it may be pretty routine in some countries for job offers to be revoked over such an innocuous email, but in that case, why is everyone talking about it? Does anyone know of other similar cases? If not, I rest my case, circumstantial as it is.

In any case, it seems to me that the applicant dodged a bullet there - there is not much fun in working for an employer who is prepared to behave in such a high-handed and disrespectful manner, and it's generally better to just move on than to try to fight.

Anonymous said...

"My friends at two different 3/3 SLACs had pre-tenure sabbaticals. Standard."

Interesting. I was just sharing my own experience which is that despite having gone to a SLAC and that my dad has taught at one for 30 years, I'd never heard of a sabbatical pre tenure, nor at either of the R1's I've worked at.

Is it a field-specific thing (most faculty I know are STEM and bioscience)?

Anonymous said...

I'm about to sign my contract with a 3-2 SLAC which has a full year of junior research leave in the fourth (or fifth) year. I'm in the social sciences but my understanding this leave is across disciplines

Anonymous said...

No, just standard at their colleges, or at least for one of them, I'd have to ask the other person to know for sure since she never mentioned it. They've also got pretty compressed salary structures across disciplines, so people in my field don't get market and humanities prof probably get above market (AFAIK). Both SLACs are trying to break into elite and they're on separate coasts.

The SLAC I know with a 2/2 load also grants pre-tenure sabbaticals standard, but that should be less surprising.

I also had pre-tenure sabbatical, but I'm at an R1 (my husband, however, did not in his department, which is also STEM). Based on what people have been telling me, they started becoming popular about 10 years ago to replace the right after tenure time off. And it makes some sense to give someone a sabbatical before tenure to do research when they need it than right after tenure when they want to take a break (and they're needed to do more service).

Helen said...

This is a very gently worded request, that leaves is very open for the department to politely decline all the requests and still keep the candidate. I agree that withdrawing the offer feels completely unreasonable.

As to a request for a semester of maternity leave being "unreasonable" - here in the UK it's quite normal to take up to a year off (I've had one 12-month and one 8-month maternity leave) so, even if the request can't be fulfilled, it is certainly not unreasonable to ask. Doing really productive work is extremely difficult in the first 4 or 5 months of your baby's life, unless they are an exceptionally good sleeper!

Anonymous said...

Of course it’s impossible to identify sexism from one isolated incident. But the hoopla around this incident (in the MSM, CHE, IHE) has revealed how much work we still need to do, and yes, that there is still a lot of sexism in academia. The candidate wrote a very reasonable letter. Maybe her requests were unrealistic, but that doesn’t warrant the response she got. And we don’t know what discussions she had during her interview. But the vitriol directed at the candidate in the comments of CHE and IHE? Unbelievable and blatantly sexist. Yet when we talk about the gender gap in pay, it’s because women are either less qualified or because we suck at negotiating. No sexism there…lol. It has been well documented that women are penalized for negotiating – Do we talk about this? No, instead we blame Sheryl Sandberg for telling us to lean in. Thanks a lot Sheryl Sandberg! Stupid feminist.

And I can’t believe we are still talking about maternity leave. FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child. Unpaid. In this country. If that’s all there is, then the woman had better not be the primary breadwinner of the family. (But a lot of people are still comfortable making that assumption!) And why do women need a whole semester off after childbirth? What a ridiculous question. (I am looking at you Anonymous at 11:53). What if she has a C-section? That’s eight weeks of no driving, no stairs, no lifting anything over a couple pounds. Like a textbook.

Too funny that this is in philosophy. Given the bad press that field has received recently, I would think philosophy departments would be falling over themselves showing how enlightened they are. Guess not.

Unrealistic expectations go both ways. I am really tired of seeing job ads from SLACS that have high teaching loads AND want you to develop an externally funded research program involving undergrads. With no infrastructure, facilities, startup, or TIME. This seems to be common now in biology.

Now excuse me while I go burn my bra and teach my class.

Anonymous said...

"And I can’t believe we are still talking about maternity leave. FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of a child. Unpaid. In this country. If that’s all there is, then the woman had better not be the primary breadwinner of the family. (But a lot of people are still comfortable making that assumption!) And why do women need a whole semester off after childbirth? What a ridiculous question. (I am looking at you Anonymous at 11:53). What if she has a C-section?"

i'm anon 11:53 I'm a woman who just had a kid.

Would I like to live in a country that had paid 20 week paternity leaves for both parents? Yes. But I don't, and neither does this lady unfortunately. It's reasonable to expect your employer to cover 6 weeks paid. Some go up to 12. 16-20 weeks paid is just not going to happen in the US for most people. That's why I'm thinking the request (especially in conjunction with asking for yet another paid semester off) seemed excessive. That's a cost to the university of a $30k.

If I'm wrong and this is now standard, then hurray! I can't see myself taking that much but I welcome both women and especially men to take that option.

For women who are primary breadwinners I assume you mean women whose spouses stay at home? That seems easier if anything. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you mean.

Anonymous said...

Given that it's an N of 1, it's impossible to really determine whether the decision to withdraw the offer had a gender component but it was certainly bad form by Nazareth and leaves them open to the question. I can say that in my current position being female had no effect that I could discern on how my negotiations were perceived or dealt with by the school but in a previous job it clearly did. For that position it was made clear that they would tolerate very little negotiation and kept informing me that this was their standard offer that they wouldn't change. Well it was there standard female offer but it turns out that men hired at the same time or shortly after received between 2-5x as much in start-up and up to 3x as much time in teaching release. Again with such small sample sizes it's very hard to make any clear conclusions about the role of gender but it sure seemed that there was a pattern. It would be nice to have real data to test this across a number of schools.

Also, I know of a few SLACs that offer junior sabbaticals to faculty in STEM fields so it seems common.

Gautam Menon said...

This is a non-US centric perspective but I put it out there for information. In India, the standard for the (technically autonomous but largely government supported) scientific research institution (we do have graduate students but no undergraduates) I work in, is 6 months of maternity leave for faculty. There is also paternity leave of between 2 weeks and a few months. I guess I hadn't realized how much of an anomaly the US really was in this regard.

The scientists we hire tend to want to negotiate more on salary and time-to-joining issues (a half year more of a post-doc, a year at an attractive job abroad) and we are usually flexible on such 'asks'. However, a letter asking similar questions as this candidate did would not throw us into a tizzy and I can't imagine that we would withdraw an offer on such grounds.

PUI prof said...

"4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years."

Perhaps I am misunderstanding, but she's asking for a salary equivalent to a full time assistant professor (probably the average, which include profs in years 4-6, not just starting) and asking for half time (3 new preps at a 3/3 college is half-time; at a 4/4 college is even less). Yes, the operative word is "new", but for her first year, they will all be new.

We also have no idea of the previous tone of the negotiations, they could have been going downhill for a little while before the letter.

Dr_WIS said...

The 'take-home' message for me is that it is best not do anything that would even be construed as toe-stepping because (a) search committees are acutely aware that they are the buyers in a buyers market and (b) teaching institutions take themselves very seriously (arguably too much so) in reference to their differences from their more prestigious counterparts, research universities.

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that asking for "preps" means that you still teach a 4/4 load, but you teach sections that you've already taught before, or that are sections of the same class (two sections of 101, for example). Not that you're asking to teach fewer classes. So you're only teaching three new classes a semester, not four brand new (to you) classes.

We balance this in our department by having people teach multiple preps of the big icky required courses, or they get more preps of fun smaller upper level electives. That's the trade-off.

Jenny F. Scientist, PhD said...

The way I read this is that the applicant had a somewhat unrealistic view of how many things work at small schools but the department's reaction seems *insane*. The salary request is not completely crazed- the Chronicle lists Nazareth's median assistant-prof salary at 58,000, so it's actually in the general neighborhood at least (perhaps she was hoping for 55). The delayed start date seems the most unrealistic and unlikely request; most TT hires are for the coming year because presumably the department needs classes taught. I've never heard of one delaying a hire for a full year, though I'm sure it happens occasionally. I've heard of it happening frequently at R1s.

The way to avoid having more than three class preps is to teach multiple sections of the same class which, again, at a very small school may be unrealistic, but it's not fundamentally insane to want to limit preps, in my opinion.

My spouse works at a teaching-focused SLAC and all faculty get a semester of 'pre-tenure leave' (no teaching). Lots of people take maternity leaves, have limited class preps, and earn that much as new professors.

The maternity leave is always tricky! It seems like it would be very difficult to show up and then say, oh by the way, I'm going on my FMLA-protected maternity leave in X weeks, have a nice semester. As other commenters have noted, HR should have a clear policy on that situation precisely to avoid people being directly penalized for or forbidden from taking parental leaves.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm negotiating a tenured position at the moment, and this is very interesting because I still feel like I have to be careful...

I went through the TT negotiation process a some years ago.

At all schools, I did the negotiating in person, which I think was helpful because I could immediately gauge the department head or dean's feelings about a particular request. I then followed these conversations up with emails, confirming that I had correctly understood.

I chose the approach of only insisting upon a big start-up package and a large lab space, which I said were key to a successful research and teaching operation (I'm at a R1). Everything else regarding teaching, sabbaticals, etc, I left up to them. This had the interesting side effect that two of the schools actually increased my salary offer after the negotiation, because they said it was so rare that someone in my position (i.e. with multiple offers) didn't try to get more money.

My take away was that it is important to choose 1 or 2 things and pitch them as being in the interest of the school.

I also found that being on the tenure track was one long negotiation, so it is important to save some political capital for negotiations once you're a faculty member too. I definitely used the line "I've did not insist upon x during my negotiation, but ..." many times.

I do not know whether gender was an issue in the case of Nazareth, but unfortunately, having now sat on many faculty search committees at my university (I am only female faculty in my dept. so I am on lots of committees), I would recommend that, if possible, women not reveal their marital status or discuss their intentions to have children. To my horror, I have seen this go wrong so many times and have many colleagues who have told me they do not think gradschool/postdoc/or tenure track is the time have kids and would question someone's professional judgement is she choose to have children at this time.

EliRabett said...

While Eli appreciates the strategy of the 8:00 anonymous, it is important to get as high a salary as possible to start, because that is the base for all future pay at that place especially across the board percentages and step raises

Anonymous said...

One more thing - FMLA often has requirements, eg after working at the institution for a year. If she's currently pregnant or trying it conceive now or soon, she technically wouldn't be covered under FMLA. Now a good school would still allow the leave but I haven't seen this technicality brought up

Anonymous said...

"I have seen this go wrong so many times and have many colleagues who have told me they do not think gradschool/postdoc/or tenure track is the time have kids and would question someone's professional judgement is she choose to have children at this time."

Yeah it would be funny if it wasn't so sad. Everyone has a specific idea of exactly when the kids should be had and since everyone's idea is different, you are screwed no matter what. My adviser for example said "the right time to have a kid is the last year of grad school". But then there are those who say you should do it in the first year of tenure, or during postdoc, or wait until after tenure (so when you're 40... yay).

Sometimes it feels like if you didn't get knocked up in High school/college you're screwed...

Anonymous said...

Here is a voice from the real world that most of us inhabit. Teaching, even teaching philosophy, is a job that requires reliable professional. Nazareth College was and is looking for such a professor, yet the person to whom they offered their position decided—after the job offer and after most such terms of negotiations are discussed—to request a (1) delay in the start date; (2) take an entire semester off for maternity leave (the norm in government jobs is 6 weeks); and (3) be unavailable during at least a semester if not a full year for a pre-tenure sabbatical. Thus the professor would be absent at some point during the fourth through seventh year of her initial start date if Nazareth College follows standard tenure timelines.

This would leave Nazareth College looking for someone to cover the teaching duties during the delayed start, during the maternity leave, and then later on during the sabbatical. Such a hire does not solve the problem of having someone to teach students.

These demands might be reasonable for a research position, but Nazareth College is a teaching institution, and indeed, the dedication to teaching by this person is suspect given these demands. Nazareth may generate some negative publicity by this decision, but on the other hand may have dodged a bullet. They also provide a tonic reminder that a professorship is a privilege, not a right.

James Annan said...

I'm amused by the number of people picking up on how unreasonable the maternity leave request supposedly was. If they had got as far as reading the follow-up message from the applicant, they would have found out that she was only asking them to confirm officially what they had already told her verbally was the de facto policy.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that any negotiation be made in person or over the phone to one person (typically dept. chair). Emails can be forwarded with opinions for others added on. I imagine how this may have happened and skewed the intent and content of the original email.

Anonymous said...

Some of these requests to me seem a little out of line (I speak from my experience in academia in a research intensive institution; I'm out of academia now):
1) Salary - this is fine; you can always negotiate salary, although it is easier for more senior positions as you likely have accomplishments, grants, etc. that you can bargain with.
2) Maternity leave - there should already be a maternity leave policy spelled out in a faculty handbook for the university that the applicant can review. If her request is different than what is provided by the university, then a good explanation would be required.
3) Pre-tenure sabbatical - this is unheard of to me. At my university you were not eligible for sabbatical until you went through tenure as the tenure clock was 6 years (5.5 in practice due to when the tenure package was submitted) and sabbatical eligibility was every 7 years.
4) Class prep - I would think that you would create classes as requested by your department chair with hopefully some protected time for junior faculty. Class preparation expectations should have been discussed in the original offer by the university. I think the university was negligent if they did not make that clear with the first offer.
5) Start date - not unreasonable and I've seen various accommodations for start dates.

Anonymous said...

Her email didn't make it clear enough that she was only asking for some of the provisions to be granted. If you read the email fast and miss just one word (the "some") it completely changes the tone and message and makes it very demanding and off putting. I am guessing one or more members of the hiring committee misunderstood the email that way and thought she was being excessively demanding and even though they could have simply denied her request they took offense and simply didn't want her anymore.

Anonymous said...

We do not get a full sabbatical pre-tenure, but do a semester off of teaching responsibilities. So you still have to fulfill service obligations, but have more time for research. People vary on when they opt to take this pre-tenure study leave. It's a university level practice.