I’ve been in quite a few job searches, on both sides of the table. I think I know what makes for a good job candidate, and I respect one who makes reasonable requests for accommodation. So I was rather shocked by this story in Inside Higher Ed about a candidate who lost a job for negotiating.
She was offered a position, and she wrote back requesting a few things that would help make her decision.
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.
The college’s reply? They withdrew the job offer!
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.
That’s absurd. The article has several other sources criticizing the negotiator (also calling Nazareth College “totally uncouth”), but I thought every one of those requests was reasonable, and I could easily imagine how we, at my “teaching and student centered” institution would respond. At the top of our priorities would be doing what we can to turn the candidate into a happy colleague.
Salary decisions are largely out of our department’s hands — that’s determined higher up. We go to bat for our candidates trying to get the best salary we can, so we’d probably go back to the administration and get them to concede as much as possible. We almost certainly wouldn’t get $65K for an assistant professor of philosophy, which is very high for a small liberal arts school, but we’d come back with a counter offer.
Maternity leave is a really good thing. Balancing work and life is important, and yes, we’d yell at the administration to get that for them. Also, if the candidate were a man, I’d think it also a good sign.
A pre-tenure leave is also an excellent idea. We already have policies in place to encourage new faculty to take a semester leave before coming up for tenure. We may be a teaching university, but hell no, we’re not going to tell faculty to abandon all scholarship.
The most draining, exhausting thing in starting a new position is developing new courses. Every time I’ve done it, it’s a killer: every night is a late night spent reading and taking notes and putting lectures and labs together — and everyone in my department is well aware of the challenges.
But small faculty at a small university means you have to wear a lot of hats, and new faculty are often hired with a laundry list of courses we need taught. We have tricks we do to lighten the load, though: pairing new faculty with experienced ones in particular courses, balancing introductory courses with advanced ones, juggling other faculty’s schedule so they take on a course that was initially assigned to the new person’s list, so they can get a breather by repeating a course. We always have a set of courses on our roster that need to be covered; I’d fire back with a two year plan with specific courses and ask if that was reasonable.
Ouch. This is probably the most problematic one. When we send out a job announcement, it has a specific start date clearly stated — we mean that. If we say “Fall 2014”, it’s because we need a person teaching a course that is essential for our students at that time — you can’t tell students that they don’t get to graduate this year because a scheduled course required for their major isn’t offered this year.
But really, I read that list and saw absolutely nothing that implied this person wasn’t being serious about being committed to a teaching university. There were requests that I’d imagine we’d have a hard time meeting, but nothing that wasn’t a reasonable concern for a person that was serious about their academic career.
The rejection by Nazareth College tells me one thing: that their philosophy department isn’t as committed to their faculty’s fulfillment as they should be, and that she is better off not going to work there.
Well, it does tell me one other thing: the job market for academics is so desperate that some universities assume they can be total assholes to their candidate pool.