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It can't hurt to ask
March 13, 2014 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Congratulations, you won the lottery and got offered a tenure-track job offer in the humanities! Now it's time to start negotiating. But don't negotiate on the terms, because your new colleagues might decide to rescind the offer. Further coverage at Inside Higher Ed.
posted by escabeche (252 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hmmm. Can't say an e-mailed list of demands is a great way to start the negotiation process (is that normal for these sort of jobs?). But I join other commenters in wondering if this is really about the maternity leave request.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:33 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Can't say an e-mailed list of demands is a great way to start the negotiation process (is that normal for these sort of jobs?)

100% absotively posilutely.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:35 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


That just raised my blood pressure. You just can't win, can you?
posted by Omnomnom at 6:36 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]


Can't say an e-mailed list of demands is a great way to start the negotiation process (is that normal for these sort of jobs?)

How else/ when else do you negotiate?
posted by yerfatma at 6:37 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


I just figured there must be a softer way to go into it. Phone call first with your contact on the search committee to soften the edges and feel out where there might be room to negotiate?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:41 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


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.

Well that's more detailed than the usual "we will keep your application on file and contact you if circumstances change" and it seems like a substantive reason to not move forward with negotiation.

Considering that this is a tenure for life / can never be fired / guarantee of employment that exists in no other line of work - making it very difficult to get rid of someone who does not really fit - it makes sense for the college to make its selections carefully.

In the real world of business e-mail is usually fine, but one would be wise to lay forth any list of demands before an offer is made.
posted by three blind mice at 6:44 AM on March 13


FWIW, I've always been coached to begin the negotiations on the phone with either the chair or the dean (whoever's empowered to negotiate at that school) and then do the follow-up in print.

I found the email kind of blunt, but not enough to withdraw the offer. I mean, I've asked for a list of things when negotiating and the response has simply been "Nope, nope, and nope. Still want the job?"
posted by TwoStride at 6:44 AM on March 13 [14 favorites]


This is what happens when there is a vast oversupply of labor. There could have been a second choice candidate who was super-enthused about teaching, who can start tomorrow, which would fit better.

Yes, it sucks, but being tenured faculty is very cushy even sans sabbaticals and year-in-the-future start dates.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:45 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Sorry, but I wouldn't have hired "W" because she obviously didn't realize the college she was applying to wasn't a research university. I mean, I get that you eventually want to be at a research university and you apply for all teaching positions out there, but you don't expect them to bend to your every desire.

If it'd been me, I would have just asked for the later starting date and a salary increase and phrased it in a way that made it clear that I really wanted to be there. And the later starting date might be a bit much. If they need classes covered in the spring of 2014, they need someone to teach those classes. The request for maternity leave also seems out of bounds here, for me, leave time is always a standard across the board and it would seem very unfair that one professor got a semester of maternity leave and another didnt' just because she didn't plan on getting pregnant when she got the job.

Honestly, I don't think the college's response is bitchy or unfounded.
posted by teleri025 at 6:47 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


Sounds like they avoided hiring a problem employee. Good move, university.
posted by Renoroc at 6:48 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Anybody commenting on this thread and sympathizing with the candidate will have their metafilter membership cancelled immediately.

- a message from the admission committee at Nazareth College
posted by Riton at 6:48 AM on March 13 [8 favorites]


Email is normal, because the people you'll usually talk to -- your potential future department chair or search committee -- can't actually make any of these decisions. They have to pass them on to the dean / provost / etc.

The softer way things happen is that you email (typically) the chair, who can clue you in about what's realistic or possible, what might be a reach, and what if anything will just piss off the actual decision maker so they say "Take it or leave it." Then the hire fires off a new email with a more or less reasonable list of requests, and it gets passed to the dean.

This is very, very much not some sort of new normal in academic hiring, or a reflection of an oversupply of labor. Rescinding an offer, once formally made, is deeply aberrant. It's just that there are enough unremarkable little liberal arts colleges in the US that you can actually get several sigmas out on any dimension of fuckedupness you can imagine.

Likewise, pushing for what you can get at hiring is normal because you're not going to ever receive an above-inflation raise, ever, unless you get a job offer from another department.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:54 AM on March 13 [26 favorites]


Considering that this is a tenure for life / can never be fired / guarantee of employment that exists in no other line of work - making it very difficult to get rid of someone who does not really fit

No, it was obviously a tenure-track assistant line. That's why she was asking for stuff about the tenure clock.

Which means that if they don't like her after the first semester/year, they can fire her. Repeat until sixth year, when tenure decisions are normally made. And, hell, it means that even if they don't want to fire her, the higher levels of the college might fire her anyway after her third or fifth year if her department can't convince the college that she's good enough.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:57 AM on March 13 [30 favorites]


Considering that this is a tenure for life / can never be fired / guarantee of employment that exists in no other line of work - making it very difficult to get rid of someone who does not really fit - it makes sense for the college to make its selections carefully.

That wasn't what the college was thinking. It's a tenure track position, not a senior (already tenured) hire. The candidate could have been denied tenure, which happens all the time.

On preview: jinx, ROU_Xenophobe!
posted by Beardman at 6:58 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Aren't there rules about reasons an offer can be rescinded? I was under the impression that once an offer is made, then it's up to the applicant to accept or decline it within a time frame.
posted by Think_Long at 6:59 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


IMHO this is all kinds of wrong.

The comments on the original Philosophy Smog article are interesting; all candidates should read them to see the disparity of thought.....presumably by academics who sit on SCs.....on whether this was a Good or Bad Decision.

The only lesson here is: be calibrated in your tone and requests .... but calibration varies between institutions, departments, search committee culture, individual faculty members, phase of the moon, favorite jello flavor of the chair, whether the dean practices as a top or bottom, whether the provost collects petunias or severed genitalia of impudent TT applicants....
posted by lalochezia at 6:59 AM on March 13 [10 favorites]


Maybe somebody could explain what about these demands screams "research university"? She wants more money, more time off, and time to wrap up existing commitments, all of which seem like normal things to want, plus a slower ramp-up into her new responsibilities. She's also horribly blunt about it, but that's a different problem.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:59 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


In the real world of business e-mail is usually fine, but one would be wise to lay forth any list of demands before an offer is made.


An offer was made; this was the applicant's counter offer. And, as others have mentioned, these are typical requests for a counter offer in academia for a tenure track job- pie-in-the-sky, usually at least partially shot down by the committee, but worth a shot.
posted by damayanti at 7:01 AM on March 13 [10 favorites]


Aren't there rules about reasons an offer can be rescinded? I was under the impression that once an offer is made, then it's up to the applicant to accept or decline it within a time frame.

It sounds like the college considers the offer to have been refused by the candidate when they asked for perks, i.e. indicating that the offer given was not up to their standards. (Which seems crazy because it would erode all space for negotiation, but that seems like what they're thinking.)
posted by Beardman at 7:01 AM on March 13


It sounds like the college considers the offer to have been refused by the candidate when they asked for perks

If that were the case, they wouldn't have written that they were retracting the offer. They'd have written a totally disingenuous email to the effect of "We're sorry you've rejected our offer, and will move on to our next candidate."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:03 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


what about these demands screams "research university"?

Foremost, limiting class prep to three new ones per year. This is to allow her time to research and publish, presumably.

Secondly, asking about sabbatical, which is time off to do nothing but research, prior to tenure being awarded.
posted by bonehead at 7:04 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


The request for maternity leave also seems out of bounds here, for me, leave time is always a standard across the board and it would seem very unfair that one professor got a semester of maternity leave and another didnt' just because she didn't plan on getting pregnant when she got the job.

Note that the applicant is a young woman, who is currently in a post-doc. That means that she is- at minimum- 28 (5 years for program + year for post doc). Tenure is granted after year six, which would make her 34, which is getting on the late side for starting a family, particularly if she wants to have multiple kids.

This is in a field- philosophy- which has had a lot of issues with misogyny, sexual harrasment, and general mistreatment of women. See here for a summary of some recent events. Any move that's going to reduce the number of young women, and that includes difficulties in obtaining maternity leave, in the profession is, IMO, a bad one.
posted by damayanti at 7:05 AM on March 13 [35 favorites]


They'd have written a totally disingenuous email to the effect of "We're sorry you've rejected our offer, and will move on to our next candidate.

Ah. I think The Professor Is In's remark on this case was that "you dumped us first" is the legal principle the college is operating on, which I suppose they could be operating on without phrasing their email to the candidate as such. But you make a good point.
posted by Beardman at 7:06 AM on March 13


If the candidate did not do the research to find out whether these conditions were do-able in this academic institution and they weren't, the candidate had it coming, but if these requests were standard, then it is a different story.

Don't have enough information, but it almost seems as if the candidate must have stumbled on one of the requests and showed some serious ignorance on how the place works (perhaps the salary, for example)...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:06 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


If I'd had to guess, I would assume that the class prep limitation was one of the main reasons the the dean/chair pulled the plug.
posted by bonehead at 7:06 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


So if W wanted to "fight" this, and get the offer back on the table, does she have any recourse?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:07 AM on March 13


Some of the Smoker comments aptly point out that the college's concern here wasn't tenuring a permanent problem employee, but hiring someone who was going to leave for a research university well before being tenured at the SLAC. (Not that that means they should have summarily pulled the plug--it wouldn't have hurt the college to ask.)
posted by Beardman at 7:07 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Aren't there rules about reasons an offer can be rescinded? I was under the impression that once an offer is made, then it's up to the applicant to accept or decline it within a time frame.
As a rule, offers can be rescinded at any time prior to an answer. There would be some questions about what happened if the answer and revocation crossed in the mail, but generally the offeror has the option to revoke the offer prior to acceptance. I have had the case where I had to cancel an outstanding job offer before the answer was made (in my case, the customer request that generated the offer was rescinded, but I don't think the reason is an issue).
posted by Lame_username at 7:08 AM on March 13


Is it a wise move to request that any job be postponed after it is offered, and not before?
posted by Brian B. at 7:08 AM on March 13


I find it astounding that anyone would think it appropriate to e-mail a list of demands. If you need to negotiate one or two things, call the person that hired you.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:11 AM on March 13


Sigh. These were NOT demands. They were the opening requests in a negotiation. We are always taught to do substantive stuff in writing because a verbal contract is worth the paper is is written on. The candidate might have called the chair for a chat first, the list might have been ambitious....but remember, you ask for X (they will never offer 2X!), and you come to some agreement like X/2. To my experienced eyes, this is not an unreasonable mode of communication.

PS. I hope this gets forwarded far and wide, so that the Dean, VPAA and dept. get some nice blowback from the kind of institutions they were trying to recruit from. This is shameful behavior by Nazareth.
posted by lalochezia at 7:15 AM on March 13 [20 favorites]


Maybe somebody could explain what about these demands screams "research university"?

Professors at a teaching college have a higher course load, so having professors take a lot of time off means that someone else has to pick up the slack. It's likely that professors at Nazareth would be expected to teach 4 sections per semester, with up to 3 of those being unique, and in general seniority rules. Teaching only 3 new classes a year is asking other professors to pick up some of her classes for 3 years. In general my impression is that smaller colleges would expect their teachers to teach novel classes more often - for example they wouldn't teach the same upper-divisionals every semester but rather try to spread out the advanced topics they cover.

I don't think any of the requests by themselves would be particularly unusual, but I do agree that the sum of the requests can be telling.

Is it a wise move to request that any job be postponed after it is offered, and not before?

That one was also strange to me. There has to be backstory there - did Nazareth expect her to start immediately? That would be a pretty fundamental disconnect that should have been worked out before the offer.
posted by muddgirl at 7:16 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]


This person wanted to delay the start date of her offer by a year and also requested a pre-tenure sabbatical? And it was a non-research university? Come on, get real. I'm lucky enough to have a got a tenure track job teaching a 2/2 load at a research university though not in philosophy, and I wouldn't have dreamt of asking for that stuff - it's a tight market across the board and you take what you can get. If this was the only level of institution that was offering her a job, she shouldn't have expected most of these things. A real lack of judgment.
posted by modernnomad at 7:18 AM on March 13 [9 favorites]



First of all, I don't think that her email was a "list of demands" she phrased it nicely as "it would make my decision easier." This opens the door for a dialogue about what they can be flexible on, and what they can't.

However, because there are thousands of desperate Philosophy Ph.D.s out there, the school can do whatever it wants.

I suppose they should have said, "This is our offer, it's non-negotiable," when they extended it. That way W would have known that it was a take-it-or-leave-it situation.

W is now on notice, if these things are important to her, she needs to mention them up-front and get buy in.

It sucks to be in a buyer's market, but there it is. They could probably get a Philosphy Ph.D. for $12.00 per hour and two cups of coffee.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:18 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


As a piece of anecdata, at the big research university where I am wrapping up my PhD, my department (History) hired someone in the middle of a 2-year postdoc, and let that person start after the postdoc was done. However, at a small liberal arts college, the teaching needs would be much more immediate and pressing, and postponing the start date like that would at best require hiring someone for a one-year position (a pain in the butt) and at worst (but quite likely) require the other faculty to pick up the remainder.
posted by dhens at 7:21 AM on March 13


I feel like there's a kind of disconnect in this conversation - a lot of people are (perhaps very reasonably, I'm not in academia at all) saying "oh, yeah, these requests/demands were never going to happen, but that's a very different matter from the initial offer being withdrawn entirely.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:23 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


I don't think I can comment on whether it was wrong to rescind the offer entirely because there's backstory here that we don't know. We have two emails and weren't privy to the rest of the hiring process. It's possible that Nazareth's rescinding email came out of nowhere and is cruel and insulting. It's also possible that the need for an immediate professor was stressed during the interview process, so asking for a year deferral of the offer was rightly seen as a tacit rejection of the offer anyway, or that there were other discussions by email or phone that we're not privy to.
posted by muddgirl at 7:27 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]


This e-mail was NOT blunt and was NOT a list of demands. She clearly indicates that this is a negotiation and she doesn't expect the answer to every request to be Yes Absolutely or she'll take her Ph.D. and go home.

Also, a lot of the requests people are asking whether or not they're out of line are actually pretty standard ones. A year's deferment to finish a postdoc is something several people I know have gotten, for example.

It is entirely possible that the list of requests, taken as a whole, is something the university didn't want to grant. In fact, I think an entirely appropriate response on the part of the university would have been, "No to all of it. Take our initial offer or leave it."

But I am flabbergasted that anyone thinks it was appropriate for a university to rescind a job offer because the person had the temerity to start a negotiation process at the entirely standard and appropriate time to do so.
posted by kyrademon at 7:29 AM on March 13 [38 favorites]


Why is it wrong to rescind a job offer if you develop the feeling that the candidate would not be the right fit for your department after the offer is extended?
posted by muddgirl at 7:33 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


I would argue, if I were the University: "it would make my decision easier" = my decision has not been made yet = I have not yet accepted your job offer. So the University can rescind it, it hasn't been accepted.
posted by alasdair at 7:34 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]



Why is it wrong to rescind a job offer if you develop the feeling that the candidate would not be the right fit for your department after the offer is extended?


Because if that 'feeling' solely originates from a legitimate, respectfully worded negotiation request then you are unfit to run a department or be in a position of power in a university?
posted by lalochezia at 7:36 AM on March 13 [19 favorites]


Yeah, I think mudgirl has it. Like so many stories it's actually pretty difficult to see the entirety of the situation because what we are given is potentially such a narrow window of what has gone on. We are feeling the proverbial rope of the elephant's tail.
posted by edgeways at 7:42 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I don't think I can comment on whether it was wrong to rescind the offer entirely because there's backstory here that we don't know.

This is my problem with it. This is her side of the story and I would like to know more. Did she just apply because the college had an opening? Did she have a professor who opened a door for her? Did the college come to her?

But I would really want to know a few other things, such as why did she bring these requests up here and not address them during the interview?

I have worked for three separate colleges during my career and knew I hit the lottery each time because there are a lot of veteran journalists/authors/artists who would kill to have gotten their foot in that door because, really there is a dime a dozen of any of us who can fill that post just nicely without the faculty having to fret about the hire.

Sometimes you are in a prime position to negotiate and you milk it for all that it is worth, but other times, count your blessings, take the stupid offer and then plan your next move from there -- if you don't have the sense to know your place in a given situation, you end up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:45 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Her tone seemed very wrong to me, as if she thought she was negotiating from a much stronger position. I would have suggested a phone call to explore what things are on the table and a follow up email to get it in writing. Any individual item on the list might be possible but the full list is not appropriate for the institution.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:46 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Given that all we have to go on is the two emails, then the candidate's tone was wrong. It did sound like she thought she was negotiating from a position of strength. This type of negotiation would have been better initiated in the form of a conversation to sound out what was reasonable out of her list of demands. Following the conversation, she could have followed up with an email laying out what she was asking for, and giving the potential benefits to the prospective employer.
posted by arcticseal at 7:58 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't have worded that negotiation that way, either.

But rescinding a job offer for what seems to be the temerity to negotiate it doesn't read like a University realizing that the candidate isn't right for the position. It smacks of an organization abusing the power that comes with, as someone else put it, the buyer's market.

Seriously, it was a negotiation, not a list of demands. That is a standard process. They presumably have already vetted the candidate from a field of qualified people. It just appears that rather than being interested in the candidate they offered the job to, they're interested in nickel-and-diming whoever they hire - and not allowing any room for discussion.
posted by entropone at 7:58 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]


Sigh. These were NOT demands

The language W uses, "Granting some of the following provisions would make my decision easier" makes it pretty clear that she is looking for these things to be fulfilled, or else she will be moving on.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:58 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


I agree with the people suggesting that she went about this the wrong way. Unfortunately, I feel like the reason *why* this was the wrong way had a lot to do with her gender. I feel like this email, coming from a male candidate, would have been seen in a totally different light.

In my [non-academic] field, we get cover letters from male candidates saying things like "As an entry-level [job title], I expect a starting salary of no less than [typical starting salary plus $20K]." We don't give those men interviews (I mean, come on, dudes, check Glassdoor), but the general feeling is more "how cheeky, no." We don't get those cover letters from women. Ever.

tl;dr: I hope people are recommending Women Don't Ask to women in her situation, because using the default (male) negotiating advice out there can backfire in all sorts of totally unfair ways.
posted by pie ninja at 8:00 AM on March 13 [32 favorites]


I haven't read TFA, and I haven't read all of the comments here, but, as a philosopher at a teaching college, here's what I know:

At my institution, every faculty negotiation is unique: tenure track faculty who are smart and 'desirable' have every incentive to throw stuff up on the wall and see what sticks.

In my own institution, within the same department, some folks have got more money than tenured members just by asking (and being in demand), others have gotten forms of leave for various kinds of family and professional commitments if they are in good standing and friendly-like with TPTB, or just screamingly desired for a position.

In my experience, the ONLY acceptable reason to withdraw an offer is that the institution withdraws the position due to financial constraints (and even then, the department that made the offer feels embarrassed for years).

If they didn't like her requests, they should say "here's what's possible, are you still interested?"

If they couldn't figure out who she was during the entire application/interview/campus visit process, shame on them.
posted by allthinky at 8:01 AM on March 13 [41 favorites]


I teach at a SUNY in the area, not at Nazareth. I too am shocked that Nazareth didn't simply say, "no, but are you still interested?" But I would also have expected Nazareth to say no more than "no, but are you still interested?"--the salary request is way out of line not only with Nazareth's usual asst prof positions (mid-to-high 50s) but also every other college in the region except, perhaps, the U of R (a research campus w/ a 2-2 load); a guarantee of no more than 3 new preps per year is not a reasonable thing to ask from a college with a 4-4 teaching load; ditto the research leave; etc. However, asking time off to complete a post-doc is hardly unreasonable, and requesting maternity leave certainly isn't.

Without having further details, this is one of those conversations that goes multiple ways. On the one hand, what was Nazareth thinking? Why reject the candidate entirely for having (gasp, shock, horror) the audacity to negotiate? That thing even junior academics are supposed to do? (And, yes, the gender angle jumps out here.) On the other hand, who advised this candidate that this list of requests would be considered remotely reasonable at a not-especially-well-endowed teaching SLAC with a 4-4 load, in a region with an exceptionally low COL?
posted by thomas j wise at 8:02 AM on March 13 [20 favorites]


Regarding the maternity leave, according to the faculty handbook, she would be entitled to 6 weeks of parental leave.

Any full time faculty member or a faculty member with rank and time who is to give birth shall be entitled to a medical leave of absence with full salary and benefits for 6 weeks (or 8 weeks for a caesarian delivery) or whatever portion of that time lies within the contract period, beginning the day of delivery or the day the person is considered by the physician to be unable to work. Both paid and unpaid leave will be counted towards her 12-week Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allotment.

She's asking for a full semester. Which in most cases is 15 weeks. While I understand that 6/8 weeks is a very small amount of time to recover, my issue with her asking for double the time is that it unfairly punishes those women who either didn't consider the leave time in planning their families or who didn't plan on getting pregnant in the first place.

I get that it's an unfair burden that is put on women who want children when they plan out their careers, but it seems but it seems like an equally unfair burden for the women who didn't think about family planning when pursuing a career to discover after the fact that they could have negotiated for more time. With having an standard leave that applies to everyone, this isn't an issue. And that was what she is asking for, an exception to the standard leave that applies to every other faculty member. That's why I thought it was out of bounds.
posted by teleri025 at 8:05 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Exactly, roomthreeseventeen, and the administration's response was "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

"I want these things or I'll take another offer" only works from a negotiating perspective if the college doesn't have 3 other equally-acceptable candidates, not to mention the countless non-tenure-track candidates they can slot to teach those classes. This is one philosophical issue I have with the idea that we women just need to learn to negotiate better - like there's some magical words or skills that will make women more palatable to male-dominated search committees.

In my experience, the ONLY acceptable reason to withdraw an offer is that the institution withdraws the position due to financial constraints

This seems strange to me from outside academia. If she had requested $100,000 and a staff car, would rescinding the offer have still be unacceptable? What's the difference between rescinding the offer and letting the clock run out during negotiations, which some faculty search committee members have admitted to?
posted by muddgirl at 8:06 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


Pie Ninja, that's a really good point. Actually, I wonder if there's a combination of two problems here. So when I was first on the market, my (male) advisor was all, "Ask for you [insane salary bump] because that's the average at [way better place] and that's what I've always done." My (female) mentor was all, "Women never ask for things! You need to ask for a UNICORN to score one for all the junior women who aren't socialized to ask for things!" (I will say that it's pernicious, and true: I asked for, essentially, the exact same things that a male peer of mine did. I was TERRIFIED and nervous and literally had to write out a script for my phone call with the dean. He was completely casual and felt like he deserved the things that he asked for and that it was no big deal).

Anyway. I'm wondering if the candidate, being pushed to be aggressive because women usually aren't and then get screwed when they start on the tenure track, came on a little strong. And I definitely wonder if, because this email came from a woman, there was more pushback than if a male candidate had asked.
posted by TwoStride at 8:06 AM on March 13 [14 favorites]


There's no evidence this had anything to do with gender, and plenty of evidence that this candidate was not a good fit.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:08 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Except that fit is something they're supposed to feel extraordinarily confident about before extending an offer.
posted by TwoStride at 8:13 AM on March 13 [17 favorites]


Again, if the candidate was not a good fit, they really could have easily figured that out before the offer.

Also, fwiw, asking for no more than 3 NEW preps per semester is not unreasonable. It's actually pretty normal for new hires to get a few of the intro courses that they teach over and over again until those can get kicked down to a new junior colleague.

As for any of this seeming weird outside of academia -- well, yeah, it's cloud-cuckoo land around here, but also a LOT of time and money goes into each search because you hope that the candidate who accepts the offer will be around for a LONG time.

Finally, I hope, on parental leave: their policy may be 6 weeks, but often that translated into NO leave, because the department then has to cover (read: teach) your courses for 6 weeks ... until you return. Which is weird, right? So either the Dean/Provost okays hiring an adjunct for a whole semester, or you basically don't take your six weeks. Because that puts a huge burden on your department.

Academic employment is not like other employment, in ways horrible and wonderful. But Nazareth were awful, here.
posted by allthinky at 8:14 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


The request for a sabbatical really does scream "research", and if she's teaching 8 classes a year then asking that no more than 3 change per year does seem a bit unreasonable. I can understand why they withdrew the offer. I remain appalled at the fact that a request for a semester of mat leave could be considered unreasonable.
posted by Dasein at 8:15 AM on March 13


This seems strange to me from outside academia.

Ditto. I'm seeing academics tick off the various reasons why this candidate's requests were unreasonable and demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of Nazareth's circumstance, and then I'm seeing those same people turn around and say they are nevertheless "shocked" the job offer was rescinded.

If there's a missing component in there, I hope someone will explain it. Because otherwise it begins to look unfortunately like the definition of "entitlement" that academics are too often accused of.
posted by cribcage at 8:16 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


The operation of sexism and misogyny, especially in the field of philosophy as mentioned upthread, cannot be discounted in an analysis of this particular situation or in the more general issues of academic work to which it relates.
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:17 AM on March 13 [21 favorites]


my issue with her asking for double the time is that it unfairly punishes those women who either didn't consider the leave time in planning their families or who didn't plan on getting pregnant in the first place.

They're not being punished, though - they're getting exactly what they were promised. If 15 weeks maternity leave is not an unreasonable request (and it's more in line with what lots of other countries offer), then we really shouldn't complain that she's asking for it. Taking it away from her isn't going to make the lives of those other women any better. Maybe if enough people asked for it, it would become standard policy, and then everyone would be better off.

We're just acting like crabs in a bucket if we try to take away a good deal that it looks like someone else is getting, rather than thinking how we can get that good deal too.
posted by echo target at 8:17 AM on March 13 [23 favorites]


Don't even know where to begin with this. Pre-tenure sabbatical? I would kill for that.
posted by Gotanda at 8:20 AM on March 13


Gotanda, I would've killed for it to. Shouldn't hurt to ask.. sounds like she's in mid-project, w/the post-doc, etc.
posted by allthinky at 8:21 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


My guess is that she had another offer at a research institution. They were offering her all of the things she listed (which are not out of line at all for those kinds of positions) and that is why she was confident enough to ask for them fairly bluntly. The committee at Nazareth, which was made up of hyper-sensitive, status-conscious academics, knew she was probably unlikely to take their offer since she had another, preferable offer on the table, so they did the whole, "We're going to break up with you before you can break up with us," thing. Alternatively, putting their situation in a slightly more charitable light, they may have had another candidate lined up and they wanted to skip rounds of negotiation they thought they were unlikely to win, so they could rush to beginning wooing the other candidate before he or she made a commitment elsewhere.

Regardless, their response was profoundly tone-deaf, and I wouldn't be surprised if they face some backlash from it. The funny thing about this job market is that while the employers wield 99% of the power, they also tend to move in herds, with lots and lots of job offers going to a handful of "hot" candidates every year. I bet Nazareth loses out on its top choice candidate quite often, and we're seeing the consequences of that here.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 8:22 AM on March 13 [8 favorites]


They're not being punished, though - they're getting exactly what they were promised. If 15 weeks maternity leave is not an unreasonable request (and it's more in line with what lots of other countries offer), then we really shouldn't complain that she's asking for it.

But having one women get 15 weeks of maternity materially hurts the other women in her department, both tenure-track and non-tenure track, who have to cover those classes, likely at the expense of their own family lives. Again, that's why this whole capitalist-feminist theory that women just need to learn how to negotiate for better working conditions fails for me - a lot of women (and men) don't have the power to do so, and they get left behind.
posted by muddgirl at 8:23 AM on March 13 [7 favorites]


Oh, wow. We're in the middle of hiring season (I work at a Research I), and we just made an offer to someone. The candidate sent an email that's almost a verbatim copy of the one posted at insidehighered.com (and actually asked for tenure, too, for an assistant prof position), and it totally soured the Dean's opinion of him.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:25 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


You could argue that any woman being given maternity leave beyond the minimum amount of time to heal from giving birth, physically, is unfair.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:26 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Lack of mat leave and lack of consideration for time off for mat leave in publication records etc..., is frequently cited as one of the top reasons women disproportionately abandon academia after grad school. If gender parity on the faculty is desirable at all, offering reasonable maternity leave is one of the major things that has to change.
posted by bonehead at 8:30 AM on March 13 [16 favorites]


But other than the physical aspect, that's discriminatory. Academia should have a better policy for all parents, then, or for anyone who wants to take time off to spend with family.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:31 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Her requests were reasonable but I agree better done over the phone.

For context, this sort of negotiation is par for the course at R1s.
posted by k8t at 8:32 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Legitimate question:

How would W's duties be different at a research institution vs a SLAC or wherever. What sort of research is being done into philosophy?
posted by etherist at 8:34 AM on March 13


On the professor is in Facebook page the discussion seems to have concluded that rescinded offers are rare and most associated with small religious colleges.
posted by k8t at 8:36 AM on March 13


You could argue that any woman being given maternity leave beyond the minimum amount of time to heal from giving birth, physically, is unfair.

You could argue it, sure.
You'd be wrong though.
posted by entropone at 8:37 AM on March 13 [8 favorites]


rescinded offers are rare and most associated with small religious colleges

PR-wise, it does seem much safer to just let the timer run out, or to refuse to negotiate against better offers. But the end effect for the candidate is the same, no?
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 AM on March 13


How would W's duties be different at a research institution vs a SLAC or wherever.

There are three factors that come up in tenure review: teaching, research, and service.

At a research (R1) institution, those are ranked: research, teaching, service. So you can get tenure if you have a sparkling research record, and a very bad teaching record (and you might not/probably won't get tenure if you do really well teaching, but your publications have been weak).

At a SLAC, those are ranked teaching, research, service. Less emphasis is placed on publication record (although you still need to have one); more emphasis is placed on teaching.

So, at a SLAC, you have a heavier teaching load compared to an R1; you are, correspondingly, not expected to output as much research/ not expected to publish in as prestigious journals, etc.
posted by damayanti at 8:39 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


I was offered an academic job over the phone, was told the salary and, when I asked if there was room for negotiation, the offer was immediately withdrawn. All within about 30 seconds.
posted by michellenoel at 8:41 AM on March 13 [9 favorites]


I was offered an academic job over the phone, was told the salary and, when I asked if there was room for negotiation, the offer was immediately withdrawn. All within about 30 seconds.

Uggh, really? Don't you see these people at conferences and such? It must be so awkward.
posted by Think_Long at 8:42 AM on March 13


I can imagine the candidate's email would really alienate a department, make the person sound like a problematic faculty member in the making, given that the salary requested is more in line with one at a research university than a small 4 year liberal arts college (maybe a $10-15k differential?), and given how a prep-time cap gives the impression of someone whose primary focus is not teaching. Both of these would be huge red flags for a place like Nazareth (a small religious college near Rochester NY, around 3000 undergrads) -- but one thing that I keep thinking is that it's hard to imagine they didn't get a hint of the candidate's feelings in the interview. If I were the Dept Chair or Dean I'd be as annoyed with the search committee for offering the position to someone inappropriate as the candidate for showing their true colors and asking for all kinds of perks that are not common for that type of position.
posted by aught at 8:43 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


It must be so awkward.

So much of academic social interaction is so awkward, though. Also, in some disciplines the conferences are either so huge that you might not run into someone again, or so specialized that they might not be in your sub-discipline.

It really is hard to understand why someone who wants perks and sabbaticals and lighter teaching loads and higher salaries would even apply at a SLAC like Nazareth in the first place, unless the (slightly cynical) plan was to finish the post doc during the deferment period and apply for other jobs, keeping Nazareth on the string as a "safety school" - with no real intention of doing that job unless all else failed.
posted by aught at 8:53 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


My mind is blown at how this is being received. I mean, "list of demands"? Seriously?

The fact that people see it as reasonable that Nazareth rescinded the offer staggers me. Maybe this is because I work in private industry, or maybe it's because the employment conditions in academia are even more fucked up than I thought, or maybe it's both.

But this is appalling. There is nothing in her letter that I would criticize: neither the tone nor the requests. At two points she made sure to clarify that she did not expect any or even most of her requests to be honored. And, as negotiations go, she's negotiating for things that are mindblowingly straightforward and, from what I've been able to gather, completely normal at an institution like Nazareth.

Regardless of all that, though: to rescind the offer is just astonishingly stupid. It's bad policy, it's bad etiquette, and it's going to be an enormous amount of bad PR for Nazareth.

My gut feeling is that this is based on the request for maternity leave. There's more than a track record of misogyny, sexism and raw anti-woman bullshit in Philosophy: it's an endemic problem, and I feel perfectly comfortable rendering judgement based on this event. This is just continuation of the bullshit by different means.

Nazareth's behavior in this has been contemptible. I don't give a shit about academia being different, and I don't give a shit about how competitive the environment is. There is always time to behave courteously and treat people with respect. If you can't be bothered to do that, it says more about your moral and ethical character than any glossy pamphlet or mission statement.
posted by scrump at 8:53 AM on March 13 [28 favorites]


Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
posted by ReeMonster at 8:54 AM on March 13


God, every time I read an article about the inner workings of academia, I become more and more relieved that I decided not to pursue a PhD a few years back.

I mean, academia is not the only field where there are hundreds of applicants for every position. I work in the nonprofit sector, where this is the case for many organizations, and it's acceptable to negotiate (or at least try) regardless.

I did once have an offer rescinded by taking too long to respond - by minutes. Literally, they asked me to get back to them by Monday morning (after making the offer on Friday afternoon). I had trouble getting to a phone (this was pre-cell-phone-ubiquity) so I called them at 1 to accept - and they'd already offered the job to another candidate! But this was for a totally entry-level position. It should take A LOT to rescind an offer for something at this level.
posted by lunasol at 8:54 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


You could argue that any woman being given maternity leave beyond the minimum amount of time to heal from giving birth, physically, is unfair.

That's why outside of the USA this is framed as parental leave, not maternity leave. Some Nordic countries even make fathers take an obligatory leave to take care of the baby IIRC.
posted by sukeban at 8:55 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


I hire faculty for a private school. It's not unusual to offer a position and then get a list of negotiating proposals. This didn't seem like demands to me and typically our HR department would simply say no to everything we couldn't do. Her email didn't come across as blunt, demanding or rude to me, particularly because of the "What do you think" at the end.

After a lengthy search and interview process, we usually know if a candidate is the correct for our institution. Dropping our offer to them because of fairly standard benefit requests would reflect a profound failure of our hiring process.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:55 AM on March 13 [16 favorites]


This is a bit of a derail for the thread, but regarding maternity leave, I think it is helpful to frame it as a benefit to the child, not the parent. The point is not that it takes the mother a certain amount of time to heal, it is that it is very important for the child to be with their mother for those first weeks.
posted by Nothing at 8:58 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


I once made a job offer to someone over the phone, then heard his response to it and his request for additional pay/benefits. He was completely within his rights to ask for more, but I immediately regretted making the offer and hoped that he wouldn't take it. To be fair a lot of it was his "tone" rather than his particular demand -- it seemed like he thought he could bully me into making a different offer.

I think the problem in academia is that the job market is horrible.

You could argue that any woman being given maternity leave beyond the minimum amount of time to heal from giving birth, physically, is unfair.

You could argue almost anything, it doesn't mean your argument makes any sense. Are you at all familiar with babies?
posted by leopard at 9:01 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


After a lengthy search and interview process, we usually know if a candidate is the correct for our institution. Dropping our offer to them because of fairly standard benefit requests would reflect a profound failure of our hiring process.

Yeah, as I speculated above, the real screw-ups were more likely the hiring committee who must not have made the department's expectations for the position clear during the interview process and somehow didn't realize, or take seriously, that it was someone who wouldn't be happy with the circumstances typical of a small college starting tenure-track assistant prof position (very heavy on the teaching, committees, and student interaction; modest in pay; light on the free time for research; and very light on the sabbaticals).
posted by aught at 9:02 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


And, as negotiations go, she's negotiating for things that are mindblowingly straightforward and, from what I've been able to gather, completely normal at an institution like Nazareth.

Pre-tenure sabbatical isn't normal anywhere, in my experience, and the salary and year's deferment are almost certainly not normal at Nazareth.
posted by aaronetc at 9:02 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Are you at all familiar with babies?

I'm just saying from a perspective that ignores babies and focuses on the needs of a department. Obviously, you can't ignore the needs of the baby.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:03 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I think the problem in academia is that the job market is horrible.

Well, yeah. That's a given and has been for a long, long time now.

(I'm not in academia, but some of my closest friends are, and one of the frustrations is how the general public sees academics as spoiled, pampered elites with cushy jobs, when in fact a lot of them are quite earnest and long-suffering folks wondering daily whether their commitment to their intellectual and teaching interests is worth the bullshit they have to deal with.)
posted by aught at 9:04 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


Normal or not, asking shouldn't be grounds for rescinding the offer. Say No to the requests and see if they still take your offer. If they do, awesome. If they don't, they know they weren't a match. Problem solved.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:05 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Dropping our offer to them because of fairly standard benefit requests would reflect a profound failure of our hiring process.

It seems likely that this was a failure in the hiring process - someone with power going to bat for an unsuitable candidate, or a failure to properly vet, etc. etc. They happen. That's why I'm so surprised that so many people are saying it's unacceptable to rescind an offer, even if the stated reason is to correct a failure in the hiring process.

Say No to the requests and see if they still take your offer. If they do, awesome.

Well, NOT awesome if your new hire is deeply unhappy at your institution but took the job anyway. We've had employees like that (not in academia) and it was miserable for them and expensive for us.
posted by muddgirl at 9:08 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


and it's going to be an enormous amount of bad PR for Nazareth.

Given the difficult job market for new faculty, and the pool of student applicants for Nazareth (who don't know or care about what gets ranted about on sites like Inside Higher Ed), I seriously doubt it will have any impact at all.
posted by aught at 9:08 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I'm just saying from a perspective that ignores babies and focuses on the needs of a department.

I don't understand this. Purely from the point of view of the department, why give any maternity leave at all?
posted by leopard at 9:08 AM on March 13


leopard, because anyone having major surgery needs time off?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:09 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


she's negotiating for things that are mindblowingly straightforward and, from what I've been able to gather, completely normal at an institution like Nazareth.

I'd disagree.

In 5 years (pre tenure), W would have been expected to teach 40 courses at a 4-4 load. With the deferment, the lighter teaching load, sabbatical and mat leave together W could miss up to 18 of those, almost a 50% reduction in what the school likely considers the primary responsibility of the job. In addition she's asking for a premium of something like 20 to 30% in salary. It's a very tall ask, IMO.

Which is not to say Nazareth handled it well either. I would have expected at least a "take it or leave it" counter offer (and have done exactly that to candidates I've hired), but maybe I'm more polite than others. In addition, speculations above about power struggles on the SC and/or with the Dean would not surprise at all.
posted by bonehead at 9:09 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


"...how the general public sees academics as spoiled, pampered elites with cushy jobs, when in fact a lot of them are quite earnest and long-suffering folks wondering daily whether their commitment to their intellectual and teaching interests is worth the bullshit they have to deal with."
The two aren't mutually exclusive. The guys who have tenured positions are, in fact, spoiled, pampered elites. They've also mostly had their jobs since time immemorial. Go to a research university sometime—look how many old people you see as professors. I had professors who were still teaching in their 90s. These are the types who would lecture you about how your lack of Greek and Latin is a disgrace of the academy, or who would tell you straight-faced that you should go to grad school because you'd be a "perfect" professor.

It takes a younger person (not young, because you don't get a good job these days if you're "young"), more familiar with reality, to look you in the eye and say: "You'd be a great researcher and professor, but going to grad school will destroy your life."
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:10 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


leopard, because anyone having major surgery needs time off?

Elective surgery. Why is it the department's job to support that?

I mean, this is not my position of course, it's just that there is no reason to draw the line at physically recovering from childbirth for the sake of "fairness." You could draw the line wherever you want.
posted by leopard at 9:11 AM on March 13


Small liberal arts colleges vary a lot in terms of research or scholarship expectations. A place with a 4/4 teaching load may have fairly low research expectations for tenure. Usually a good indicator of this is if they use the term "scholarship" instead of "research" in the job description. The places I've heard of that give pre-tenure half-sabbaticals are all small liberal arts colleges where research is an important component of the tenure decision, but the teaching load is also higher than at a research university. These can sometimes be the hardest type of institutions to work at, since faculty are expected to excel at both teaching and research to a level more-or-less comparable with faculty at other institutions that just focus on primarily one or the other. This most likely doesn't describe Nazareth College, in actuality, but may or may not correlate with the image of themselves that they try to sell to prospective new faculty.

Many teaching-focused colleges and universities have a cap on the number of new course preps per semester or per year, as well. Teaching four entirely new courses is a different ball game than teaching two sections each of two new courses, or teaching a section of a course you have done many times before, plus two or so new course preps. At my small, student-focused university, for example, we have a per-semester limit on new course preps. This is an entirely reasonable request. (Clarification note since a number of folks seem confused on this matter: she did not request a teaching reduction; just that there be a limit on the number of different course sections or new-to-her she taught each year among the 4/4 teaching load.)

The deferred start date request is pretty normal and not out of line with the way things have traditionally worked in academic hiring, including at small, undergrad-focused colleges.

The salary request and the pre-tenure sabbatical request are pie in the sky requests for a place like Nazarene (though would be reasonable at select other small liberal arts colleges), but the general advice given to grad students and recent post-grads is to negotiate. W's email is entirely within the bounds of all of the job search and negotiating advice I've ever heard given to grad students in my area of academia. Yes, there is a little bit of a disconnect in that grad students are trained at big research universities, and so trained to a certain view of academia, that can be at odds with the end of academia represented by not very competitive, small, undergrad, teaching-focused, non-secular colleges. This is something that the hiring committee at Nazarene should be well aware of, however. The academic hiring process usually involves (i) an application packet including cover letter, statement of teaching interests, and statement of research interests, (ii) a phone interview, (iii) a two-day on-campus interview, and much communication back-and-forth over email throughout the process once a candidate has been short-listed. There is no reason short of gross delinquency in the hiring process that the hiring committee at Nazarene should not have been able to accurately assess W's career aspirations and relative interests in teaching versus research before making her an offer.

With some knowledge of how the academic hiring process usually works, this seems like straight up sexism around the maternity leave request to me, though they took care to couch it in other language.
posted by eviemath at 9:14 AM on March 13 [30 favorites]


I've heard of limits on number of new course preps per semester across the teaching spectrum, by the way, from grade school up through research universities. Certainly not universal, but also certainly not unheard-of or out of line.
posted by eviemath at 9:16 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I negotiated several tenure-track job offers last year. After an offer from the hiring institution, my initial negotiations were always on the phone. Often phone conversations were specifically invited by the chair when sending the offer. If grad students are being given the advice to open negotiations with a list of demands over email, then that advice is wrong and should change.
posted by grouse at 9:19 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Eviemath has an excellent, nuanced description above. People would be advised to read it before bringing their assumptions from research-university land or outside of academia.....
posted by lalochezia at 9:21 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I have been on both sides of the academic hiring table, and the request email was a little blunt in my opinion (I would have tried to ask about those during the interview and maybe during phone conversations with the department/search committee chair to weed out the things that are "maybe" from the things that are "hell no"). All that being said, the institution's reaction is even more unreasonable, and I would hate to work for a place that would send that letter. The most charitable reading I can think of is that Nazareth decided that she would be taking the job only as a stepping-stone, and they wanted a more permanent hire, but they should have figured that out during the interview, too, not at the point of offer. And, honestly, they are the ones with experience in hiring and should bring a little more to the table.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:23 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


I mean, this is not my position of course, it's just that there is no reason to draw the line at physically recovering from childbirth for the sake of "fairness." You could draw the line wherever you want.

I really hate this kind of internet arguing. It's like the "reverse strawman" or something. "I don't believe this, but, for the sake of argument...." We have enough to argue about; we have a glut of argument; we don't need to do anything for argument's sake.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:25 AM on March 13 [18 favorites]


Or, you know, I was employing a reductio ad absurdum in the service of an actual point and I wanted to cut off someone misconstruing me and thinking I was arguing that maternity leave shouldn't exist.
posted by leopard at 9:27 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


You could argue that any woman being given maternity leave beyond the minimum amount of time to heal from giving birth, physically, is unfair.


You could but then the private matriarchal police paid for by the unfair advantages, social and economic, of motherhood would have you publicly executed for it. All while the maternity-leavers will cackle and howl at you while they are sitting in motherhood square, the giant public monument to the work of mothers that all countries have, on their absurdly luxurious thrones of disposable or reusable diapers, reveling in their postpartum depression and sleep deprivation excuses while their offspring suck the extra-weight off of them like state subsidized liposuction machines . And all you did was just express a possible opinion that extended maternity leave is unfair.
posted by srboisvert at 9:28 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


[Folks maybe let's not do that devil's advocatey thing where you argue a point you don't agree with just to ... I don't know, foster discussion? It gets the thread going nowhere good. Topic is challenging enough. Thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:36 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Well, NOT awesome if your new hire is deeply unhappy at your institution but took the job anyway.

This is something that should have been determined pre-offer. The whole point of the interview process is to see how well you feel the candidate fits at your institution and vice versa. Besides determining whether an employee is going to be happy at an institution is not as easy as giving them the benefits they want.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:40 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


This is something that should have been determined pre-offer.

I agree, but it's a mistake to think that this determination is foolproof. And the hiring institution gets relevant information between offer and acceptance, are they supposed to ignore it?
posted by grouse at 9:43 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


This is something that should have been determined pre-offer.

I agree with that, but it's a separate question from how to respond when you extend an offer and the candidate throws back a curve.
posted by cribcage at 9:43 AM on March 13


Pre-tenure sabbatical is common at my husband's SLAC (Colorado College), at least among the professors I know.

And she even admits that some of these requests may be more feasible than others. This wasn't an ultimatum. And it's not like she was asking for TAs or a 2/2 load, which I imagine would be more common at a large university. And for all the talk about SLAC vs Research institutions, both demand a solid publishing record. SLACs have to balance their claims of great teaching with the academic reputation of those teachers, after all.

Nazareth College's response reminds me of Mr. Bumble's incredulous "More?!?" to Oliver Twist's request for more gruel.
posted by bibliowench at 9:49 AM on March 13 [5 favorites]


one thing that I keep thinking is that it's hard to imagine they didn't get a hint of the candidate's feelings in the interview

Typically, in the academic world, during the recruitment process itself you say nothing at all about salary, leave etc. (you might talk in a rather general way about support for research, but you're not going to ask directly about funded leaves etc.). Its possible, too, that a small SLAC like the one in question wouldn't even have had this candidate out on a campus visit prior to the job offer. It is entirely possible, then, that up until this email no one had engaged this candidate at any point in any discussion whatsoever about these kinds of questions. Academics hiring other academics tend to regard all of that stuff as the administration's concern (and the Chair's concern as the person who will liase with the Administration over such issues). So they will have talked with the candidate in the interview about her work, her teaching philosophy etc. but not have discussed salary, course preps etc.

If this job candidate had been one of my students and had shown me that email and asked for advice I would have told her in no uncertain terms to rewrite it from top to bottom. While it is true that the various desiderata she lists aren't framed as "demands" she does manage to convey a very unfortunate impression that she considers herself to be bestowing a favor on the college in considering their job offer at all and that she really needs them to sweeten the pot considerably before she'll give it serious attention. I think she's had very bad advice from her mentors who really are thinking of the kinds of things you'd shoot for from a Research 1 institution (that salary figure is just wildly out of the ballpark for Nazareth, as are many of the other demands) and I think she's hit that awkwardly confrontational tone because she's forcing herself to "stand up for herself" when she really hasn't any good sense of what is or is not a reasonable demand.

A far better tactic in her situation would have been to talk to someone on the search committee who seemed enthusiastic about her and to sound them out informally as to what might or might not be reasonable deal-sweeteners to ask for. The faculty are presumably keen to see her hired and it's not their money that will be spent on her--they have no reason to try to wheedle her down. Then have another chat with the chair along the same lines to see how s/he reacts--stressing the whole time (as she so spectacularly fails to do in the email) how pleased she is to have received the offer and how excited she is at the prospect of coming to work at Nazareth. After those conversations--if they haven't, in themselves, issued in a firm agreement as to terms--she could send an email that really spells out her bottom line; but if it's an actual bottom line, she needs to be aware that the institution simply may not be prepared to meet it and that in that case she has to be willing to walk away.
posted by yoink at 9:57 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


I feel like this email, coming from a male candidate, would have been seen in a totally different light.

Right you are. The tone argument sure is being made, and made heavily, against this candidate. Ctl-f, 'tone', qed.

The bad move here was clearly made by Nazareth. There's a lot here we don't know -- whether the candidate was one of two top candidates, whether the list was emailed in response to a conversation with the chair, whether the expectation was that the candidate would start next fall -- but in any case, all Nazareth had to do was politely say that they cannot meet some or any of the candidate's requests, and further negotiations or decisions go from there. The offer withdrawal is nuclear, and that's on Nazareth.

If a male candidate had posted this story, we'd all be unquestionably outraged on his behalf and gnashing our teeth about the state of the academe.
posted by Dashy at 9:58 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Some of us are outraged and gnashing our teeth about the state of things because she's not a male candidate.
posted by scrump at 10:05 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Right you are. The tone argument sure is being made, and made heavily, against this candidate. Ctl-f, 'tone', qed.

It's rather hard to imagine how one would avoid "the tone argument" when discussing the question of whether or not the email strikes the right tone. I can assure you that I worry just as much, when advising my students who are applying for jobs, about the "tone" of the letters and emails written by male students as those written by female students. It is certainly possible that the chair of the Philosophy Dept. at Nazareth would have reacted better to the same email from a male job applicant than from a female one, but we have precisely zero evidence before us to determine that question one way or the other.
posted by yoink at 10:07 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


It occurs to me that it is possible that this person was advised by their mentors to negotiate like this. I really feel badly for her.
posted by thelonius at 10:22 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


From outside academia, this looks totally insane on the part of the college. How are they ever going to get qualified candidates now? They're just going to go somewhere else for fear of not being able to negotiate. There's no way I would apply to work at this place with their rep. They'll still get desperate applications, but they've utterly shot themselves in the foot when it comes to getting good people. And for what? An insecure, touchy, spiteful overreaction at the tone of a reasonable opening counteroffer? They should fire whoever made this call, publicly rebuke them and then promise to hire W anyway--otherwise they will have PR issues for decades.

If a corporation did this to a candidate it would be all over TechCrunch and they'd have dozens of withdrawn applications by great prospects. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:23 AM on March 13


"In my experience, the ONLY acceptable reason to withdraw an offer is that the institution withdraws the position due to financial constraints (and even then, the department that made the offer feels embarrassed for years).

If they didn't like her requests, they should say "here's what's possible, are you still interested?"

If they couldn't figure out who she was during the entire application/interview/campus visit process, shame on them.
"
All of the more research focused aspects of W in that email would have been much more loudly communicated in the application process, their excuse is ridiculous on its face. The only two things that make any sense are that they learned something new about W's interest in family planning from the email and used it, which is all kinds of illegal, or really are just that obscenely incompetent. Fuck Nazarene and that department, they deserve everything coming to them.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:33 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Many teaching-focused colleges and universities have a cap on the number of new course preps per semester or per year, as well. Teaching four entirely new courses is a different ball game than teaching two sections each of two new courses, or teaching a section of a course you have done many times before, plus two or so new course preps. At my small, student-focused university, for example, we have a per-semester limit on new course preps. This is an entirely reasonable request. (Clarification note since a number of folks seem confused on this matter: she did not request a teaching reduction; just that there be a limit on the number of different course sections or new-to-her she taught each year among the 4/4 teaching load.)

Yes this!

Number of preps does not number of courses taught. It is very, very common in 4/4 load institutions for faculty, especially new faculty, to teach multiple sections of the same class, say Intro to Philosophy. That only equals ONE prep. Now, asking for only three new preps/year might be pushing it a bit for a SLAC, because they likely offer a wider range of courses, and it essentially means she'd be teaching the same 4 courses (assuming 1 had 2 sections) in the spring as the fall. Had I been on the committee, I might've come back with 4 preps the first year only. That would mean she has 3 new preps her first semester, but has to teach a new course in the spring that she didn't teach in the fall. But my response would be based on the schedule of classes offered by the department. Some places might be able to get away with limiting the number of preps for more than one year.

In no way would I read her request as asking for a lighter teaching load. If she wanted that, she would have asked for a 3/3 load, not 3 preps. What she wants to do is reduce the amount of time she has to get an entirely new course together before every semester.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:38 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Potomac Avenue, what you're missing is that the job market is generally terrible for tenure-track candidates and the college has nearly all the power.

The people applying for this job probably want much better jobs at more prestigious schools with lighter teaching loads and better leave policies but those are incredibly hard to get. That doesn't stop them from applying for this job because their options are greatly limited.

Conversely the people who can work for tech startups have a lot of options both inside and outside the startup sphere and so their employers have to get creative in making appeals to them. Not so much here.
posted by leopard at 10:38 AM on March 13


From outside academia, this looks totally insane on the part of the college. How are they ever going to get qualified candidates now? They're just going to go somewhere else for fear of not being able to negotiate.

Well, "just going somewhere else" really isn't an option when it comes to jobs in philosophy departments. So, no, I don't actually think they'll have any difficulty filling the job. And one thing to remember about the academic job market which, I think, many people in this thread don't quite understand is that the anxiety on Nazareth's part (that this applicant really isn't looking for a job at a Liberal Arts college and actually wants a job at a Research 1 institution) is a well-established and widely understood one. That is, its just standard advice to people going out onto the job market from highly ranked programs who are (as they all have to) applying for jobs at both kinds of institutions to work hard in their interviews with the smaller Liberal Arts colleges to downplay their devotion to their research and to emphasize their love of teaching and their desire to teach as many classes as possible and their willingness to volunteer to participate in student-centric activities on campus etc. etc. etc.

That is, it is a very clearly and openly articulated part of the profession that the ethos of the Research 1 institution is very different from that of the small liberal arts college and that candidates who don't show themselves aware of that difference risk scaring the latter off. When we hold workshops for our job-seekers and are talking about how they should frame their letters of application to different institutions we'll encourage them to drastically edit the sections devoted to their research when they're applying to heavily teaching-based institutions and to include much more fully articulated "statements of teaching philosophy" and so forth than you'd bother to provide to a research-based job. So this email really is sending a pretty strong "I don't understand the culture of the institution I'm applying to" message.

All of that said, I think the college was badly wrong to simply rescind its offer. I think they should also have been able to realize that this was probably just some poor sap being misled by bad advice from her mentors and at the very least the chair should have called her up and said "Look, the things you're asking for really aren't on the table at this kind of job. Here's where we can and can't be flexible; now, do you understand the kind of job this is and are you willing to take it on those terms or are you really looking for a very different kind of job?"
posted by yoink at 10:38 AM on March 13 [8 favorites]


All of the more research focused aspects of W in that email would have been much more loudly communicated in the application process

They might have been, but there is really no reason at all to presume that they must have been. We'd need to know a lot more about the hiring process she went through before we could say that with any confidence at all.

I remember when I was first on the job market and interviewed for jobs at small teaching-oriented colleges as well as at larger research institutions. Some of the interviews for the teaching-oriented colleges didn't ask about my research at all; they just wanted me--in the interview itself--to give on-the-spot demonstrations of my teaching practice.
posted by yoink at 10:42 AM on March 13


A couple of reactions from me -

I am a male. I am a professor. I went to undergrad at a SLAC. I worked five years full-time professionally in my field (graphic design), working with small startups, longstanding institutions, nonprofits and major multinationals. I did grad school at an R1. I did an overseas fellowship at a private arts institution. My first teaching job was at a regional public university and I now teach at an R2 heading to R1. I've seen lots of different institutional structures.

I agree that had this been my graduate student I might have offered advice on making the email seem "nicer," although honestly you could argue that having to constantly reassure the hiring committee that you love the place is undermining your own negotiating stance. When Nazareth argues that her "tone" makes it seem like she doesn't want to be there, they might as well assert that any negotiating tone would be grounds for rescinding the offer. If both parties aren't willing to say "no" at some point, then there is no negotiation - there is only one side telling the other how it will be. I don't think her tone is rude; it's really just unembellished. She gets right to her questions and states clearly that she is expecting further replies that may or may not grant her requests.

I do definitely agree that had the candidate been a male, there would have been less umbrage taken at the tone. There is more than a little sexism in replying to negotiation from a female candidate with "Well, ya know what, since you asked for some stuff, we're through here." I've asked for more salary than a company was willing to pay me and gotten "WHAT?! No." in an incredulous tone, but that was followed by "Here we'll pay you this. Whaddayathink?" But I never got "Since you asked for too much, we are ending all conversation. Goodbye."

To some of the other responses on here - geeeez, talk about crabs trying to drag each other back down in the pot!
posted by Slothrop at 10:43 AM on March 13 [17 favorites]


Pre-tenure sabbatical isn't normal anywhere

A semester off or a year at 1-and-1, typically right after third year review, is boringly normal at R1s.

This seems strange to me from outside academia. If she had requested $100,000 and a staff car, would rescinding the offer have still be unacceptable?

Yes. The only reasons I can see for rescinding an offer are (1) new information that reveals fraud or other bad conduct on the part of the candidate and (2) legitimately unexpected financial hardship at the institutional level.

What's the difference between rescinding the offer and letting the clock run out during negotiations, which some faculty search committee members have admitted to?

The difference is the rescission of the offer. The difference is that W can't say "Oh, okay, you're not going to give me what I asked for but I'm delighted to accept your offer anyway." The difference is that rescinding the offer strongly implies, in an academic setting, that the college was not making the offer in good faith.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

True enough, but I think Nazareth was shooting itself in the foot more than W.

Given the difficult job market for new faculty, and the pool of student applicants for Nazareth (who don't know or care about what gets ranted about on sites like Inside Higher Ed), I seriously doubt it will have any impact at all.

I'm sure that Nazareth will be able to fill its philosophy lines with someone. But this being out there is likely to make it harder for Nazareth to hire the kinds of good candidates they want to hire, and will make it more likely that they can only hire the sorts of people who don't get offers elsewhere. And, too, this will likely extend beyond philosophy.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:45 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


6 weeks??? Good grief.
How is it there is no "brain drain" of female faculty to canada?
posted by chapps at 10:46 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]



I'm sure that Nazareth will be able to fill its philosophy lines with someone. But this being out there is likely to make it harder for Nazareth to hire the kinds of good candidates they want to hire, and will make it more likely that they can only hire the sorts of people who don't get offers elsewhere. And, too, this will likely extend beyond philosophy.


Which is a shame for Nazareth's students. And is why the people that did this should be reprimanded - with a vow not to treat candidates offerees so shabbily in the future - if not outright punished; their actions have harmed Nazareth and their 'student centeredness'.
posted by lalochezia at 10:49 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


From outside academia, this looks totally insane on the part of the college. How are they ever going to get qualified candidates now? They're just going to go somewhere else for fear of not being able to negotiate. There's no way I would apply to work at this place with their rep. They'll still get desperate applications, but they've utterly shot themselves in the foot when it comes to getting good people.

It's not like they had a great reputation to begin with. The best candidates were never going to apply here. It's hard for me to believe that many people who might have taken jobs here are now not going to.
posted by grouse at 10:55 AM on March 13


But this being out there is likely to make it harder for Nazareth to hire the kinds of good candidates they want to hire, and will make it more likely that they can only hire the sorts of people who don't get offers elsewhere

But let's be real; they already hire "the sorts of people who don't get offers elsewhere." They're a highly-regarded, small liberal arts college. That means that for the most part they hire well-qualified faculty who don't manage to find the R1 jobs they're qualified for and which their whole professional development prepared them for. That's exactly why such institutions are anxious about getting faculty who understand the culture of the small liberal arts college; they don't want to hire people who see the job as simply a place to draw a paycheck "in the profession" while they continue to shoot for the job they really want elsewhere. That's why all that talk about research support is so ill-advised in that email; it makes it sound as if the applicant is hoping that Nazareth will help her polish her resume while she keeps trying, year after year, for a job elsewhere.

Again, I think they were wrong to rescind the offer (in part because even if she'd made all the right noises all that would prove is that she'd learned to sing the right song, not that she really meant it). But there'll be no shortage of well-qualified people very, very happy to take this candidate's place.
posted by yoink at 10:58 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


To be fair to Nazarath, perhaps their philosophy department adheres strictly to hard determinism and W's apparent display of free will rocked them to the very core.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:00 AM on March 13 [21 favorites]


It's rather hard to imagine how one would avoid "the tone argument" when discussing the question of whether or not the email strikes the right tone.

It's really not:

First, it's taken for granted that negotiations will be made. I think we agree here.

A polite sentence will be written indicating continued interest in the position (it was). Another sentence will follow it that posits the existence of more positions that could be negotiated (this was sentence #2). The list of items appears; they are quite factual. Finally, a closing sentence that indicates further willingness to negotiate should arrive (it did).

None of those sentences was "my way or the highway, beeyotch!". All were polite, complete sentences. Really - go re-read it.

Nit-picking -beyond- this level is the very crux of the tone argument: that those sentences were written by a woman (Pipe down, you with the ovaries).

There is no valid tone argument here.
posted by Dashy at 11:18 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]


None of those sentences was "my way or the highway, beeyotch!". All were polite, complete sentences. Really - go re-read it.

Nit-picking -beyond- this level is the very crux of the tone argument: that those sentences were written by a woman (Pipe down, you with the ovaries).


If you think that all that is required of a successful rhetorical gambit in any profession and in any circumstances is that you write sentences that are not "my way or the highway, beeyotch" and that the sentences be "polite" and "complete" I'm not sure you're sufficiently well informed to offer any useful analysis of this transaction.

I can assure you that at any decent university, graduate students who are going onto the job market--male and female--will be given a great deal more guidance than that about what are and are not the appropriate rhetorical strategies to take in communicating with prospective employees. Male and female, they will usually go through multiple rounds of revision of every single sentence in their job application letters. Every single person involved in the process understands that an important part of what you're doing in those materials is sending the signal that you understand the ethos of the institution that you're seeking to join.

I would imagine that in any industry at all, in fact, you are well advised to learn the rhetorical norms for your industry in communicating with potential employers and that in no case will "well, the sentences were all complete and I didn't actively insult anyone" be regarded as somehow proof that no possible objection could be taken to what you wrote.
posted by yoink at 11:30 AM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Yes; personally, if I saw "granting some of the following provisions would make my decision easier", that comes across as politely quite aggressive. Of course nobody is going to literally type 'my way or the highway' but that's pretty much how I'm reading this.
posted by ftm at 11:36 AM on March 13


And while I'm at it, "Let me know what you think." is a directive.
posted by ftm at 11:39 AM on March 13


But theoretically that's what negotiation is, right? It's fine to say "These are important things I am going to consider when making my choice" in fact it's a totally reasonable thing to say if you're a competitive candidate at all. The final bargaining chip, the job, belongs to Nazareth and when they offered it to her it was basically opening a discussion called negotiation.
posted by jessamyn at 11:40 AM on March 13 [11 favorites]


Yes, and negotiation in academic searches is normal and encouraged. But that negotiation needs to be realistic and informed, and that list was not (over and above the tone question, which as has been noted is important and difficult for women candidates).

A serious concern in academic searches is having candidate A tie things up for weeks, by which time candidates B and C will have accepted other jobs. They interpreted her negotiation as an expression of disinterest and pulled the plug at that point. I think they worded it very poorly -- getting the tone much worse than hers -- but if you don't think the candidate is serious or would not be a good hire you need to resolve that somehow.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:46 AM on March 13 [4 favorites]


Ah I see what you're saying. I had read the article but sort of skimmed the list (and the comments here) and I can see how there could be a real open question about whether this was a good faith negotiation or just a "I am not really interested in this job" response. Add me to the list of people who are surprised some of this didn't come up earlier.
posted by jessamyn at 11:49 AM on March 13


A couple other things seem odd that I haven't seen mentioned:

"No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years" - Does this include the first year? If so, she's restricting what she could potentially teach to big, multi-section courses only in that year. I don't know what a philosophy department catalog is likely to look like, but in my department I don't think it would be possible to teach 4/4 and only have three separate courses during the year.

"A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc" - How did this not come up before the offer was made? Either Nazareth knew and said no earlier, or she's just now dropping this on them at the end of this list.
posted by aaronetc at 11:53 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


that negotiation needs to be realistic and informed, and that list was not

Yeah. In essence it's saying "hi, I'm exactly the kind of person that anyone in the field should understand you're most anxious to avoid hiring--an ambitious young scholar who regards this job as temporarily slumming it while I continue to look for a real job."
posted by yoink at 11:53 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]


People know what to say during interviews at small colleges ("I love teaching," repeated frequently) but may not remember to maintain that through negotiations or once hired.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:53 AM on March 13


I can't help but see this as maddeningly sexist. Men are given much more leeway in initiating negotiation; withdrawing an offer is an extreme example. Saying she should have been "softer" or "nicer" or had the wrong "tone" or should have been less "blunt" is just playing into this stereotype.

Social incentives for gender differences in the propensity to initiate negotiations: Sometimes it does hurt to ask
Evaluators penalized female candidates more than male candidates for initiating negotiations. In Experiment 3, participants evaluated videotapes of candidates who accepted compensation offers or initiated negotiations. Male evaluators penalized female candidates more than male candidates for initiating negotiations; female evaluators penalized all candidates for initiating negotiations. Perceptions of niceness and demandingness explained resistance to female negotiators.
posted by 0xFCAF at 11:55 AM on March 13 [13 favorites]


"A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc" - How did this not come up before the offer was made? Either Nazareth knew and said no earlier, or she's just now dropping this on them at the end of this list.

We're all kinda guessing at which of the items on this list were really sticking points for Nazareth. I'd actually be surprised if any one of them was regarded as, in itself, the Thing That Must Not Be Asked. I think it was the cumulative portrait they painted of someone who really just didn't understand the kind of institution to which she was applying that sunk her. I can imagine ways of framing this so that every single on the elements in this list were still raised but where sufficient reassurances were given that the candidate understood which ones were and which ones were not significant reaches such that the negotiations weren't derailed.
posted by yoink at 11:57 AM on March 13


I can't help but see this as maddeningly sexist.

Except that that is just guessing about the beliefs of one individual person; the chair of the philosophy department of this one school. If you want to say that the profession at large is sexist and tends to give more leeway to men to negotiate salaries and conditions than to women then you've got lots of statistics to back you up; it's undeniably true. But to judge that this particular case is an instance of that general social fact requires knowing something about one particular person--about whom we know nothing but his decision in this one individual case.

The fact remains, though, that if one of my male students showed me this email and said "I just had an offer from a small liberal arts college, should I send this email to open negotiations with them?" I'd tell them they needed to re-write it from top to bottom, and I would expect any of my colleagues to do the same (I'd also tell them to call whoever it was on the faculty they got on with best and ask for guidance about potential bargaining parameters before writing at all). So while it is certainly true that there are systematically sexist pressures on women around this kind of negotiation, it is also true that this particular email is an egregiously poor example of the type regardless of the gender of the applicant.
posted by yoink at 12:04 PM on March 13 [9 favorites]


To follow up on Dip Flash's comment, the additional risk there is that if you fail to land candidates A, B, or C whom you've identified as your choices, you have to go through the search process next year and the money for the line may no longer be there.
posted by snarkout at 12:04 PM on March 13


Honestly, I would never have thought of negotiating when I got my first academic job.

I've come, over the years, to hypothesize that it might be a social class thing... I thought I should be happy for what I got. Other students with academic/professional parents and so on seemed more prone to think that the school should be happy to get them...or so it has often seemed to me. Despite coming from a top-ten grad school, nevertheless, I thanked my lucky stars for having gotten anything...

The wheeler-dealer business attitude has infected philosophy, however, to a greater degree since I went on the market. So perhaps those old class differences, if they ever existed, are less pronounced now. Some grad students and faculty just want to teach and read and write...but some are really, really, really into the schmoozing and the wheeling and dealing and networking and all that sort of thing.

The market was such a disaster when I came out that, had I gotten a really good job, I would have grabbed it like a life preserver. As it was, I got only one mediocre offer, and so...I grabbed it like a life preserver...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 12:05 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Some more evidence that this is a Nazareth problem, and not the candidate's, from this blog, which covers issues of negotiation and job-finding in academia (scroll down to bottom to see the comment, reposed here):

"...In general, beware small religious-affiliated colleges and their ilk (ie, perhaps not currently religiously affiliated but still retaining that kind of culture). They are the type of institution most likely to rescind an offer. It is still rare, but when it happens, in my observation, 9 times out of 10 it’s at a school like Nazareth, and it happens just as described here."
posted by damayanti at 12:06 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


When y'all are looking for jobs in the future, I am going to hope you have search committees led by the likes of me rather than the Nazarath people. I'd rather you ask everything and not be surprised than accept the job in ignorance. If you're the right person for a position here, we'll help you understand the peculiarities of our institution. Granted, we're private secondary and not college but we also pay more than the local colleges and universities. Nyaah nyaah Nazareth.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:07 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


Think_Long: yes, really. I had interviewed on a college campus and this was a day or two later. I came to the conclusion that the department head wanted a meek person who would not stand up to him. Ever.
posted by michellenoel at 12:08 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


damayanti, wow, that blog. The first version of that letter is much better than the "corrected" one.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:08 PM on March 13


I've been on both sides of the faculty hiring process numerous times, having served on multiple search committees and been a successful candidate more than once. If the college felt the need to fully withdraw their offer because of poor fit, that is nothing other than a profound failure of the college's hiring process. Either they failed to properly inform the candidate about the nature of the job and/or they failed to glean from the candidate that her expectations of the job did not agree with theirs.

I'll grant that the candidate's initial negotiation email comes across as harsh to me, and numerous requests are very lofty with respect to the institution she was applying to. (Personally, I would have gauged these things during the interview process and over the phone with the chair prior to sending that email.) But so what? All Nazareth had to say was, "No, sorry, we can't do those things. Are you still interested?" If not, they have a mountain of other candidates, and it's not too late in the hiring season to go back to the pile.

Nazareth should feel embarrassed. They interviewed this person for months, both over the phone and face-to-face. She talked in-person with at least a dozen people there, probably twice that. After all of that effort, all of those conversations with her, it took only this one email for them to suddenly realize that she wasn't a good fit for them? Please.

I've had virtually all of my negotiation requests flatly denied. I've had candidates walk away from offers because the university couldn't give them what they needed/expected. I've decided not to extend offers to superstar candidates because we knew that they would be a poor fit. But I've never rescinded a job offer over lofty negotiation requests or had a job offer yanked away from me because I asked for too much.

There's more to this story, and the details that matter are on Nazareth's end.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 12:15 PM on March 13 [14 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen, really? I'm a writing instructor, and have made similar changes to writing by my students- unnecessary hedges, modals, etc- anything that undercuts their arguments.

The corrected version still has some "softening" devices (I would like, etc.) while still making it clear that (1) she's interested in the position, but (2) she has another offer on the table and (3) there are some things she needs, like moving expenses and start up money, if she were to take the position.

Like, compare:

"I would again like to let you know that xx is my priority but I also have an offer from xxx which is offering me $xxK. I understand that you many have some constraints but would you consider increasing the starting salary to some extent?"

I mean, that's just bad negotiation right there. The edited version names a firm number.
posted by damayanti at 12:16 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Well, that's true.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:24 PM on March 13


She's asking for a full semester. Which in most cases is 15 weeks. While I understand that 6/8 weeks is a very small amount of time to recover, my issue with her asking for double the time is that it unfairly punishes those women who either didn't consider the leave time in planning their families or who didn't plan on getting pregnant in the first place.

No. God, no.

Man, if I only had 8 weeks of maternity leave, and a coworker in my office got 16, I would fucking stand on my chair and cheer, because at least someone was getting it, which means it is a possibility. Which means I'd put it in my next negotiation with at least a hope of getting it. And I'd keep doing so - because I'd have learned it wasn't pie in the sky but actually achievable.

And honestly, in terms of a semester? It would be a huge disruption to a class to have one professor for a month, then another one for two months, then another one for the last two. Asking for a full semester off would also benefit those students they claim to care so much about.

This seems sexist to the core.
posted by corb at 12:29 PM on March 13 [15 favorites]


But let's be real; they already hire "the sorts of people who don't get offers elsewhere." They're a highly-regarded, small liberal arts college. That means that for the most part they hire well-qualified faculty who don't manage to find the R1 jobs they're qualified for and which their whole professional development prepared them for.

There are more people than you'd think who really want to go teach at a LAC.

My point is that Nazareth would really like to hire people who also were interviewed at or received offers from Canisius or Lafayette or Houghton or SUNY LACs, and occasionally from people who received interviews/offers from Haverford/Swarthmore/Williams but who want to move back to WNY. To the extent that this move becomes well-known, it's going to make it (even) harder to recruit at that level.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:30 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Are we reading the same letter(s)? The corrected version is a vast improvement over the initial one, for exactly the reasons the blog author outlines.

In the first version of the letter, the writer sounds like they're apologizing for even asking questions. There is no power symmetry: the entire letter reads like Uriah Heep.

One of the most profound lessons anyone can learn in seeking a job, regardless of the venue, is that you must regard yourself as an asset of equal value to the job you are being offered. You are not being "given a job": you are engaging in a contract for your professional services and the value that you will add to the company.

When you stop thinking feudally, like a job offer is a favor to be bestowed upon you by a benevolent entity (who may, mercurially, remove it at any time), it creates a remarkable mental strength. You negotiate because that is how business works.

You are the asset. You are not a supplicant. You are the asset the company wants, and if they are unwilling or unable to negotiate, they have just shown you precisely how much they value you: not at all.

The most pernicious thing about this is that the power imbalance between employer and employee has been so warped by our culture that job-seekers are expected to adopt this kind of "it's an honor just to be nominated" attitude. Be grateful just to be considered! If you're lucky, we'll hire you!

This is nonsense, and destructive to everyone. Stop doing it to yourself, and stop doing it to everyone else. Stand up for your value, because if you won't, nobody will. You can be damn sure that your employer won't.
posted by scrump at 12:36 PM on March 13 [20 favorites]


This might be a case of, "In the interview, you convinced us that your passion was for teaching, but reading this list it looks like you were being disingenuous and you're actually more interested in research."
posted by straight at 12:47 PM on March 13


Are we reading the same letter(s)? The corrected version is a vast improvement over the initial one, for exactly the reasons the blog author outlines.

You're aware that the blog with the 'bad' letter and the 'corrected' version isn't looking at the same letter as the one discussed in the FPP and which most of us are discussing in this thread, right? And that it's a letter to an R1 institution from someone who has multiple competing job offers. You'll also note that the "corrected" one (an excellent letter, by the way) leads off with a statement of how delighted she is by the offer she's received and how excited she is at the prospect of coming to work at that institution--a "tone" which the email in the FPP singularly fails to strike.
posted by yoink at 12:49 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I can't help wondering if the main problem was with the maternity leave. I know many institutions would love to ask women directly if they plan on disrupting their workflow with their breeding, and there is a damn good reason they can't do so. I've heard managers, both male and female, grumble about hiring younger women because they're probably going to get pregnant and take leave. When I've interviewed for jobs in the past, I was very careful to not make any mention of my personal life - beyond some hobbies so I didn't look like a shut-in - because I did not want them to get the impression that my loyalties and attention would ever conflict with the job they wanted to fill.

That's bullshit of course, but it's the polite fiction of the interview: you don't ask me if I am going to get pregnant/I act like I don't have a uterus, and we'll deal with any deviations from that plan once I'm hired. Stating up front that I plan on having a child, taking leave, and using insurance for significant medical bills might give certain administration types an easy way of discriminating against working mothers without appearing to be discriminatory.
posted by bibliowench at 12:52 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


I can't help wondering if the main problem was with the maternity leave.

Well, it might have been, but again, in order to know that we'd need to either have been privy to the chair's conversations with the dean or to be mind readers. I think it's a bit pointless grabbing one item on a long list and saying "this is the one that really caused them to rescind the offer" when we don't have a shred of evidence to support that claim. I mean, we might just as well decide that it was really because they found out she was Jewish and they're raging antisemites or that it was really because the chair discovered that her favorite font was Garamond and he's a Times-New-Roman-or-out guy.

Personally, I find it hard to imagine that if her email had been "Hi, thanks so much for the job offer, I'm very excited about the prospect of coming to work at Nazareth--I'm happy with every part of your offer but I did hope we might be able to negotiate a full semester of maternity leave in the event that I require it" that this would have lead to the offer being rescinded. But, again, who knows?
posted by yoink at 1:01 PM on March 13


yes, yoink, because we are having what is called a discussion, which may occasionally veer into territory closely adjacent to but perhaps not directly a part of the topic of the FPP. If you have a sincere problem with this, you should perhaps air it in MetaTalk.

You are making consistent tone arguments about the candidate's letter in the FPP. These arguments are, from my perspective, invalid on their face. I see nothing wrong with how W worded her letter, or the negotiations she attempted to make. And I see nothing wrong with what she's asking for. Several opinions within this thread from people in academia have backed up my assertion that what she's asking for is not particularly egregious.

In the professional world, this kind of employer response to bog-standard negotiations would be considered farcically outrageous, and be rightly mocked across the Internet. To me, it's astonishing that people, including yourself, are doubling down on defending Nazareth's atrocious behavior, and even veering into victim-blaming.

The real problem W ran into, I suspect, is twofold: 1, she was female. And, more importantly, 2, she treated a group of self-important bozos with insufficient deference, according to their egos. And they punished her for it. The message seems clear: bow and scrape, or you'll be made to pay.

It's pernicious horseshit, there is no excuse for it, and anyone defending Nazareth in this shit-show has automatically ceded any high ground.
posted by scrump at 1:01 PM on March 13 [13 favorites]


In the professional world, this kind of employer response to bog-standard negotiations would be considered farcically outrageous, and be rightly mocked across the Internet.

I don't think this is true, and I don't think, "We've changed our mind about whether this is a good fit for all parties" is a mockable reason for an employee to reject a job offer or for a company to rescind one. I understand arguments that it's a taboo within the academic world - although some people say that this is standard among small formerly-religious colleges, so even that isn't clear. Yes, all this should have been worked out prior to the offer. People fuck up. It's the human condition.

It seems somewhat funny to say that it's inappropriate to criticize the tone of W's email but to turn around and criticize the tone of the response.
posted by muddgirl at 1:06 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I'm obviously too invested in this to be a rational part of the conversation, so I'm bowing out.
posted by scrump at 1:11 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


yes, yoink, because we are having what is called a discussion, which may occasionally veer into territory closely adjacent to but perhaps not directly a part of the topic of the FPP. If you have a sincere problem with this, you should perhaps air it in MetaTalk.

I don't have a "sincere problem" with you scrump--I just did not know what your post was referring to. I hadn't read every comment in the thread and there had not been any discussion of the blog post about the "two versions" for some time before your comment. It was genuinely unclear to me whether you were aware that these were different letters.

As for "doubling down on defending Nazareth's atrocious behavior"--it's a weird sort of "doubling down on defense" when I repeatedly say that they were wrong to rescind their offer. That doesn't mean, however, that she didn't write an ill-advised letter which sent all the wrong signals about her understanding of the institution to which she was applying. If there are any people in this thread who are about to enter the academic marketplace please do not take her email as a model for how to enter these kinds of negotiations.

The "revised" letter on the blog that you were discussion and which was linked by damayanti above is a much, much better model of how to go about doing these things. I'm surprised that you can recognize the excellence of that letter and not see how strikingly different it is from the email in the FPP, and how it shows up the failings of that email so starkly.
posted by yoink at 1:11 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


So, am I the only one that thinks she's got an offer somewhere else?

It looked to me like she has a reasonably similar offer somewhere else and she was asking Nazareth for very-nice-sweeteners as a way to help her decide where to go. The straightforward list of requests doesn't scan as rude to me, rather it's the work of someone who doesn't actually need to genuflect before the committee. The fact that she released the e-mails strengthens this impression. As someone who already had a job offer in hand (somewhere else), she wouldn't need to worry so much about blow-back.

Also, as someone who has hired at a community college, you absolutely make an effort to figure out the attitude of the candidate toward your college and the applicant's fit with your focus. It's a failure on their part, pure and simple. The committee either failed to screen for people that weren't teaching oriented or they failed to detect her ambitions. Either way, a failure.
posted by oddman at 1:29 PM on March 13 [4 favorites]


So, am I the only one that thinks she's got an offer somewhere else?

Possibly, but if so she committed another appalling negotiation blunder in not outright saying so. Mimetic desire is your greatest possible friend in these kinds of negotiations. "I'm super sought-after, you'd better up your offer if you want to get this hot commodity" (that, of course, is the subtext of what you say, not what you literally say, which is more along the lines of "I am very excited about the prospect of working at X but I also have a strong offer from Y." If she liked her other offers and really didn't want to work at Nazareth she should have just straight out told them so; if she preferred to work at Nazareth so long as they matched the offer from the other place, she should have told them that.

Also, as someone who has hired at a community college, you absolutely make an effort to figure out the attitude of the candidate toward your college and the applicant's fit with your focus. It's a failure on their part, pure and simple. The committee either failed to screen for people that weren't teaching oriented or they failed to detect her ambitions. Either way, a failure.

Indeed. My guess is that in the interview she made all the right noises and that this email was the result of some clueless advisor who basically thinks of working at anything less than an R1 university as a kind of joke-job saying to her "you know, you have to stand up for yourself and just be firm; after all, there's no harm in asking." The email sounds forced and unnatural to my ear, and clearly came as a bolt from the blue to the chair.

Still, that's just a guess. It could be that the interview process was just incredibly poorly managed. That doesn't excuse her advisors, though, from not steering her away from writing such a tone-deaf email.
posted by yoink at 1:49 PM on March 13


Reading some more discussions on this topic, it looks like Nazareth does have a maternity leave policy: 1, 2
posted by dhens at 1:51 PM on March 13


Man, if I only had 8 weeks of maternity leave, and a coworker in my office got 16, I would fucking stand on my chair and cheer, because at least someone was getting it, which means it is a possibility.

You would only cheer if you thought it meant you were going to get something too.

If you knew that the person getting the extra perk and $12k more in salary because she has an Ivy League PhD (compared to all the Midwestern state school PhDs already in the department) and was a therefore a prestigious "catch" for the department -- and therefore that it was in no way a trend that extended to the people already exhausted from heavy teaching loads, interminable committee work, and juggling day care schedules with an under-employed spouse -- you'd probably secretly (or not so secretly) hate her and the department. (I mean, I don't know you, but most people would, I think.)

Particularly if she also made a delicious perfectly-spiced hummus dip for a departmental gathering.
posted by aught at 1:53 PM on March 13


Coming from an R1 myself, I can tell you that the utter contempt for teaching undergraduates, and also for non-R1 institutions in general, is shocking. (Obviously, this does not describe all departments, or even all members of my department, but it is my experience.)

The "best" example of this was from a job search a few years ago. There was a meet-and-greet between the candidate and the grad students and faculty. Someone (coughmecough) asked the candidate about her experience in and attitude toward teaching undergraduates. She had taught one upper-level course by herself at the very prestigious private R1 where she did her PhD. She then added (this is nearly verbatim): "But I feel like you don't get into this job because you like teaching. If you like teaching, you should probably go work at a high school. I'm in it for the research." I mean, I understand the love of research, and I sort of get (but do not share) the attitude that teaching is "just" a side part of the job, but hearing it in such stark terms was shocking. I wanted to ask her if I could quote that to the parents who are taking out second mortgages to send their kids to our (expensive) state school.

I basically keep mum about the fact that I would prefer to work at a SLAC because I feel the department would not support me as well during my job search.
posted by dhens at 2:01 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


I basically keep mum about the fact that I would prefer to work at a SLAC because I feel the department would not support me as well during my job search.

God I hate that this is not an entirely nutty fear. There is a really pervasive ethos at R1 institutions that anyone who lands anything other than an R1 job has "failed." Grad students who end up in those jobs are, for the most part, desperate to get out of them and fight there way back into the R1 arena. It's utterly insane when there are so few of those R1 jobs available; it makes the whole enterprise seem absurd: we have this hugely elaborate and expensive process designed to train students into almost certain "failure." And yet the crazy thing is that for the people who manage to avoid that enculturation there is often huge job satisfaction at the SLACs.

But it's precisely the existence of that ethos that makes institutions like Nazareth so anxious that they're not hiring someone who has no interest at all in genuinely fulfilling their mission.
posted by yoink at 2:07 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


But it's precisely the existence of that ethos that makes institutions like Nazareth so anxious that they're not hiring someone who has no interest at all in genuinely fulfilling their mission.

... and makes them concerned that they will have to run an (expensive and time-consuming) job search in 2 or 3 years when this person gets a "real" job.

I think that the hiring committee did a poor job of vetting this candidate (or, as you mention, she had "made all the right noises"). They probably shouldn't have offered her the position in the first place. That said, they should have responded to her email by saying that maternity leave is already part of their personnel policy, and that they could not grant most/all of the other demands.
posted by dhens at 2:16 PM on March 13


"But I feel like you don't get into this job because you like teaching. If you like teaching, you should probably go work at a high school. I'm in it for the research."

You can think this, and obviously some people do, but it takes a special kind of cluelessness to say it out loud, during a campus visit, in responding to a question about teaching. Even if you're trying to impress grad students with how awesomely research-focused you are, just ask yourself whether anybody is likely to ask you your attitude toward something that they want you to say you don't care about.
posted by aaronetc at 2:18 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


I have to believe that this applicant only wrote this note because she had another, better job offer in hand and she was taking a no-risk shot to see what she could get. It makes no sense otherwise.

A lot of posters above maybe don't get that tenure track academia has become a star system right down to assistant professor recruiting. The vast majority of PhDs have zero chance of being considered anywhere, but a large portion of the people who can get one offer can get more than one, which equalizes negotiations more than they might seem.

Also, there is a real thing where the most prestigious departments like to do their recruiting from among assistant professors a couple or a few years in at other places -- you get a better idea what they can achieve (in research findings and fundings, which are sadly equally important) as a principal investigator, what their teaching evaluations look like for courses which require ladder faculty at the podium, etc.
posted by MattD at 2:19 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Hiring processes are by nature imperfect. I don't understand these comments that every employer should always have 100 percent certainty about every person they make an offer to. You read some written work and a couple of letters of recommendation, see a job talk, and go out for dinner. You don't do a multi-year investigation with lie detector tests.

It's entirely possible for the negotiation process to reveal things that were not conclusively proven in the interview process. Most of the requests reveal a strong interest in getting time away from teaching. Further, I am not sure about this but the sheer quantity and nature of the requests may reveal a lack of respect for the position being offered, and may reveal to the university that at best the candidate views the job as a temporary spot until she secures a "real" position somewhere else. The university may not want the headache of dealing with such an employee, and maybe it's worth it to them to bite the bullet and rescind the offer, even though it's really bad form.
posted by leopard at 2:35 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Raymond Smullyan tells a story about interviewing a candidate, in a mathematics department. They asked him about teaching. "I've never done any," he said, "but I don't think I'd like it very much".

In the meeting to discuss the interviews, the chair brought this up. "Oh," said a committee member, "he probably just dislikes lying even more than teaching".
posted by thelonius at 2:39 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


I always found it amusing how these teaching colleges abuse their power in the labor market to make people who spent the better part of a decade doing original research swear up and down that research isn't their real passion. Kind of like how software companies make applicants wax effusive about their deep love of Java coding and unit testing. Except the software companies pay better.

And yeah, it's fascinating how we all agree that women need to negotiate more, but when we have the actual text of such a negotiation, suddenly it's a "list of demands" with a "wrong tone" from a potential "problem employee" who would not be "a good fit."
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:48 PM on March 13 [10 favorites]


That seems like a strawman. I don't think anyone's criticizing her for trying to negotiate. Also you are conflating two different opinions (that she framed her email poorly but the college was wrong to rescind the offer; vs. the college was within their ethical rights to rescind the offer)
posted by muddgirl at 2:54 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I always found it amusing how these teaching colleges abuse their power in the labor market to make people who spent the better part of a decade doing original research swear up and down that research isn't their real passion.

Except that attempts to make the PhD more teaching-centered (or to introduce a more teaching-centered alternative, like the Doctor of Arts) usually fall flat, because the research universities -- pretty much the only places that actually grant terminal degrees -- think that such efforts are "below" them. So, even people who want to be primarily teachers basically have to do a period of intense research to prove their bonafides.
posted by dhens at 2:54 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


I don't believe that there's a way that she could have "framed" this e-mail that would satisfy her detractors. If it didn't mention specifics, she'd be accused of coyness and not being upfront about what she's asking for; if there was no e-mail at all and then she found out she was making less than others in similar departments, she would be faulted for accepting the offer with no negotiation.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:00 PM on March 13 [8 favorites]


Except that attempts to make the PhD more teaching-centered (or to introduce a more teaching-centered alternative, like the Doctor of Arts) usually fall flat, because the research universities -- pretty much the only places that actually grant terminal degrees -- think that such efforts are "below" them.

But why don't these teaching colleges look for candidates who would otherwise be considering high school teaching? Because they consider those candidates below them. They can get both the prestige of a degree from a research institution and the obsequious insistence that the candidate doesn't really care about research.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:03 PM on March 13


Well I cited above my experience of negotiating with a man who (in my estimation) made a number of "demands" with a "wrong tone" that revealed him to be a "potential problem employee" who would not be a "good fit".

We can only speculate as to what the college's motives were, but "afraid that the candidate would jump ship at the first available opportunity" seems both entirely plausible and gender-neutral to me.

The college's response explicitly states that they were concerned about her lack of interest in working at a teaching college. I mean, it may be the case that they were just offended that a woman asked for more money, but I don't see why that's the conclusion that logically follows. The issues with research versus teaching have been elaborated on at great length on this thread.
posted by leopard at 3:05 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


You read some written work and a couple of letters of recommendation, see a job talk, and go out for dinner. You don't do a multi-year investigation with lie detector tests.

But again, for a tenure-track job at a SLAC, it is almost always a months-long procedure that involves far more than what you listed above: in addition to the letter of application, the writing sample, the job talk, and the dinner, there's possibly a phone interview and then a conference interview, and then the campus visit, where, as I've experienced, you may well meet 1-on-1 with every member of the department as well as a students, all of whom will be grilling you intently about how well you'd become part of the campus culture. (And at the SLACs where I've worked, the reports from students are taken with a great deal of weight; candidates have been ruled out if they misread this part of the campus visit and showed insufficient interest in the students' questions. We even ask our admins if the candidates have treated them well, because collegiality is really important when you have a tiny department).

So--and especially at a college that doesn't have a lot of top choices and/or money to try again if a search fails--fit is really important, and negotiating shouldn't bring up anything they will seem so totally shocked by.
posted by TwoStride at 3:13 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


But why don't these teaching colleges look for candidates who would otherwise be considering high school teaching? Because they consider those candidates below them. They can get both the prestige of a degree from a research institution and the obsequious insistence that the candidate doesn't really care about research.

This, and the previous comment shows a basic misunderstanding of why people are drawn to a teaching institution. I loved my doctoral research, but I knew that I would rather be the person disseminating the findings to others than focusing on one narrow area of a sub field. I also enjoy helping students learn how to do their own research. I certainly care about research, just in a different way.
posted by bizzyb at 3:31 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Considering that this is a tenure for life / can never be fired / guarantee of employment that exists in no other line of work...

I'm sorry, but this is an idiotic myth about tenure that refuses to die. Tenure is simply a right to due process; it is not a lifetime job guarantee. Plenty of tenured people get fired.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 3:41 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


I don't believe that there's a way that she could have "framed" this e-mail that would satisfy her detractors

And I don't believe you don't believe that.

See how useful that is?

Look, we've had a link, above, to an example of a letter from a female job applicant making very firm and clear attempts to negotiate a better hiring package. If your contention is that there's no possible negotiation letter from a woman candidate that would satisfy those who critique the one in the FPP, how do you reconcile that claim with the fact that I've explicitly praised that letter (the corrected form) as an excellent example of how to do it the right way?
posted by yoink at 4:02 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Look, we've had a link, above, to an example of a letter from a female job applicant making very firm and clear attempts to negotiate a better hiring package.

I guess I don't really see the difference; the tone and even some of the requests are the same, except that this candidate names a specific competing offer to compare to. And one person upthread has already expressed the opinion that the first, more apologetic version, is much better than the direct one.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:08 PM on March 13


Hey yoink, you really outta think about reading this metatalk thread. You've made a lot of posts in this thread, and all you've convinced me of is that you have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to negotiations. I think you're cool and all, but I don't think you're listening to people who have a ton of experience in this area.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:29 PM on March 13


yoink pretty clearly knows a hell of a lot more about the nuances of this type of interaction than most of the people commenting on this thread. Where are all the experienced people who are contradicting him?
posted by leopard at 5:53 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


I've been talking about this all day on Twitter and I'm flabbergasted that people think this is about anything but the maternity leave. Look at it this way:

* If it's not about the maternity leave, they can have the candidate they wanted at the terms they wanted simply by saying no and counteroffering with the original offer.
* If it's about the maternity leave, they're stuck: they can't deny a request for maternity leave because they're hamstrung by FMLA, so their only option to prevent a new hire from taking maternity leave (and, more generally, being a mom) is to rescind the offer entirely.

They can say no to everything else, but they can't prevent her from choosing to become a mom, except by not hiring her at all. Gender discrimination is rampant in academia; there's no reason to invent a sympathetic reading of the college's actions when the most likely explanation is staring us in the face.

I'm horrified by this story and hope she sues the school.
posted by gerryblog at 5:58 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


While I do not completely agree with yoink (I think the e-mail was fairly normal and the college's response was an insane overreaction, he thinks the e-mail was a grievous miscalculation and the college's response was ... an insane overreaction), a lot of what he's been saying about negotiations in academia is sound advice that I've heard elsewhere from trusted sources.

e.g.: "... talk to someone on the search committee who seemed enthusiastic about her and to sound them out informally as to what might or might not be reasonable deal-sweeteners to ask for."

That is very, very good advice. I do not at all think yoink does not know what he is talking about.
posted by kyrademon at 6:07 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


I guess I don't really see the difference; the tone and even some of the requests are the same, except that this candidate names a specific competing offer to compare to. And one person upthread has already expressed the opinion that the first, more apologetic version, is much better than the direct one.

Yeah, and I disagree with that "one person." So? As to the difference between the two letters, the difference between negotiating with other offers in hand and negotiating without those other offers is huge. The difference between writing to an R1 university and writing to an SLAC is also huge. It's a matter of knowing your audience and knowing your options. Saying "I would like you to offer me $N because a comparable institution is offering me that much" is a pretty unassailable position. Saying "I would like you to offer me $N because that's what Assistant Professors of philosophy tend to get offered these days" is pretty weak sauce. It is especially weak sauce when it's wrong. 65K would be a pretty good offer for a starting Assistant Prof position at, say, a good R1 public university. It's in completely the wrong ballpark for somewhere like Nazareth. It's saying "I really don't know about your kind of institution, and I'm really thinking in terms of a completely different kind of job."

Similarly, for the person applying to an R1 job to make a strong demand about funding for research is to show that she's serious about the thing for which she is principally being hired. Research money isn't salary--she's asking for support in doing the very thing the department wants her to do. The department will only be too pleased to ask the Dean for such money and if the Dean gives it up, it's all to the benefit and credit of the department that she secured it. For the person writing to Nazareth to stress research support above all else, however, is to put all her focus on something that is of secondary importance for the department she's negotiating with. Getting that money out of the administration is going to be next to impossible and if they did manage to get it would cause the department no end of troubles in meeting its primary goals--putting teachers in front of students. Again, she is sending the signal "I don't understand the culture of the institution, and I'm not my interests are not in harmony with the department's interests.
posted by yoink at 6:18 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


I notice, Potomac Avenue, that in your very first comment in this thread you say that you are commenting "from outside academia." I wouldn't venture to offer an opinion in a thread about negotiations for a job in whatever field you work in, but I can assure you that I really do know what I'm talking about from the perspective "inside academia."
posted by yoink at 6:22 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I am an assistant professor at a teaching oriented college with a 4/4 teaching load. I am currently on a search committee. In my three years at this school, I have taught 4 preps total. I know people who have negotiated all of the things on this list at various jobs. I know a person who had a job offer rescinded immediately after the offer (while still on the phone) because my friend wanted to take their spouse to see the town before accepting the job. Last summer, I spent a lovely day at a wedding at Nazareth College.

I have been told over and over again that 1) women don't negotiate enough, 2) women aren't allowed to complain about their salaries if they didn't negotiate, 3) you don't get what you don't ask for, 4) academia is an awesome meritocracy and nobody discriminates against women anymore.

Based on everything I've seen and everything I've heard from undergrad through grad school through being a professor, I am absolutely certain that this story, the tone arguments, and the lovely catch-22 of negotiating is just another example of sexism in academia, and sexism in philosophy in particular.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:27 PM on March 13 [22 favorites]


If it's about the maternity leave, they're stuck: they can't deny a request for maternity leave because they're hamstrung by FMLA, so their only option to prevent a new hire from taking maternity leave (and, more generally, being a mom) is to rescind the offer entirely.

You're misreading her request. She's not saying "oh, and by the way, I want to take advantage of that maternity leave you offer under FMLA." She's saying she wants them to offer a full semester of maternity leave (presumably a paid semester, although she's not clear about that), which is more than the FMLA guarantees. They can refuse that request without running foul of FMLA at all.

Other posters, above, have, by the way, suggested that Nazareth already routinely provides maternity leave to faculty--I can't find anything to confirm or disconfirm that on their website.
posted by yoink at 6:29 PM on March 13


I know this has been linked on Metafilter before, but if you are not familiar with What is it like to be a woman in philosophy? it is an important read.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:30 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


I have been in academia and had teaching positions, though pretty meagerly. Many others who have more history as professors than me have have said the opposite of what you are saying in this thread and you haven't addressed any of their points. Moreover many have pointed out that whether or not this is standard negotiation procedure, it's still extremely unethical (and probably sexist) for any employer to withdraw an offer for the reasons they stated. I'm not even saying you're wrong, but I do think you should give it a rest. You made your point. I say this because I usually like your posts, I think.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:30 PM on March 13


It's fascinating how we all agree that women need to negotiate more, but when we have the actual text of such a negotiation, suddenly it's a "list of demands" with a "wrong tone" from a potential "problem employee" who would not be "a good fit."

This, oh dear god this ... right up to exactly how yoink has several times demanded to micromanage every last word uttered in an email.

Women just cannot win here. Catch -22.
posted by Dashy at 6:30 PM on March 13 [7 favorites]


She's saying she wants them to offer a full semester of maternity leave (presumably a paid semester, although she's not clear about that), which is more than the FMLA guarantees. They can refuse that request without running foul of FMLA at all.

She says "official semester," which is really unclear. I presume as you do that she's asking for paid leave. They can say no to that. But they can't say no to having her take a semester off to have a baby, and they can't say no to her having a kid from then on, except by rescinding. Everything on the list is a reasonable inquiry even if it isn't possible -- are we really to believe no male applicant has ever dared to ask for more salary or more research accommodation in the history of the university? how many of them had their offers summarily rescinded? -- so if we're trying to make rational sense of a hyper-overreaction that singles this one person out the maternity leave is the only place that makes sense. Women on the academic job market are told to hide their wedding rings and never mention their partners for a reason.
posted by gerryblog at 6:33 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


The Nazareth College family leave policy is here, incidentally. They offer 12 weeks off (unpaid) to employees; because in her role as faculty she can't teach 2/15 of a semester that would likely result in an entire semester "off." I haven't been able to find any description of their policy beyond that; I don't know if, as at my university, she could resume alternative duties at full pay following the end of her leave, but I assume legally they'd have to offer her something along those lines.

The remedy in situations like this is a lawsuit, the discovery phase of which would include any emails the committee distributed amongst themselves or between the administration and the chair. Like I said, I hope she sues; that's the only hope to actually get to the bottom of what happened rather than fantasizing one way or the other based on our preexisting assumptions about how the university works.
posted by gerryblog at 6:39 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


right up to exactly how yoink has several times demanded to micromanage every last word uttered in an email.

That's a grossly unfair mischaracterization and you ought to apologize. Yoink has been arguing his or her point with clarity and from a position of experience. This is a topic over which reasonable people can disagree, and you shouldn't try and shut down disagreement when it's being conducted and relatively fair and polite manner.
posted by modernnomad at 7:31 PM on March 13 [3 favorites]


thelonius: Raymond Smullyan tells a story about interviewing a candidate, in a mathematics department. They asked him about teaching. "I've never done any," he said, "but I don't think I'd like it very much".

In the meeting to discuss the interviews, the chair brought this up. "Oh," said a committee member, "he probably just dislikes lying even more than teaching".


While I'd be leery of having a professor who was that disinterested in teaching, it is annoying how so many employers want you to pretend you want their job is your lifelong dream or something when it's a job nobody really wants to do for any reason but money. I mean, people might want to be a professional athlete, a teacher, or a travel writer for reasons other than money, but most jobs aren't like that.

It's the same thing with 'why do you want to work for this company'? Unless you are Google, nobody cares about your specific company, nor most other organizations. Do not make your candidates spout off about how they agree with your company principles or whatnot - they don't care. Unless you are just testing to see if your candidates will lie to brown-nose you.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:52 PM on March 13 [5 favorites]


Everything on the list is a reasonable inquiry even if it isn't possible -- are we really to believe no male applicant has ever dared to ask for more salary or more research accommodation in the history of the university? how many of them had their offers summarily rescinded? -- so if we're trying to make rational sense of a hyper-overreaction that singles this one person out the maternity leave is the only place that makes sense.

Are we really to believe that no woman has ever dared ask for maternity leave in the history of the university? For all we know maternity leave is offered to faculty anyway. The HR page on the college website doesn't look like it's particularly faculty-focused.

If you're actually trying to make "rational sense" of Nazareth's action, we can start by taking their own words: "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." I really don't see any reason not to take them at their word. That doesn't mean that rescinding the offer isn't incredibly bush league; it's just that their own stated rationalizations make a lot more "rational sense" than an explanation that pins it on maternity leave.
posted by leopard at 8:32 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Average salary for an assistant professor at Nazareth is apparently $58K. In the population surveyed women are actually slightly better paid than men. This presumably includes non-entry-level people in addition to people in fields like economics that are generally better-paying.
posted by leopard at 9:30 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


From the salary survey linked above, this school is in the 37th percentile in compensation. What she was asking for is the norm in a 70th percentile institution. That's a big jump. From what I understand (and corroborated by the comments in the link), it's unlikely that her offer was for much more than $50K. It's also a small department (4 members). So the combination of asking for a 25% (or higher) plus asking for so much time off is a big ask.

I'm not in academia, but I have absolutely rescinded offers when the counteroffer is outside of "stretch" and into "delusional" territory. So maybe they search committee misread the situation, but so did she. Setting aside the ethics of rescinding an offer, it's clear that this wasn't a good fit, and both sides are better off for having parted ways.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:13 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


Oh holy shit, this terrifies me.

I have heard on the grapevine that I am possibly about to get an offer in the next few days from a university I interviewed with last week. Honestly, their offered salary is awesome, and I would be happy to not negotiate, but every person I have mentioned this to has looked horrified and said things like "But this is your ONLY chance to get things like travel funding, research assistance, start up money, moving costs, lower teaching load for the first semester, etc." Or "But they are expecting you to negotiate! They'll think worse of you if you don't!" Or "Women always sell themselves short. Don't be so pathetically grateful for a job. A man would negotiate and this is why there's such a salary gap."

In fact, in casual conversation about job-hunting with the head of this selection committee at a conference in the past - well before I thought I'd be applying for job with him - he told me that if I ever get a tenure-track job offer, I should negotiate. So I think he is expecting me to. But what if the Dean isn't expecting it? What if the rest of the committee isn't? What if I'm just bad at picking the right things to ask for or bad at phrasing it, and they decide that means I don't really want the job???

I was actually thinking of doing it in an email very like this one, where I lay out the various things that I would appreciate and ask which sound like possibilities, so that (a) I don't have to choose an order to ask for things in (because I'd like some of the above things, but don't particularly mind which ones), and (b) so they know that if, e.g. they can't give me any start-up money, I'd be equally happy with some teaching relief in the first year. And also because phone calls terrify me and I can't imagine doing anything as scary as negotiating in a real-time conversation.

But you know, in reality, I AM pathetically grateful for any job offer, and I'd accept it even if they offered me less than their stated base package.

Gah. I hope this woman wasn't in the same situation - feeling like she just had to negotiate because that's what people do.
posted by lollusc at 10:24 PM on March 13 [8 favorites]


Lollusc, just try to do the research to see if your requests have a reasonable chance of being met by your prospective employer. Honestly, I think a good institution with a strong offer is much less likely to pull an offer because they are much less afraid that you are only using them as a safe harbor before a real job opens up. If you ask for the moon, they can laugh and say no, but a place like Nazareth is terrified that you can actually get the moon somewhere better.
posted by leopard at 10:40 PM on March 13


Ha, here's something ironic: While I was typing that comment, I missed a phone call from the university I mentioned. And now I am waiting for them to call me back, and sitting here reading a thread about negotiating in order to pass the time.
posted by lollusc at 11:21 PM on March 13 [6 favorites]


Gender discrimination is rampant in academia; there's no reason to invent a sympathetic reading of the college's actions when the most likely explanation is staring us in the face.

Maybe not in your opinion, but I don't get where you are seeing any basis for gender discrimination in this case. I can easily accept sexism happens in academia. I bet there's racism, cultural stereotyping, transphobia and homophobia, too. That's all irrelevant unless you can pinpoint how prejudice factored into this case. What are you seeing that makes sexism specifically the most likely explanation here?

Actually, your assumption--that rescinding the offer is an example of gender discrimination because this candidate is a woman--seems to run counter to the available statistical data I found after even a very cursory, simple Google search; the majority of tenured and tenure-track positions at Nazareth College are held by women.
posted by misha at 11:38 PM on March 13


"That's all irrelevant unless you can pinpoint how prejudice factored into this case. What are you seeing that makes sexism specifically the most likely explanation here?"
W's email explicitly asks about accommodations for maternity leave.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:03 AM on March 14


the majority of tenured and tenure-track positions at Nazareth College are held by women

Until fairly recently, Nazareth College was run by nuns (and until the 1970s, it was a women's college). While nuns were involved in the college, I would expect more women faculty. After the nuns stopped being involved in the college, I would expect a rapid increase in the number of male faculty, which they seem to be doing.

Also the entire history of US academia, especially philosophy departments, is on the side of sexism.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:25 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Lollusc, you should still negotiate. One of the reasons what Nazareth did is so upsetting is that it is so far outside the norms of standard business practices within academia. It's unlikely to happen to you. But if you're worried, here are some things worth doing:

- Did you seem to get along well with anyone on the search committee or faculty? Contact them privately and ask what kinds of things other people have asked for and gotten.

- Know, whether by asking around or research, what's normal at that particular university, and what's normal in your field in general. Even if you'd be happy with, for example, a standard salary, you should still know if their initial offer is a lowball because they're expecting you to negotiate up.

- If you're worried about the wording of an e-mail, run it past some colleagues who have been around for a while. (Heck, throw up a version stripped of identifying details on Ask Metafilter - there's clearly a lot of academics around here.)
posted by kyrademon at 4:42 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Go lollusc! Negotiate! The 65 year old you needs today's you to do this.
posted by k8t at 4:50 AM on March 14


I'm not in academia, but

I think one of the things that has made this conversation difficult is that it can be hard for people outside academia to understand how idiosyncratic employment norms are in the profession. The apprenticeship period lasts for almost a decade, and then everyone is hired at the same time in a hiring season that lasts for months. There's a catastrophic mismatch between labor supply and demand, with hundreds of applicants for every TT position. Most candidates (especially in a humanities field like philosophy) will be lucky if they ever receive one offer -- and upon accepting that offer most people will then expect to stay at the institution that hires them and gives them tenure for the remainder of the career. Under those circumstances there is hardly ever any opportunity to negotiate a higher salary or new benefits; unless you are being wooed away and have a competing offer you're pretty much stuck on a schedule of meager cost of living increases for the entirety of your career, with miniscule bumps in salary associated with promotion. Counter to the understanding in this thread, it's very common for new assistant professors to make more than assistant professors who have been there for several years, or even their higher-ranked coworkers. It's called "salary compression" and it's a huge source of tension in departments.

And if the TT search doesn't work out you're stuck as an adjunct making peanuts forever.

All this is to say that the moment of initial hiring is the only opportunity to negotiate terms an academic is likely to have. It's a normal, regular part of the process and not at all strange for someone to ask for these kinds of concessions. And it's extremely irregular for an offer to be rescinded as a result of a negotiation, bordering on wildly abusive; we're hearing about this story precisely because it's so rare. We can nitpick her letter -- I wouldn't have put a number on the salary increase, I might have softened the tone slightly, etc -- but it's not outside the range of outcomes in the profession and she herself acknowledges that she probably can't have everything she's asking for.

This is a person they were willing to offer a job-for-life to the day before; for them to arbitrarily yank the offer entirely rather than simply say no and counter with the original terms is an extremely aggressive, nasty move that has potentially ruined this person's career forever. This is not a case of "well, these things happen" or "they're both better off." It's a major anomaly.

That's all irrelevant unless you can pinpoint how prejudice factored into this case. What are you seeing that makes sexism specifically the most likely explanation here?

I've made this case already. If they say no to her requests and allow her to accept the original offer they have everything they wanted the day before at the terms they wanted. The one and only thing they don't have anymore is the possibility that their new hire won't have children; now they have a certainty that she wants to be a mom. And the one and only reason to pull the offer they were perfectly happy to extend the day before is because they don't want that. So, as I say, I hope she sues, because from my perspective this is gender discrimination on its face; the school's claim that it's all suddenly a "bad fit" because she did what every academic is advised to do upon receiving a job offer is extremely implausible from my perspective as a person who just went through all this in the last two years and who is currently working in a TT job in the profession.
posted by gerryblog at 5:19 AM on March 14 [18 favorites]


I think one of the things that has made this conversation difficult is that it can be hard for people outside academia to understand how idiosyncratic employment norms are in the profession.

gerryblog has it right: academic recruitment is a strange, ramshackle thing, often done by people who are bad at it, full of weird, dysfunctional and occasionally illegal practices. But the job-seekers are a powerless group and so the practices continue.

Frankly, I expect there will be negligible blowback on Nazareth, and probably some significant harm to the career of the applicant.
posted by outlier at 5:49 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I think one of the things that has made this conversation difficult is that it can be hard for people outside academia to understand how idiosyncratic employment norms are in the profession.

FWIW, I worked at a R1 school for 6 years, and did admin work during a search while in college. Even in a highly technical field, there was very little daylight between the top candidates, and I remember thinking that the eventual top choice came down to fairly trivial things.

My rule is always negotiate, but if you ask for things that make it seem like you actually want a completely different job, you have to explain why it benefits the other side. And for goodness sakes, don't be aggressive over email. Fit matters in a university setting even more than it does in a typical corporate job. And from what I remember from my business law class, the minute she wrote down a counteroffer, she's implicitly rejecting their previous offer. Technically, they didn't have to rescind it.

What I really don't understand is why she leaked the emails. It's not like Nazareth is a particularly prestigious university. It can't be hard to figure out who the players are. What does this accomplish other than making them look bad? It's like bad-mouthing your previous boss in an interview. You might be right, but it doesn't enhance your status in any way.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:29 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


But what if the Dean isn't expecting it?

The only options here are (1) the dean is expecting it, (2) the dean is an absolutely colossal fuckup, and (3) the entire university's culture is sick and abusive.

What if the rest of the committee isn't?

They are, unless they're colossal fuckups or unless the department's culture is sick and abusive.

What if I'm just bad at picking the right things to ask for or bad at phrasing it,

Talk to your advisor, DGS, etc about what to ask for and how to ask for it, but don't stress too much about it. The lesson from this isn't that everyone needs to be careful about what they ask for, it's that Nazareth is a nest of vipers and/or fuckups.

and they decide that means I don't really want the job?

Then they have a culture that is sick and abusive and if you took that job, you would soon regret it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:45 AM on March 14


This is the candidate's response to the responses.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:04 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


If they say no to her requests and allow her to accept the original offer they have everything they wanted the day before at the terms they wanted. The one and only thing they don't have anymore is the possibility that their new hire won't have children; now they have a certainty that she wants to be a mom.

No, if they say no to her requests and allow her to accept the original offer, they think they have a professor who really wants to be working at a R1 institution but is stuck at a college with a high teaching load, and will probably jump ship at the first available opportunity, prompting Nazareth to go on another time-intensive job search in a year or two.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that Nazareth doesn't have a maternity leave policy, or that the email-writer is the first person in the institution's history to want to have a baby while working. The policy you linked above is unlikely to be the one that applies to faculty (really -- they're going to grant the professors 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which isn't even a full semester? how would that work?) And from the candidate's response linked by thomas j wise: "I had already had discussions with someone at the college about maternity leave, and understood that what I was asking for was already unofficial policy. In other words, I was asking for what they were verbally offering me in writing."

On the other hand, the candidate also says "I would also like to stress that I was very excited about the job and in general about the prospect of teaching at a small college with a high teaching load. If the offer had been upheld, and I would have chosen to not accept the offer, it would certainly not have been because I want a more research intensive job — I don’t." Which means that Nazareth was basically being small and afraid and would be a shitty place to work anyway.
posted by leopard at 7:13 AM on March 14


If it's about the maternity leave, they're stuck: they can't deny a request for maternity leave because they're hamstrung by FMLA, so their only option to prevent a new hire from taking maternity leave (and, more generally, being a mom) is to rescind the offer entirely.

When I was a very young woman, just entering the workforce, my elderly grandmother came to give me all the advice she had learned as a woman working. "Don't ever let them know you're pregnant," she said. "Wrap the belly if you have them, slouch, make them think you're fat. If they ask you if you're married, tell them no. Tell them you hate men."

I laughed at her. I was so certain this advice would be unnecessary into today's brave new world.

It's so painful to know that was actually still valid working advice.
posted by corb at 7:20 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Update from the candidate in the comments on Smoker:

*****

This is W — I thought I would just offer a few more facts.

Up front: I agree with those arguing that I made a mistake in negotiating. It was a clear case of a miscommunication between the institution and myself. This is how I thought negotiating worked, how I learned to do it, and, for that matter, how I think it should work: you ask about a number of perks and maybe get some of them. I was expecting to get very few of the perks I asked about, if anything at all, given what would be possible for a small college like Nazareth. I certainly did not expect to get either a junior leave or a year for my postdoc. I just thought there was no harm in asking.

Since many commenters seem to be interested in the salary increase I asked for. Maybe two things will be helpful.

1. I asked for a less then 20% increase in salary.

2. When I negotiated for another tenure track offer in philosophy I asked for a more than 20% increase in salary and was offered it. In that case, too, I was not expecting it to be offered. I have also been involved in negotiating in non-academic contexts and (maybe wrongly) got the sense that it works along the “there is no harm in asking”-lines as well. Of course my limited negotiating experience by no means provides data about the right or best thing to do in these kinds of situations.

On maternity leave:

I had already had discussions with someone at the college about maternity leave, and understood that what I was asking for was already unofficial policy. In other words, I was asking for what they were verbally offering me in writing.

I would also like to stress that I was very excited about the job and in general about the prospect of teaching at a small college with a high teaching load. If the offer had been upheld, and I would have chosen to not accept the offer, it would certainly not have been because I want a more research intensive job — I don’t.

The reason for asking about the perks (especially about the course reduction and about limiting the number of preps) was not only to make room for my research but also to ramp up to doing a good job teaching a number of classes that I have not taught before. When I visited I did get the sense that continuing research at a reasonable rate would be expected for tenure. All that said, I think that doing a good job with both their teaching and research expectations is most likely possible without being granted any of the perks I asked about.

There was plenty of much warmer emailing going on between Nazareth’s philosophy department and myself before I sent the negotiating email you saw on the Smoker. And I had hoped to have sufficiently communicated my excitement. Earlier in the day before I sent the email posted, I sent another email that was meant as a warning that I was now switching to what one might call a “negotiating tone”. I obviously didn’t do a good enough job communicating that, though.

All this said, I am flabbergasted by all the moralizing in the comments on this thread. Hopefully a few philosophers on the market can learn from my mistakes.
posted by escabeche at 7:21 AM on March 14 [6 favorites]


I don't know how to be clearer: of course they have a maternity leave policy. That's my whole point. Maternity leave and being a mom is the only one of her requests they can only deny by rescinding the offer.
posted by gerryblog at 7:21 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I had already had discussions with someone at the college about maternity leave, and understood that what I was asking for was already unofficial policy. In other words, I was asking for what they were verbally offering me in writing.

The above is from her response.

I don't know what it means since I'm not in the academic job market, but it sounds like some of the things she'd asked for had been communicated and she was trying to get them to commit in writing and other things she was just looking for a yes/no on, which is normal enough negotiating tactics... if you're a man.

It's always fun to get confirmation that yes there is no way to win as a woman.
posted by winna at 7:26 AM on March 14 [4 favorites]


I don't know how to be clearer: of course they have a maternity leave policy. That's my whole point. Maternity leave and being a mom is the only one of her requests they can only deny by rescinding the offer.

Well if that's how they feel about motherhood I don't understand how 70% of their tenure-track professors are women. Most people with tenure-track jobs are at the age where they are forming families. They seem to be taking an awfully large number of risks if they find the idea so abhorrent.
posted by leopard at 7:34 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


It's always fun to get confirmation that yes there is no way to win as a woman.

Maybe. But it could just be confirmation that Nazareth is a small, struggling school that doesn't have its shit together.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:36 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


She claims to have had discussions about maternity policy at Nazareth before receiving the offer. Wouldn't it have been easier to just not offer her the job in the first place if they didn't want someone who was likely to take a maternity leave?
posted by apparently at 7:38 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Women internalize and enforce sexist norms too. For women in senior positions their careers were expressly opposed to family life and may even have been enforced as an either/or choice. This is true of women at senior rank at many institutions I've passed through. People act as if Nazareth would have had to invent sexism from scratch for this to be questionable; I'm here to tell you it's not so.
posted by gerryblog at 7:43 AM on March 14 [5 favorites]


I brought up the tenure track statistic because those are the people who have recently been hired, not the people making the hiring decisions. If you really really really don't want anyone taking maternity leave, why are you hiring so many tenure-track women?
posted by leopard at 7:47 AM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Maybe, apparently. Maybe she talked to a prospective colleague who kept it confidential, and the dean or the chair had a different take when they found out. I'm just saying what it looks like to me.
posted by gerryblog at 7:47 AM on March 14


For what it's worth, many or most of those tenure track profs would have been hired before things started to get really bad at Nazareth financially.
posted by gerryblog at 8:01 AM on March 14 [2 favorites]


NB, my dual-title PhD colleague (History + Women's Studies) tells me that she thinks this was almost certainly about the requests for pre-tenure sabbatical, starting in 2015, and reduced course preps. Perhaps she has internalized and is enforcing sexist norms too?
posted by dhens at 11:58 AM on March 14 [3 favorites]


I don't work in academia, so this might just be my ignorance showing, but I would be more put off by the fact that she doesn't want to start working until 2015. Wouldn't that be something you'd get out of the way pretty quickly? Or does hiring at the university level really allow for this much forethought?
posted by Kokopuff at 12:10 PM on March 14


There's nothing unusual about taking an additional year before the hire officially begins to finish a postdoc or, for a more senior hire, complete post-sabbatical teaching obligations.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:17 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I've been on search committees, and we've always had quite a bit of daylight between people at the top. But my sense is that we vet more carefully than most.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 12:45 PM on March 14


When I lived in Norway, I had a colleague who interviewed for a job whilst pregnant and the company not only waited for her maternity leave to finish, but carried the coverage when she left my company. All for an employee who wouldn't start for 18 months.
posted by arcticseal at 1:02 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


> "What I really don't understand is why she leaked the emails ... What does this accomplish other than making them look bad? It's like bad-mouthing your previous boss in an interview. You might be right, but it doesn't enhance your status in any way."

I know someone who was in a situation that was ... similar in some ways (a prospective employer in academia behaving extremely badly), although very different in the particulars.

This person strongly considered making what happened public in order to warn other people away from the institution in question. In the end, they decided not to, on the grounds that it probably wouldn't do much good -- academic jobs are so tight now that a lot people are going to apply to places even if they have a bad reputation -- and also because of the risk of looking like a troublemaker while still on the job market.

But the impulse to go public with it was strong, and not necessarily a bad one. Some people who might otherwise apply might appreciate the warning.
posted by kyrademon at 1:04 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


When I was a very young woman, just entering the workforce, my elderly grandmother came to give me all the advice she had learned as a woman working. "Don't ever let them know you're pregnant," she said. "Wrap the belly if you have them, slouch, make them think you're fat. If they ask you if you're married, tell them no. Tell them you hate men."

I laughed at her. I was so certain this advice would be unnecessary into today's brave new world.

It's so painful to know that was actually still valid working advice.
posted by corb at 12:20 AM on March 15 [+] [!]


I have a friend who was on two-year academic contracts at an institution that only offers those (i.e. tenure does not exist there). Four months before her contract came up for renewal, she got pregnant. She was in a country with progressive maternity leave laws. She said she knew first hand of many other people at that institution who had become pregnant and not a single one had had their contract renewed. When I came to visit her a few weeks before her renewal decision would be made, she was wrapping herself tightly with stomach bands every morning, and trying not to drink much liquid so that frequency of peeing would not be a giveaway. It was like we were back in 1940 or something.

(She did get renewed, and then her boss told her later he felt "deceived" that she hadn't told him about the pregnancy early enough for it to factor into his decision.)
posted by lollusc at 5:36 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Lollusc, you should still negotiate. One of the reasons what Nazareth did is so upsetting is that it is so far outside the norms of standard business practices within academia. It's unlikely to happen to you. But if you're worried, here are some things worth doing:

- Did you seem to get along well with anyone on the search committee or faculty? Contact them privately and ask what kinds of things other people have asked for and gotten.


That was awesome advice. Thank you! I got the offer, and just spoke to the person on the committee who I felt was most accessible. They were really open about it. They told me exactly what salary range the Dean had pre-approved (a range of 20% above their initial offer), and what arguments I could use to argue for it. And they told me what other things were customary and non-customary to ask for, including advice on my two-body problem :) I am going to email HR next week using basically the script they gave me.

(Apologies for turning this thread into Lollusc's personal Ask Metafilter post.)
posted by lollusc at 8:02 PM on March 14 [20 favorites]


Congratulations lollusc! That's amazing news and is a picture perfect example of how academic negotiating is supposed to work.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:26 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


(She did get renewed, and then her boss told her later he felt "deceived" that she hadn't told him about the pregnancy early enough for it to factor into his decision.)

That's really horrifying. Did she get renewed the next time?

And congratulations on the offer.
posted by jeather at 8:53 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Congrats, lollusc! That's the perfect way to negotiate effectively (at least when you are dealing with reasonable employment recruiters, anyway).

Hydropsyche: After the nuns stopped being involved in the college, I would expect a rapid increase in the number of male faculty, which they seem to be doing.

To catch up with the women, you mean? Probably. But if what you are suggesting is that men are getting hired for the majority of the job openings now, you're wrong.

The college started taking men as full-time students prior to 1970, and yet new hires are still predominantly women. Refreshingly, I don't mean that women are getting hired in more support positions, either. In 2009 (the most current data I found), ALL the new hires for upper-level management, executive and tenure track positions were women, though we do see gender parity in the maintenance positions.

That's also why, gerryblog, though I saw the case you made about maternity leave, your contention that this job offer was rescinded due to gender discrimination makes no sense.

There's not only no basis to support that conclusion; what evidence we can find clearly points to a preference for, not against, hiring women.
posted by misha at 9:01 PM on March 14


I think the link in gerryblog's comment makes it probable that Nazareth decided that they simply could not afford to hire her or anyone else, and would have withdrawn the offer no matter what she asked for or didn't.

But if they had frankly admitted that, they would have run a high risk of the word getting out to students-- and parents who are footing the bill!-- what desperate financial shape they are in, and that would have been fatal because it would have decreased enrollment even further, and declining enrollment is the source of their dire financial straits in the first place.

So they had to make it sound like she did something wrong, even though in their eyes she actually didn't.

What a sad and ironic mess.
posted by jamjam at 9:25 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


That's really horrifying. Did she get renewed the next time?
Nope.
posted by lollusc at 10:55 PM on March 14


There's not only no basis to support that conclusion; what evidence we can find clearly points to a preference for, not against, hiring women.

Women can be biased against women. Women can make tone arguments against women. Women can have a problem with other women requesting maternity leave.

One of the most depressing studies in recent years showed that in science equally qualified women are less likely to be hired than men by male or female scientists.

Everything would have been fine if she hadn't asked. Women are taught not to ask. She asked. Her job offer was taken away.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:35 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


Everything would have been fine if she hadn't asked. Women are taught not to ask. She asked. Her job offer was taken away.

Perhaps. Or maybe her demands kicked the ball upstairs, and someone higher up disagree with her selection over others, or perhaps with her brand of philosophy. A phone call to her contact might have warned her of any issues.
posted by Brian B. at 7:54 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


PZ Myers weighs in as a professor at a small public liberal arts college: Negotiation is not a sin.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:21 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


PZ Myers is awesome.
posted by eviemath at 10:25 AM on March 15


Women can be biased against women. Women can make tone arguments against women. Women can have a problem with other women requesting maternity leave.

I don't see anyone in this thread arguing otherwise. I did raise the point that 70% of Nazareth's tenure-track faculty are women, which suggests that Nazareth as a matter of principle does not have a problem with maternity leave. Having a maternity leave policy and hiring mostly women of childrearing age seems like a recipe for it to be taken. No this is not proof but surely it is evidence. If 70% of Nazareth's tenure-track faculty were men would you view that as evidence of the opposite? Likewise, Nazareth made a tenure-track job offer to this particular woman. Had she not written the email and simply taken the offer (not likely based on her comments, which hint that she has at least one better option, but whatever), she would have been there with a right to maternity leave. Why is this not evidence that they don't have a problem with people taking maternity leave? What percentage of female faculty nowadays never start families?

At some point your position looks completely unfalsifiable. If I accuse you of being biased against women, am I entitled to sagely respond "Even XXX can be biased against women" to any response you may make?
posted by leopard at 6:43 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]


In my experience as both a newly-pregnant new hire and a working mother, women were often the most critical of my attempts to balance work and family. Most of the complaints actually came from women with college-age children. I wonder if they were less likely to be sympathetic because they had enjoyed fewer of the benefits that I now had: family medical leave, flex time, and the like. Their generation didn't have it easy, and they did just fine, so why the hell should I expect anything out of the ordinary?

I am reasoning from a very small sample - these women were pretty bitter in other aspects as well - but I don't think it's farfetched to suggest that many women, including those who chose to have children, have the same biases as men do when it comes to hiring something they see as fully "dependable."

And regardless of what really happened - which NONE of us know, so we're all speculating here - Nazareth's response has clearly resonated with women who have been afraid to, or have faced repercussions from negotiating in the workplace, whether it is because of leave, money, or responsibilities. Having these experiences dismissed because that's not how things really work, or that's not logical, or there has to be some other explanation, is infuriating.

This shit happens, it's real, it's damaging, and I'm glad we're talking about it.
posted by bibliowench at 7:31 PM on March 15 [6 favorites]


At some point your position looks completely unfalsifiable. If I accuse you of being biased against women, am I entitled to sagely respond "Even XXX can be biased against women" to any response you may make?

leopard: you and others seem to be envisioning some mustache-twirling sexists out of Mad Men, gleefully, willfully, openly discriminating against women. That is not what bias is, and, for the most part, that is not what sexism in academia is in the 21st century. Bias is incidious and unconscious. It is critiquing the tone of a woman's email. It is second guessing her decision to negotiate at all (or her decision not to negotiate). It is reading enthusiasm as naivete, confidence as vanity, passion as irrationality, and actual skill and brilliance as coldness. It is looking at a resume and judging it differently because it has a woman's name (or a stereotypically African-American name) on it, and not having any fucking clue that you are doing so.

Bias is a thousand things that are impossible to put your finger on, that always have the air of deniability. Thus, when someone calls it out, she knows that she will face thread after thread after thread like this because it is incidious and unconscious, and people will scream bloody murder, call names, and do everything else to deny that it still exists. Because it sucks to admit that even though we've generally driven open sexism and racism and classism underground, we have not in anyway expunged them from our own hearts, let alone our society.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:58 PM on March 15 [8 favorites]


FWIW, I think companies do discriminate against women who (they feel) may be considering taking maternity leave in the near future if they think they can get away with it, and can easily accept it happens in academia as well. I personally have specifically advised a young, newly pregnant woman not to disclose this information at a job interview, and made sure she knew that it is illegal for a potential employer to ask her about her plans regarding child-bearing.

What is maddening is that that particular bias has nothing to do with this specific case. Saying those who are pointing out that Nazareth College actually has an unexpectedly FANTASTIC record of routinely hiring women of child-bearing age, even favoring them in their hiring practices over men, is being dismissive of anyone's lived experience is outrageous, insulting and nothing more than an attempt to silence a valid discussion you personally don't care to have.

Some of us, however, feel like facts take precedence over unfounded--and definitively contradicted--conjecture, and do want to make that point. This is an appropriate place for us to do so, too.

You can't just say gender bias is at play here and then insult other users' intentions and call it a derail when they point out that the facts clearly say otherwise. THAT is what's dismissive.
posted by misha at 11:57 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


The maternity leave is just one part of what's going on here. The other part is the ongoing dialogue in academia about salaries and negotiation and bias.

If you were me, or any of the other women in academia who has worked her ass off in grad school and in her early career, who has been told dozens of times that the reason women's salaries are lower than men's is because men negotiate and women don't, but who then read this story:

You just received a job offer. Do you negotiate?

Last week, I would have said "Hell, yes!" I had never heard of an offer being rescinded for negotiations. I had never heard that it was wrong to negotiate through email. I had never been told that my daring to ask for the sorts of things that academics usually ask for or even my tone in a negotiating email could get my offer rescinded.

Now that is all apparently true. So, do you accept whatever offer you are given, knowing it may guarantee that your salary is lower than your equally qualified male co-workers, knowing that those co-workers may have gotten control over their number of preps per year, or research leave, or summer salary, or any one of the other dozens of things that could make them be more successful in their early career than you? Or do you negotiate, knowing your offer may be yanked, just like this?
posted by hydropsyche at 3:29 AM on March 16 [9 favorites]


I had never been told that my daring to ask for the sorts of things that academics usually ask for or even my tone in a negotiating email could get my offer rescinded.

But you use the term "academics" as if all academic jobs are basically the same. I really think the problem here is that this person asked for things that sounded like she thought she was applying for an entirely different job than the one they were offering.
posted by straight at 3:37 PM on March 16


I have a job much like the one she was applying for. I know the difference between applying for an R1 job, applying for a public PUI job, and applying for a private SLAC job because I have applied for all of them. I know what to ask for and what is appropriate at different schools and within my field versus others. And 'W' did, too.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:59 PM on March 16


Slate wades somewhat tardily into the fray with a link-baity (title: "How Dare You Try to Negotiate, Tenure-Track Peon") summation of the case and its reception on the internet to date.
posted by aught at 9:06 AM on March 18


In contrast to Slate, a very thoughtful post from Exhaust Fumes at the MLA.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:24 AM on March 22


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