The tale of a rescinded-offer of a faculty position, owing to an email from the woman offered the job to the department re. the terms of her offer, has been widely strewn about the internet. I will reprint the email and department/college response below in case anyone hasn't seen these, and then will give my take on the matter (joining the thousands who have already commented online elsewhere).
The apparently dangerous email:
The apparently dangerous email:
As you know, I am very enthusiastic about the possibility of coming to Nazareth. Granting some of the following provisions would make my decision easier.And the harsh reply:
1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years.
2) An official semester of maternity leave.
3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock.
4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years.
5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc.
I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think.
Thank you for your email. The search committee discussed your provisions. They were also reviewed by the Dean and the VPAA. It was determined that on the whole these provisions indicate an interest in teaching at a research university and not at a college, like ours, that is both teaching and student centered. Thus, the institution has decided to withdraw its offer of employment to you.
Thank you very much for your interest in Nazareth College. We wish you the best in finding a suitable position.
I don't know if there is a gender angle to this incident or not, but speaking as someone at a research university, there is nothing in the candidate's email that surprises or offends me. I have been asked for many of the same or similar things by candidates; some of these requests are routine, some of them require discussion. I say 'yes' when I can, and 'no' when that is the appropriate response for my department/university. Negotiations can be constructive and interesting discussions.
I know nothing about Nazareth College's research expectations for faculty and why the email apparently revealed an inappropriate level of research focus that was not detected during the interview. Maybe the moderate number of requests, none of which the college was going to accommodate, was the problem. Whatever the case, it is puzzling why the college didn't simply say no to some or all of those requests and let the offer/decision process proceed. If there were concerns, the department head or other faculty could have had a serious talk with the candidate about teaching expectations and criteria for tenure, so that as much as possible was clear during the candidate's decision-making process. Maybe there is more to the story than just these emails.
I don't want to speculate more about that particular case. My main point is that it would be very unfortunate if well publicized situations like that one made faculty candidates reluctant to ask for what they realistically feel that they need to succeed in the challenging job for which they are potentially being hired.
Even though I don't think anything in the polite list of requests is unreasonable, perhaps a bit more asking around of faculty in the department or institution, or other general digging around, could reveal important information that would avert an 'unreasonable' request before it is asked. Some strategic questions such as "So, is it possible/typical to get a term (or two) off prior to the tenure evaluation year?" or "How many new classes did you prepare in your first few years here? Is that typical?" (etc.) could indicate how requests about leaves and new class preps might be viewed by administrators.
It might also be possible to find out how firm the start date is, and whether the department has a track record of pushing back the start date to accommodate postdocs or other commitments. In my experience at a research university, the asking and granting of delayed start dates is routine. At a smaller institution, however, it might be more difficult for a department to cover essential courses for an extra year; they may want their new hire to show up in time for the next academic year. They might expect a candidate to understand this.
I think the request about salary is entirely reasonable. Candidates for faculty positions should be well informed about salary averages and ranges and should be able to discuss salary with the department head.
- I would not have sent that particular list of requests pertaining to a job at a teaching-focused college, but
- I think that anyone (male or female) should be able to do just that as a starting point for discussions (even if the answers are no, no, no, no, no), and
- I would not blink if I saw that same list submitted by a candidate for a faculty position at my institution, and
- in fact, I am interested to know what a candidate thinks is important for succeeding in the job. This is a good basis for discussion and negotiation.
Depending on what your situation is, what, if anything, do you think the 'take home' message of this saga is, in particular regarding the question of whether/how to negotiate after receiving an offer of a faculty position?