Since the news broke of a reported job offer being rescinded by Nazareth College, nearly everybody has weighed in on the issue (including Slate, Forbes, Jezebel, Inside Higher Ed, and academic bloggers). Quickly moving past the fact that I think rescinding an offer is wrong, even if none of the requested items can be provided, we can see the way that one’s experiences affect perceptions of the request and reveal how this sort of request may have been made.
My own response to the situation was probably closest to Kate’s at The Professor is In, who writes:
In short, 3 points: 1) rescinding an offer when a client attempts to negotiate is outrageous and unethical; 2) the institutions that rescind offers strongly tend to be tiny teaching colleges with current or former religious affiliations, so if you are dealing with one of those, tread VERY carefully; 3) this candidate, W, made some grievous errors in her approach to the negotiations, showing a tone-deaf lack of sensitivity to the needs of the institution. That does not justify the rescinding. But if she had worked with me on negotiating, I would have told her to remove or rephrase many of the elements on her list of requests, because they were inappropriate to such a small, teaching oriented, resource-poor, service-heavy kind of institution. However, again, her sin of negotiating ineptly is miniscule compared to the sin of an institution summarily rescinding an offer.
At my own institution, things like pre-tenure and parental leaves are based on institutional policies that are not up for negotiation. Regarding salary, the AAUP Faculty Salary Survey can provide candidates with a rough sense of what is normal for a particular institution.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Female Science Professor, who works at a research institution and states:
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.
The gap between these responses is elucidated by David Ball at Inside Higher Ed, who reminds us:
Nazareth’s rashness also reveals a troubling disconnect between SLACs and R1 institutions around the hiring process. Job expectations and institutional cultures are oftentimes dramatically and necessarily different between the two. This communication problem can be exacerbated by the lack of liberal-arts exposure on the part of either the candidate or her advisers and the corroding belief many R1 faculty still propagate that SLACs can’t offer their candidates conditions in which they can flourish, even for those applicants most keen to teach in a liberal-arts setting.
Representatives from SLACs can be understandably fatigued when pushing back against these expectations and gun-shy when candidates demonstrate interests in a research agenda that appear to eclipse their investment as teachers. Graduate departments have an imperative to educate themselves about the expectations of liberal-arts colleges by listening to colleagues and recent Ph.D.s teaching in those settings. Likewise, SLAC hiring committees must proceed, particularly at the negotiation stage, with the knowledge that their hires may be getting advice that is oblivious to the realities of their institution.
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