The Rescinded Offer: Who Is In the Wrong?

I keep getting asked about the recent rescinded offer in Philosophy at Nazareth College, which originally popped up on Philosophy Smoker, (with a response from the rescindee, “W,” here), went to Jezebel, then Forbes, and shows no signs of stopping.

Many readers have written panicked messages asking if negotiating is now out of the question for tenure track job seekers.

It is not.

You should still expect to negotiate your tenure track job offer in nearly all cases.*

Here are my thoughts, summarized:

I write about the rescinded offer phenomenon in two places on the blog, my post, How To Negotiate Your Tenure Track Offer, and Job Market Horror Stories: The Rescinded Offer. I am also quoted in the Inside Higher Ed piece about this particular case from Nazareth.

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.

And for others wondering what to do: the vast, vast majority of offers are still negotiated (out of about 100 Negotiating Assistance clients with whom I worked, 2 had offers rescinded). Expect to negotiate. Do not succumb to a culture of fear and exploitation. But if you are dealing with a tiny teaching college with a current or former religious institution, move carefully.

What specifically was wrong?  I will enumerate. First, here is the email that “W” wrote to the department:

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

1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years.

2) An official semester of maternity leave.

3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock.

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

5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc.

I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think.

Here is what’s wrong:

Salary:  She asked for a significant increase in salary (in her later followup comment she says it was an increase of “less than 20%” which I am going to take to mean somewhere between 10% and 20%). That is unreasonably high for any new assistant professor position in the humanities, even at an R1 or elite SLAC.  10% is the maximum raise that should be requested at the assistant professor level.

She adds, “which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years.”  This is presumptuous and also inaccurate. Never lecture an institution on what is supposedly “in line with” national salary “norms.” You, an assistant professor candidate, are not privy to national salary standards at every rank of school.  Salaries for new assistant professors vary by some $20,000 across ranks of schools. I am not making this number up; I know it because I offer Negotiating Assistance as a service, and I have my hand in numerous negotiations at any one time. A humanities hire at an R1 will be offered $75,000 and at a small teaching college $55,000.  These are real figures.  You do not get to dictate to the institution what their salary “norm” is or should be.  That is determined entirely at the institutional level and reflects rank, endowments, budgets, current salary structures, and local pressures of salary compression/equity.

Maternity Leave:  W writes in the followup that she had already discussed this with them and understood it to be official policy. If it is official policy, don’t bring it up in negotiations. That sounds pushy and untrusting.  It’s not that departments won’t grant maternity leave. It’s that they virtually never guarantee it ahead of time. You don’t know when you’ll have a baby, or even IF you’ll successfully have a baby.  Babies resist planning. Therefore departments will be unlikely to commit to maternity leave until the baby has a real and imminent due date looming.  But the larger point is that asking for something in writing that is already policy makes a candidate sound neurotic, untrusting, or uncollegial.

Pre-Tenure Sabbatical:  This is absolutely the norm at R1s and fancy elite SLACs, and absolutely not the norm everywhere else.  It shouldn’t be on this list for this particular job.

Limited New Class Preps:  This is common for R1s and elite SLACs, and inappropriate for the rank of school and the conditions that prevail there.  The candidate absolutely could have asked for limited accommodation relating to new class preps. Asking for this much, in this way, sounds high-handed and arrogant.

A Delayed Start Date:  Very common for R1s and elite SLACs, and incredibly difficult to manage for everyone else. Understand that the school has to staff its classes.  They are hiring you to do that.  If you don’t do it, they have to scramble to find someone else.  Big, elite schools will have a pool of adjuncts around to possibly serve this need. A school like Nazareth will not. They need a warm body to stand in front of those classes, and that warm body is you. You need to show up.

Now, faced with this admittedly quite tone-deaf email what should Nazareth have done?  They should have responded, “we can do x, but not x, x, or x.  With regard to x, we already have policy in place to provide it.   At our institutions the expectations for teaching are xxxx.  We do not commonly support xxx and xxx.  We can explain further in a phone call if you’d like.”

In other words, give the offeree—presumably a brand new, wet behind the ears Ph.D. who only really knows how things are at her R1 Ph.D. department, the chance to hear and understand the conditions that prevail at this particular rank and type of SLAC.  The offeree is not evil and is not the enemy. The offeree is probably just clueless and inexperienced.  Departments should not summarily dump an offeree who seeks an inappropriate level of negotiation; they should respond with information so that both sides can make a more educated decision about fit.  Many, many former elite Ph.D.s have found meaningful careers at teaching colleges. Sometimes it just takes a little time to understand and adjust.

*At the risk of beating a dead horse: Unless your offer is from a tiny teaching college with a current or former religious affiliation; then move very carefully.

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The Rescinded Offer: Who Is In the Wrong? — 66 Comments

  1. Thanks for your thoughts, though a bit of clarification. From her response, the maternity policy was “unofficial” policy, she just wanted it in writing. It wasn’t officially the school’s policy. In that case, do you think that she was still in the wrong/shouldn’t have asked? She also says she asked for less than 20% increase in salary (but didn’t give a percentage) and included an example of having been offered 20% somewhere else.

    • good points. I’m going to assume that the phrase “less than 20%” suggests that it was closer to 20% than 10%, although this is an assumption. And re the unofficial policy–i still wouldn’t ask for the other reasons i gave: that babies are dealt with when they are actually about to arrive, not before.

      • that’s like saying don’t get your insurance policy in writing until a medical condition crops up, because you ‘can’t plan’ for that – of course you can plan for it, surely that’s the whole point of having maternity policies

          • This seems to be one of the occasional bouts of pomposity identified by FeministPhilosophers. While they’re right that it doesn’t render all your points invalid, this one certainly is. Sure, W. could have formulated this one (along with the rest of the email) a great deal better, but getting written clarification of an employer’s maternity policy, formal or otherwise, before accepting an offer, is something that should be encouraged rather than discouraged.

          • are you saying people routinely enter employment contracts without having their entitlements made official? because it’s poor etiquette to ask?

        • Maternity leave in the U.S. is mandated by federal law in the FMLA, and New York state has additional state law about it (remember the college is in New York). It’s hard to say legal requirements are not already “in writing”.

          The thing that was left unclear by the email is whether W wanted the school to simply agree to follow the law and their usual policies (what’s the point in asking for that?) or whether she somehow wanted them to make a special maternity policy just for her (which would be a very strong request).

          • 12 weeks of *unpaid* leave is required by FMLA, I’m certain she inquiring about a semester of paid leave.

          • The whole maternity leave thing seems very scary, speaking as a young female professor. My department just dealt with its first-ever maternity leave. In that case the pregnant professor taught until the day she gave birth, and then all of her courses (and all of the pay) was handed over to adjuncts for the remainder of the semester. I understand that the situation would probably vary depending on when in the year the baby was due…but it does seem helpful to have some sort of clear policy up front, for pregnancy, disability, other possibilities. All I know is that my chair is terrified that I’ll get pregnant. Oh, and this is a Catholic university.

          • The written policy regarding FMLA on my institution’s web site says that it only applies to those who have been employed for 12 months or more. It is possible that W could need maternity leave before she is elligible.

  2. I absolutely agree with your take on this. Frankly, I can’t believe how many people seem eager to attack W, who clearly has not had the opportunity to make the difficult transition from the perspective of an R1 to that of a teaching school. It doesn’t matter how arrogant or unrealistic W sounds in her email; by making an offer, the university–especially at a so-called ‘teaching college’–has entered into a mentoring relationship with the candidate. At that point, the university representative’s responsibility is to be fair in addressing the candidate’s legitimate concerns while also educating her about the culture and values of the institution she will be joining. Excellent post!

  3. I have just had a very similar experience (though with a happy ending), in which I asked for almost 20% increase in salary. I was lucky enough to seek Karen for help, and she was very wise to tell me that since I seemed to care only about salary, make sure I asked for only that, NOTHING ELSE. Being a rookie (and before reading about these rescinded offers), I never thought a 20% increase in salary is outrageous. I had the same view “they can just say no”. However, after just asking for the salary increase and the Chair came back saying they can’t do that, I then could start asking for other things, like course reduction and paid house-hunting trip.

    However, the lesson I learned from my experience is (and it was expressed many times in the comments of the Philosophy Smoker) that I should have negotiated via phone, instead of email. Writing makes requests look like demands and it’s hard for both parties to detect the tones. Although the Chair stressed many times when he called me about the offer that I could call his cell whenever I had questions, being a non-native speaker and inexperienced negotiator, I thought emails would be best. When I first emailed asking for salary increase, my email sounded similarly to W’s. The Chair replied, sounding all business also. But then he insisted on calling me and we talked on the phone – in a much cooperative tone. I talked about how I needed certain software for research and how I would like to go to at least 2 conferences per year. Then he volunteered that he would go back to the Provost asking for a substantial increase in my start-up fund, which I didn’t even think to ask before. So finally, I accepted the offer with little increase in salary but large increase in start-up funds. Win-win for both I guess.

    Another thing I’ve leaned here is also the fact that I should have looked at the Chair like my liaison, instead of the other party in a negotiation. It is in his (and the department’s) interest to get me to accept the offer, but he also needs to get the Provost to approve of my requests. Since he knows the Provost more than I do, he can definitely offer me insights into which requests can be granted easily and which should not be mentioned at all.

    Anyway .. I’ve survived this brutal academic job market with lots of bruises .. and just like what Karen has mentioned somewhere on her blog, I really do feel that I have NO power, and it sucks!

    • thanks for this thorough comment. I only want to disagree strongly with one thing. I NEVER want to see inexperienced candidates negotiate on the phone. Particularly women. People panic and get codependent and agree to all kinds of things too quickly on the phone. I absolutely disagree that writing is a problem in negotiations. In my experience it is always the best route because it gives you the time you need to think about the offer and contemplate and construct your requests. With care and precision you can control your tone in writing and sound completely collegial. “W” made no effort to do so, but it is not difficult.

      • thanks for that advice! I would have opted for phone or f2f to avoid throwing a shopping list at employers, but instead I will try to craft a better list of demands.

  4. Based on advice from Getting to Yes and other negotiation sites, my husband listed average statistics from the BLS on vacation days when he negotiated vacation time for his current industry job. Not only did they provide him more vacation days (didn’t budge on salary), they added President’s day to their official universal vacation days list in order to meet the average since they were below. But my husband is in a position where workers are in demand and companies actually want to attract employees. And also he’s male and thus allowed to negotiate.

    Re: Maternity leave, I have been told many times to get oral promises in writing because verbal promises on maternity are commonly reneged, and I’ve been given examples of it happening. (One of my profs went so far as to tell me not to go to any school that doesn’t have a standardized maternity leave policy.) I probably would have said something like, “I am so glad that you support… Based on my conversations with X, it is my understanding… I was hoping to get that formally in my contract…” When they say no (as they did for my requests for bursary stuff to be in my contract), then you know how much that oral promise was worth… less than the paper it isn’t written on.

    Personally I think W dodged a bullet here.

  5. A few years ago, I applied for a tenure-track job at a private college in New England, named after a famous English Protestant. I was offered a visiting position instead, which caught me off guard. When I attempted to negotiate, mostly around course load and/or getting 2-3 years rather than 1-2, the offer was soon rescinded. I didn’t ask for more money, but I was concerned that the scale of the research+teaching they were asking me to do would need to be reconsidered given the now-shortened time frame of the position offered. Below is the email I received after a couple email exchanges.

    Probably my biggest mistake was doing the negotiating over email. I suppose visiting positions don’t have much room to negotiate, but I felt they could have left the offer on the table, given I had never even applied for a visiting position.

    At the time, I was just finishing up a different 1-year visiting position that was offered to me after a T-T search. Being considered good enough to visit but not ready for the T-T commitment AGAIN was hard to take.

    I appreciate your thinking of several options for teaching and time
    frames at [this institution], but they aren’t possible individually or in
    combination within the course loads we all have at [this institution], the
    nature of the appointment we have established, and the fundamental
    commitment to teaching that is part of everyone’s appointment. Your
    proposals make virtually all elements of the position negotiable, which
    is not tenable.

    I think its best to move on, and for [our school] to consider other
    candidates within our search process.

    We appreciate that you have considered us. It sounds like your other
    alternatives are more in line with your goals.

  6. So what is it about teaching colleges that have or had a religious affiliation that make them trickier for negotiations?

    • I don’t know from personal experience, having never spent time at one, but from observing all the shenanigans that I have from working with clients, there seems to be a combination of “behind-closed-doors” culture of decision making, lack of transparency, intense hierarchy leading to unchecked and systematic abuses of power, and a blithe disregard for wider reputation or context—in other words, a totally insular world that can’t be embarrassed or shamed by actions that depart from wider norms. Why these attributes would arise in schools with religious affiliation I can’t speculate; i only observe that they do.

      • I graduated from undergrad at one of these universities and have a family member working for one, I might be able to offer an idea of why this might be. The world of these small religiously affiliated colleges is tiny, so there are a lot of family ties and kin history for hiring and advancement, and number of generations in the religion, and “outsider” status on any of these things makes it difficult to break in to the community.

        Furthermore, there is an intense culture of dealing with everything “within” the community, not going to the outside, so the university regularly gets used to dealing with any dispute in house, with both students and faculty much, much less likely to attempt outside aid such as a lawsuit to a secular “outsider” government even if appropriate.

        Because of deep seated social norms that consider the reputation of the religion above all, and prefers personally negative outcomes over getting justices in an open forum– and anyone who chooses otherwise will likely face intense pressure socially from the community, or they will just close ranks and eject them.

        I also got the feeling that at least some of the leadership had felt they had sacrificed high flying secular careers which would have had huge benefits in reputation and money for their religion, and thus they were owed respect both for what they imagine they “could have been” as well as the dedication for giving that all up for leader in a small school. This causes a lot of ego issues.

        • Very, very helpful! Very much in line with just what I’ve seen (second hand) through my client accounts of experiences, conversations, and admin practices in those environments.

  7. I don’t disagree with any of this column, exactly, but it misses W’s biggest mistake–negotiating by email. Pick up the damn phone, people! It is not some poisonous reptile, it is the professional tool to use in any sensitive negotiation.

    If W had called to negotiate, she never would have made it through her long, unreasonable list. The SCC would have stopped her and said look, here are few things that are negotiable, and here is what it not. All sorts of non-textual cues would have been exchanged, along with the usual pleasantries. The candidate would have gotten a reality check instead of a rejection, and could have decided what to do at that point.

    After you finish your phone negotiations, then you email. “Dear Dear Wormer, I quite enjoyed our conversation today and look forward to working at Farber College. Just to summarize our conversation, here is what I understand that we agreed on today–and correct me if I am wrong!” Then you list the salary and benefits and private lap swimming pool and whatever you just negotiated by phone.

    Pick up the damn phone, people!

    • I totally disagree, Larry, which I think I say in another reply here in this thread. I strongly discourage candidates from negotiating on the phone. Junior people, particularly women, get anxious and codependent and over-eager on the phone and just cave and agree to everything, they are so desperate to seem “nice.” Doing this by email allows for the time needed to calmly interpret offer elements, gather thoughts, get advice from mentors, consider needs, and frame requests. This is one of my core negotiating advice principles for junior people, especially women.

        • This is an interesting point to think about. I recently went through the offer negotiating process with a public research university, as a first-time-on-the-job-market ABD candidate (female). I was dreading negotiations, as I had virtually no experience with it, and my advisors weren’t around to offer advice (and in any case, they would not have been particularly helpful, I think, as they don’t quite understand the realities of the job market today). The initial conversation happened by phone, and what it helped to learn was that the department chair, who I was talking with, was essentially the negotiator on my behalf with the dean, who would have to approve any decisions. The discussion was thus a way for me to feel out what was within the realm of the possible for the school (asking whether starting salary was a negotiable point for this level, for example, and within what range, or what was reasonable in terms of start-up research funds that one could ask for, etc), rather than simply sending a list of demands that might have seemed ridiculous. Having this conversation allowed me to craft a reasonable list of requests with well-informed input, and made me feel that the chair was on my side. And in fact, when he went to the dean with my requests, he inflated slightly what I had asked for, which the dean approved, so when he got back to me, the offer was even more than I had expected. I realize this might be an unusually positive experience, but I would highly recommend an initial phone conversation during the negotiation phase.

        • I am not sure you can say that with certainty. It’s possible that the phone puts the DEPT on the spot to be less asshole-ish and more human. But I don’t think the phone is a fullproof defense against rescinding.

          • What is foolproof in this weird business? My point is, in part, that a phone conversation is a conversation in a way that email is not. W would have started with her negotiating points, and the dean or chair on the other end of the line would have pretty quickly brought her back to earth. “$65k? That is more than I make!” She would have begun to temper her points and likely never would have made it through the list. More importantly, she would not have left a written trail to pass on to the dean and committee for them to use to provoke and justify their own dickishness.

            I think your job advice is in generally very sound, Karen. But you are off the mark on this one.

          • I think the damage potentially done to many candidates by giving advice telling them to negotiate on the phone is worse than the damage possibly done to this one candidate as a result of her “failure” to do so. I absolutely do not budge on the advice that junior people, particularly women, should avoid the phone. In my 100+ clients I’ve helped negotiate through my Neg. Assistance services, almost all have been by email, and with only 2 exceptions (that i mention somewhere in my writing) all have been totally successful.

            And the phone is no safeguard. From the opensource Rescinded Offer spreadsheet:

            “The chair called and offered the job to me at 12:00 on a Friday and said if I couldn’t say yes by 5:00, they were taking the offer off the table. I had another job talk that coming Monday (of course they made a very early season offer), and he refused to even wait until Monday evening. He rescinded the offer right there on the phone, saying it was clear that I wasn’t serious.”

            and this:

            “The job was posted, then potential candidates were told that the search was on hold pending budgetary approval. A month after MLA, the search was resumed, after budgetary approval had been obtained, a phone interview, then an on-campus interview were scheduled.

            “Shortly after the on-campus interview, a tenure-track position was offered. There was conversation about how much time was available for a decision to be made, and because of the spring-break vacation, a date was set for the Monday following the spring break. On Friday prior, a call was placed stating the candidate’s interest in the position, and a few last questions about possibility of negotiating. The requests for clarification were not posed as demands and involved exploring possibility of a minimal increment in salary (offer was 50,000) and if not possible, the potential for travel funds or research funds as part of the starting package. Candidate had been informed that she was the only person the committee was interested in and to “”not worry””. When Monday came and it was time to place the phone call to accept the offer, there was an email, not a phone call, from the out-going Dean saying, roughly: “”so sorry, I got bad budget news today, we shouldn’t have moved forward with the search. We are rescinding your offer. If you want to call and ‘chat’ about it, you can.”” The tone of the email was flip and punitive, and when candidate called, the Dean was not only unapologetic, he said, “”well, it would be different if you had signed a contract, but, since you hadn’t accepted in time (time that had been granted by said Dean) there isn’t anything I can do.”” Candidate was then told, with threatening tones, that she not contact anyone else at the school, including the search committee. The following year the job was posted again. Which suggests that the offer was indeed rescinded as summary punishment for discussing possible negotiations.””

            and this:

            Had phone interview and was told things looked really good. Some strong implication that the position would be offered. A week later I received a phone call at work when they told me the budget had been rescinded and the position was no longer active.

            Upshot: phone is no protection, and the risks of it are great.

  8. To me this incident highlights graphically the enormous disconnect between the way many PhDs are trained at R1 institutions (to prioritize research above all else) and the teaching- and service-centric needs of SLACs & other non-R1s. I felt this mental whiplash really keenly my first couple of years out of school (TT at a large urban commuter school with a 4/4 load and heavy service demands). I even found out that my intense focus on research, which had been drilled into me during grad school, actually hurt me during a job interview! I had a campus visit in 2009 to a tiny SLAC and was told prior to the visit I was the front-runner for the job. The campus visit went well (including the teaching demo and informal meeting with students), and then I heard nothing for weeks. When the chair contacted me, it was to tell me that they hired another top contender due to the fact that in the campus visit, I came across as too research-focused (“trying to jump on the Harvard bus” was the precise phrase) and the committee felt ultimately I would not be a great fit for the school. No hard feelings–they didn’t owe me the job just because they mentioned I was in the “lead”–just interesting that I think I got the interview in the first place because I had published during grad school!

    All that to say–I 1) empathize with “W” because I know how difficult it is to navigate the radical dissonance between the way PhDs are trained and the realities of what many academic posts actually require; 2) think Nazareth could have handled this in a less uncouth fashion; 3) believe this disconnect between research-intensive training and actual number of research-intensive jobs available to be a systemic problem; and 4) believe this incident points to the need for faculty mentors young enough and/or aware enough of the contemporary academic job market to effectively advise grad students who are on the market.

  9. These smalls school (with their “tiny” t-t salaries) have got to close. It would be better if these students were absorbed into a nearby state school–which come in all sizes. BUT no one is commenting on what this blunder reveals: how adjunct lines arise. Except for the salary increase, all her demands require some underpaid sap to pick up her teaching. Candidates who negotiate terms that leave teaching to adjuncts should feel 100 percent to blame in the exploitation of others.

    • So we can just ignore institutional mission – all education is the same, no matter who gives it or in what context it is given? I am very glad that this perspective is not shared by my institution’s accrediting agencies, who show respect towards the institution’s unique mission. I would venture that the major pressure for most religious-affiliated institutions is financial – the feeling that there is little error for a mistake, as the departments are small and the budgets are tiny.

  10. Addendum: Before the phone conversation, I sat on the job offer for 24 hours, did a LOT of internet research on academic job negotiations (including looking at this website, and researching average salaries at the particular university and nationwide), made a list of things I wanted to ask for (and in what priority), and even wrote down ideal ways to phrase the requests.

  11. I think many of the commenters who either condemn the college or seem puzzled by their action may be forgetting two things: the college probably had several candidates on a very short list that they wanted to make the offer to, and (unlike those of us who are seeing only W’s emails) they undoubtedly actually had W make a campus visit and spent considerable time with her. There is no question W’s email lacked finesse; in my mind there is also no question that her follow-ups (and many of the comments linked to by Karen) display a _continuing_ lack of sensitivity, and an unwillingness to admit mistakes. I’m not sure I would want her as a colleague, either. It is quite possible that the search committee felt they dodged a bullet by finding a reasonable excuse for rescinding their offer. And like Karen often says, part of the work of being an academic is being a good citizen of your department. It just doesn’t sound like W and Nazareth would have been a good fit.

  12. Aside from being unaware of audience, , as a current chair I’d say one of the biggest problems here is that the email doesn’t communicate priorities. I can’t tell what’s most important to the candidate, which would make *my* negotiating job (with my dean, for example) that much harder.

    As for salary, I’m betting that W or other candidates often get their data from the CHE’s salary survey, which is near useless for this purpose because it is such an aggregate number. One concrete suggestion–if you’re interviewing at a public school, ask for about an hour to yourself in the library. When you get it, go straight to the Reference desk and ask to see the salaries in the department that’s hiring (it’s usually public). Write these down, and when you get the initial offer you’ll know if there’s room to negotiate on this point.

    • brilliant advice re the library (although I think with a little digging you can find this on the internet too). And yes, people absolutely use various salary surveys, and they are worthless. Dangerous even. Because of the gap between size, rank, and type of institution. They are virtually always skewed too high for the depressed salary scales at really small, financially strapped colleges.

      • You’re right–it usually is on the web, and yet at least in my state (and others I know of) the web data provides total annual compensation, a figure that includes summer school, stipends for additional administrative duties, and the like, rendering the number useless (if not damaging) to such negotiations.

        I wonder if part of the problem is that candidates don’t know that all money isn’t the same, and it doesn’t come from the same place (and why would they?). I might not have wiggle room on salary, especially if I don’t want more senior professors grousing at me–or their new colleague–about salary compression. But I can probably boost things like research or travel funding.

        Oh, and if you’re a candidate worried about asking a campus librarian for salary info, don’t worry–we do it all the time. 😉

        • The most complete source for institution information, including salary, is IPEDS ( It includes all private and public schools and reports salary information according to rank. It’s not as simple as the CHE website, but the data cover many schools not in the CHE survey. It also reports salaries “equated to 9 month contracts,” addressing one of Harry’s worries. Looking at the salary data for a given school should give you a reasonable idea of what one could ask for. It does not have any department specific data, however, so it may be less useful for some institutions (e.g. where a large percentage of faculty are in professional schools).

  13. I began my career at a Jesuit university. One thing that some faculty members resented was if a candidate appeared to be settling for our school while longing to be at a different type of school. Faculty who had spent their careers at and loved our school expected to find candidates who recognized the greatness of the place.

    Negotiating demands can come across as “I’ll only agree to work at a lowly school like yours if you give me all this extra stuff.” Even if that is not the intent, it may be viewed that way by long-time faculty.

    If there had been any debate among the Nazareth faculty as to whether W would be a good fit for their department, some of her demands likely helped the anti-W faculty win that fight.

    And that maybe that’s the system working. Hopefully, W found a school that was a better fit for her and maybe Nazareth ultimately hired someone who was a good fit for them.

    • I am at a Jesuit college, and you’re spot on. We recently hired someone who decided to make a lot of R1 type demands. If that person had not been in that particular desirable specialty, I would have laughed at her demands (but not rescind the offer-that’s sleazy). If it had been a more general search, the person would not have made the first cut. Sometimes the hire is lucky and the place really needs them, as in my case, or sometimes not.

  14. Pingback: Candidate Whose Offer was Rescinded Responds | Daily Nous

  15. While I realize that the comments are intended to help applicants understand the mystical process of negotiating for an academic position, I am disturbed by the comments of “Junior people, particularly women, get anxious and codependent and over-eager on the phone and just cave and agree to everything, they are so desperate to seem “nice.” and ” I only want to disagree strongly with one thing. I NEVER want to see inexperienced candidates negotiate on the phone. Particularly women. People panic and get codependent and agree to all kinds of things too quickly on the phone.” These comments are sexist, insulting to applicants and basically reinforce negative stereotypes about women…..and why use the word ‘codependent’ which implies pathological dependency? OMG

    • I agree — the phone is for clarifying, and gathering information on the key points for the negotiation. Most of the time, one goes back and forth with the Dean/Chair for a while on the phone, until all the information is in. I would not agree to anything specific over the phone, thank the person for it, but in a timely email, restate the points discussed, and ask for those to be committed. As a point of reference, I’ve spent about 25 years post-Ph.D, and those years are equally split between academic appointments and VP and above “Alt Ac” jobs, so I have some experience with this. I’m not sure I agree that women are poor phone negotiators, and should therefore stick to email, as a woman that has negotiated dozens of offers over the years. I think women should use their communication skills to pick up on the verbal cues that would be available in a realtime conversation, then consider how to respond. It removes the stress of the in-office negotiation, and allows time for consideration. Whether my mentees, grad students, or others, I would like to suggest again that “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Make sure you fully understand the context of the job, look at the offer, and come back with the details that you are certain will make it possible to succeed there. As many others have noted, the candidate in this situation misunderstood the context and asked for accommodations that would be common in an R1 (and then only a certain kind of R1.. and certain fields…) but that were impossible considerations in a SLAC.

  16. About this:

    “10% is the maximum raise that should be requested at the assistant professor level” —

    In my experience how much it makes good sense to ask for depends on how much is initially offered. In one case that comes to mind I advised a friend offered an entry level position at a good department to request 25% more than he had been initially offered citing the available information that an entry level to the department the previous year had been given that higher amount. His request was granted.

    And about this:
    “Salaries for new assistant professors vary by some $20,000 across ranks of schools.”

    The variance in assistant professor salaries within the discipline of philosophy is actually *much* higher than $20,000 comparing across various sorts of schools.

  17. Well she knew negotiation was a risky tactic. It is for anyone,male or female. Let’s also remember that there are two sides to every story, perhaps the university was looking for an actual teacher( I understand universities still do that, teach undergraduates,instead of just research)she didn’t seem to particularly interested in teaching.

    • The tsk-tsking, judginess, and moralizing of so many commentators (on all the internet comment threads) is really the story here.

  18. I realize that most of the comments focus on W’s approach, but I was also struck by Karen’s suggestion that Nazareth College should not have rescinded their offer. In this case I agree, but I was involved in a case several years ago in which we threatened to rescind an offer, a case that might illustrate some of the dangers of extreme demands. In that case, we offered a position to a candidate who was then contacted by a member of our department who coached the candidate about what to ask for — including such ridiculous requests as a $1000 per month budget to buy books for his personal library. The demands were pretty over-the-top, and the candidate naively took the advice of a senior faculty member who was rather stupid about the process, but it was our dean who insisted that we pull the plug on that candidate. The dean said simply that he declined to negotiate with someone who was living in that kind of fantasy land. The upshot was that the candidate was mortified, quickly dialed back the demands, and we were able to negotiate a good offer and start-up package. I had never seen the threat of rescinding an offer used as a negotiating tool, but in this case it seemed to work. The candidate, by the way, came up for tenure early and three years later was promoted to full professor — a great hire for us, and we were relieved that we didn’t have to cancel our offer in the end.

    • I feel like the same outcome could have been achieved without “threats.” But that’s me. I’m glad it all worked out.

      • I agree — but this case highlighted the tricky role of the department chair in the process, someone who could serve as a mediator between the candidate and the dean. W’s case was also, apparently, one in which the college dean was involved, and without any additional insights into the details of the discussions, one might have thought that the department chair would have done a little shuttle diplomacy, contacting W to suggest where her original requests were off the charts, working with the dean to determine what would be a reasonable set of requests from the Nazareth perspective, back to W for a revised list: you know, negotiation.

        If you can tolerate an additional tangent here, I checked the Nazareth philosophy department’s website and read the bios of the TT faculty, which in each case highlight their “research” and, in most cases, refer to their writing. It appears that Nazareth College, like many 4 year colleges there days, does have some expectation of research and publishing by faculty, not merely teaching, and it seems reasonable for a job candidate to negotiate ways to pursue research and writing at Nazareth. The Nazareth impression, that W seemed to be more interested in a research university, is one that the Nazareth dean might get from the websites of the current faculty as well… Besides, we are regularly told — and I believe — that faculty who do research and writing are on the whole better teachers, so the black/white contrast between research universities and four year colleges may not be so sharp.

  19. I picked up on this story from elsewhere, and as somebody completely outside of academia, I admit to being a bit puzzled.

    Certainly one can ask for more pay during negotiations (although you should back it by valid research, and it sounds as if hers was incorrect.) But from my view she was asking for:
    – The aforementioned pay increase
    – A start date 1 1/2 years in the future (and presumably a year after the start date they wanted her for)
    – Substantial early-career time-off
    – A tight constraint on her workload

    In the “real world” an entry-level job candidate that asked to delay their start date by a year would be laughed out of the proverbial room. And it’d be fruitless for an entry-level professional employee to ask for even unpaid leave within just a handful of years from their start date (and after a delayed start date? How much time off does one person need that early in their career?) And I don’t know what to make of the request to limit her teaching load… it doesn’t have a whole lot of parallels in commercial employment.

    If the maternity leave was standard policy, then that’s not something that needs to be brought up during negotiations; if it’s not standard policy, I don’t see anyone making exceptions for an entry-level hire.

    I can understand the idea that you should “reach” a little bit in negotiations, but it appears to me like every single one of her requests were well beyond “reaching” and more like what I’d expect a “superstar” being “poached” from another employer would be asking for. Is academia so different that these requests were, even individually, reasonable?

    • Asking for a deferral in academia is quite common. A year seems long for normal jobs, but it’s nothing compared to the 40 years of faculty life. Neither a sabbatical nor maternity leave are “time off” and they are both certainly appropriate to negotiate. And she wasn’t requesting a reduced teaching load – she was requesting a limited number of preps, which is again, quite common and even expected at many places.

    • I think I can offer another perspective to this conversation, which I avidly followed after it showed up around the “academic web.” I’m one of those rare types that has spent a career about equally in academe and in industry, so I’ve negotiated many offers in both spheres. One point on which I can emphatically agree — pick up the phone and talk to your “hiring manager” (chair/dean) right away. Chances are that the person making the offer is NOT the person that will approve your hire. You must consider the offeree as a colleague and friend, and let that inform your tone and stance in negotiations. A chair or sometimes even a Dean will have to submit and discuss any requests to another level. Make your case, be friendly and real, and consider that this is someone you will be working with — EVERY DAY — for quite a while to come.

      One thing I’ve always done, in all my negotiations, whether for an academic or industry position, is establish our mutual stakes and interests, first and foremost. I even say something like “… I consider this discussion our first project together…” and go from there. As for picking up the phone — absolutely yes — email is considered cold and formal — and it is not the way to talk through the initial conditions that will be important for your working life for the next 5-7 years. After your on campus visit, you should have reached some sort of warmish approach to the chair/dean and a collegial talk about the offer should be easier. My best advice is not to be intimidated, ask for what you need, but as KK has advised, make sure your requests are in line with the institution and their needs.

  20. I wonder if the second choice candidate knows about this, and if it played into their negotiations? Surely whoever Nazareth offered the job to knows W’s story by now.

  21. Karen, I’ve had a question for a while (related to this thread) and haven’t managed to find an answer in my perusals of CHE fora or from reading your blog.

    How many rounds should one expect the negotiation to go back and forth?

    Initial offer from hiring institution. Additional requests from candidate. Then final offer from institution? Or should the candidate push things once (or twice or thrice) more?

    • Well, this all depends on how things are going and the particular process… but i generally recommend an offer, a candidate set of requests, a response, a slight nudge by the candidate in response (ie, well if x is off the table then I’d like to request more y), and then finished.

  22. As a prof at a Jesuit college, I have to say that the accusation that religious places are not transparent is troubling and not at ALL equivalent to my experience, or applicable to the case (The school in question is not religious). Please cite the data. The bias against religious affiliated colleges is astounding, considering especially that MOST of our old, revered higher education institutions were once first religious. Ugh.

    • I don’t have data, only my experience working with over two thousand clients. The clients who were dealing with the most naked abuses of power, secretive decision-making, and/or rescinded offers were at small religious colleges.

  23. I didn’t read through all of the responses, so maybe this has been mentioned…

    The college cannot comment on this issue for obvious legal reasons, so we only have one side of the story to really know. But there is something about this that makes me think the rescinding of the offer might not have been because of the negotiating email she wrote. That email might have been a “final straw” in an ongoing conversation that had become frustrating to the college. She did say she had been having numerous conversations (I think they were email, yes?). Is it possible that when the negotiating email came, someone at the college said “Good grief! Enough, already! Let’s hire someone else.”

    That’s not to say that W did anything wrong. Email, to me, is a pretty dangerous tool to use, because tone, intent, etc. can be lost in it. Something went wrong in the communication, and I’m not sure I’d criticize either side too much. This sounds very much like a bad fit, and the process came to that conclusion. So both sides succeeded. That it went as far as an offer is unfortunate, and it provides a learning point for both W and the college.

    As a former K-12 administrator, so many times when I had to discipline an employee, or someone didn’t get a job, there would be loud complaining of injustice, and I’d get beat up about it publicly. My response? “I cannot comment on personnel issues” And there was ALWAYS another side to the story. So perhaps it is my experience that brings my gut feeling on so strongly, but there it is.

  24. Pingback: Know your audience | Memoirs of a SLACer

  25. I asked this once before but never got a response sooooo

    I am contemplating a SLAC TT position where I get paid over 12 months. They pay is ok but not great. Would negotiating for extra courses (ie course overloads [12 instead of the standard 9 credits] or summer classes be acceptable? What are your thoughts?

  26. Pingback: How to Negotiate a Job Contract | You on the Market

  27. I hate to say that this just happened to me…yesterday. I had not even gotten to the point of being able to negotiate (and yes, this is a SLAC with a religious affiliation). I was told that the department decided at the last minute to “go a different direction” and that I was welcome to re-apply when they reopened the search next year.

    It is important to note that this particular search, and subsequent offer, were part of a program in increase the number of female faculty in STEM departments. By re-opening the search next year, the department will not have this contstraint. I was told they felt they were being pressured into using up one of their tenure lines and although they enthusiastically gave me the offer, decided they hadn’t fully discussed it within the department after all.

    They had the dean notify me of this during the phone call I had scheduled to accept the offer…I am shocked, crushed, and now jobless.

  28. Hi, I have a question that I hope someone could answer. I had applied for a job in Jan and just had the interview yesterday. The advt did not mention start date, and no one mentioned it during the interview either. Stupidly, I did not ask as I presumed that with summer interviews, the start must be next year. I love the place, people and it’s going to be great for my career. But they will take another 2-3 weeks to make a decision. It’s a public university. Just in case I get the offer, should I negotiate the start date to at least January? Should I call/email them right now and ask about it? My fear of doing so is that they may not consider me then. I don’t want to put my current employer in a soup as my colleagues have been very nice and supportive all along. But I also don’t want to miss this opportunity.

  29. Pingback: Negotiating As Therapy | The Professor Is In

  30. Pingback: Will They Pull a Faculty Position Offer? | The Vetducator

  31. Pingback: More on Negotiating–Thoughts from an R1 Department Head | The Professor Is In

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