Female Professor Negotiates, Then Loses, Job Offer

Women routinely fail to negotiate starting salaries and benefits, out of fear that their future employers will think them greedy and rescind the job offer. Most of the time, experts tell us, there's nothing to worry about. And then, every so often, there's a story like this.

rejected 

(Photo Credit: renjith krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net)

A female professor, who goes only by the initial W., received a job offer from a college, identified as an "SLAC-Nazareth College" by The Philosophy Smoker, a blog that quoted both her letter and the college's response. The blogger, who appears to also be in academia, noted that her requests were "fairly standard deal-sweeteners."

W's letter:

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.

The college's response:

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.

That's right: on the face of things, it appears that the professor attempted to negotiate, and that attempt resulted in the college rescinding on its offer of employment.

Before we jump entirely to conclusions, however, it's worth taking a look at the comments on Jezebel's coverage of this story, particularly those that note that "minimal class time is a hallmark of research universities," and that the professor asked for a raise and four perks, something that might not be standard for the culture of the prospective employer.

Still, the college's response seems problematic for several reasons:

1. W's requests were just that -- asks, not demands. If candidates aren't allowed to ask for what they want before accepting a job, when are they allowed to? To say that offers of employment should be conditional on not attempting to negotiate for anything seems unreasonable.

2. One of W's requests pertained to maternity leave. Even though the college didn't mention that particular request in its response, it seems risky, on their part, to leave themselves open to the accusation that they discriminated against a candidate based on her future childbearing choices.

3. It's hard to picture a man being rejected for attempting to negotiate a job offer, but even if we give the college the benefit of the doubt on that one, their response at least betrays an academic culture that expects its junior faculty to take what they get.

Regardless of the tough employment environment in academia, this seems like a lousy way to start a job. Maybe, in fact, the college did W. a favor.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think that W. asked for too much, or is negotiating a job offer always a reasonable idea? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

2 Comments

  1. 2 Manu 18 Sep
    I think the college's response was justified. Just like how W was looking for a job that was more suited to how she works, the college is looking for people who are more suited to how they work - and I believe they should have the right to turn down someone who wouldn't fit in. And those were more of demands than 'negotiation' - she was basically saying "I'd like a nice fat raise, very little work and let me start when I feel like it" (who cares about you requiring someone to start urgently - which is possibly why they were hiring in the first place). I don't pity her tbh - I would have possibly done the same when I see an email like that come in. Colletta, about your previous comment - I don't really think the college was trying to 'woo' her, as exemplified by the outcome. Why do we keep forgetting that finding a good job is much harder than finding employees, especially in a field like academia?
  2. 1 Colletta 08 May

    Yes, they did her a favor. If that's how they respond when they are hoping to woo her. Imagine how they would respond once they already had her. 

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