Negotiating

There is this pernicious idea floating around that young academics who are looking for their first job need to negotiate to improve on the contract they are offered. It’s so ridiculous because, unlike many other industries, academia – in the Humanities especially – is not a job-seeker’s market. It’s the hirer’s market to an absolutely ridiculous degree. It’s delusional to pretend that it isn’t so. You can’t act is if there weren’t 300 people fighting for every position.

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30 thoughts on “Negotiating”

  1. The strategy of hiring committees is already to try and avoid hiring anybody that might be a trouble maker regarding labor issues. This is in addition to what is hinted at above and revoking job offers for people that try and negotiate. Unless you are a super star it is probably a bad idea to try and ask for more. But, the advice to push for more in these situations has been around for a while. BTW, the advice is said to be especially valuable for women yet search committees are far more likely to revoke offers to women in these situations.

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    1. All you are saying is true. It sucks but we need to see reality.

      By the way, I have you to thank for finally going to a doctor for my health issues. You made me aware it might be heart trouble. It turned out I have something different but at least now I know.

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  2. Actually, once the offer is made it is a good idea to ask. Not demand: ask. Is there X, is there Y, is this the final salary offer or is there any negotiating room. We routinely offer slightly less than we are allowed to offer, so we can go up, or if we are not asked then that money is freed to the pool and that person is permanently less expensive, since raises are percentages of the original amount. It’s always good to start as high as you can because of the percentage issue and because of the fact that there aren’t always raises, and we never get cost of living.

    What amazes me is graduate students who want to negotiate on TA salaries, but I have heard that in fact that can be done too. It shocks me since I think everyone should make the same but — well — life is expensive and if you can get it I suppose you should, although I’m still old fashioned and wouldn’t want to start a graduate program as That Person. The way in which I could be wrong is, perhaps nowadays if you accept the first offer you start as That Dupe. ?

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    1. I yesterday had a debate with a person who wants to negotiate getting paid for preparing the syllabi for the first semester of teaching at the new school. What can this possibly bring but resentment on the part of all the future colleagues who think doing the course prep is a regular part of the job?

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      1. Yes, this is something I’ve also experienced. It has to do with people who have worked in public schools or community college where syllabus preparation is in fact a separate job, paid separately.

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      2. There are also people who don’t think you should have to go to meetings unless they are paid. It has to do in part with the idea of not realizing what it is to work on salary instead of by the hour. Sometimes I think they are right.

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        1. Yes, I’ve heard of that syllabus thing, but I haven’t experienced it first hand. I agree that obnoxious levels of demands from a candidate can be a bit much, but you also have to think that the candidate you are offering the job to has won out over 200 other people, in many cases. They should be allowed to ask for a bit more without any stigma, because raises, as Z has mentioned, are percentages, so if you start low you could be screwed for life. Once you have accepted an offer you have zero leverage for anything else.

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          1. We actually now have an instructor who is responsible for writing the syllabi for all of the courses that use the basic textbook. This is because not everyone speaks enough English to write a professional-looking syllabus, not everyone agrees or will ever agree on what the syllabus should be, not everyone does it on time, etc., and some people are hired at the last minute or parachuted in if their graduate seminar does not make. He isn’t paid extra to do it that I know of but I think he gets some form of course release, something. Syllabus construction, especially for a course like that, is a huge thing and it is possible that instructor/adjunct pay isn’t actually enough to cover it. Again, some people only know they will be teaching the course one business day ahead of time, or less.

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            1. I have rejected all attempts to impose a shared syllabus in Beginner Spanish on me. Other people even do the same tests across sections. But this takes all the fun out of it for me.

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              1. I know you have managed this but it amazes me — would not fly anywhere I have worked. What I am interested in teaching in Spanish 1 is completely different than what anyone else is. I am for a huge aural / oral component; I am for creating one’s own sentences expressing one’s own ideas; I am for teaching some preterit forms even before students have total perfection on all present conjugations; I am for reading. Therefore, if I teach Spanish 1 according to my lights, students are TOTALLY unprepared for Spanish 2 if it means needing to know how to be perfect at certain kinds of mechanical exercises and never making a spelling error. All my effort on aural/oral will be wasted and students will just suffer, and I will have poor evaluations and be called on the carpet for not following departmental learning goals. I don’t see how you get out of this, but more power to you!

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              2. Well, unlike the foolish experts, you and I actually speak 4 or 5 languages at super high levels and have some type of competence at a few more. And we have learned these languages in different ways. So we can in fact say something about what works, AND we can relate to the students’ experience because we know what it is actually like to learn a new language. All too many language teachers are native speakers who only have one second language and who speak that one badly, or non-native who only have one second language and learned that however they did, but often in some type of special circumstance. Because I do not relate to such people, I do not think of myself as a language teacher, do not want to be grouped with people like that, but upon reflection I think I should probably stand in my identity as one and insist upon being counted.

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  3. When I was offered my current job, it was after their top candidate turned it down. It was between me and the other guy, as they had not brought anyone else to campus. I knew that, and so I felt like I could ask for a little more than what I’d been offered. Of course, it was a calculated risk, and the fact that I was so desperate made it really nerve wracking. Basically how it went down was the provost called and said he’s like to offer me the job with a starting salary of 46K. I said, “I’m very interested in the job. Is the salary negotiable?” He asked what I had in mind. I said 50K, because that was the going rate for an assistant professor in my field in the area at the time. (I’m sure it’s closer to 55-60 now.) He said, “I don’t want to quibble about a couple of thousand dollars, so yeah, we’ll do 50.” I’m glad I asked, because the raises have been abysmal until the last two years when a new dean was installed. Even then, the raises haven’t been stellar. But 3% is a hell of a lot more than some people are getting elsewhere, and a whole percentage point more than I used to get.

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    1. Right. And I think it is some sort of urban myth that asking this kind of question will get an offer rescinded. Do people think that if the salary hadn’t been negotiable you would have had to turn the job down, or something? (I remember working at a place where people imagined that if you went on the market, you would never get a job again because you would be reported nationwide as having betrayed the place we were by going on the market. Delusional.)

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      1. There was one well-known case a year or two ago of an offer being rescinded because the person wanted to negotiate starting a year late, plus a bunch of other conditions. That probably scared people a lot.

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        1. Jonathan – I think that that case was one in which the person was asking for quite a lot. When you’re just asking for a couple thousand more dollars so you can start at a market rate, that’s entirely different, in my opinion.

          Plus, I hate to say, I wouldn’t want to work at a place that rescinded an offer because of asking for slightly more money. That’s just insane. There are many other things I can do. I’d miss teaching, but I wouldn’t die without it.

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          1. I agree. The case actually happened a in 2014 and the demands were these: ““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.”
            She ended the email by saying “I know that some of these might be easier to grant than others. Let me know what you think.”

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            1. Yeah – those negotiations are really over the top. Whoever advised her to ask for such a laundry list was off their rocker!

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            2. I would have asked: Can you go up at all on salary?

              During the interview I would have already asked: Are there pre-tenure sabbaticals here? What if I get a Fulbright/ACLS fellowship, etc. — how would that work with departmental and college plans here? I would also have asked: what will I be teaching? do you know what the range will be? I might also have asked: how many different courses I will have at once? how many new class preparations per year do assistant professors normally have here? how feasible is it to repeat courses? etc.

              I would not have asked to change the start date: I am the one who applied for a job starting on X date, so I guess I would have planned to quit the postdoc if I go tired.

              I would have asked on the grapevine what they do about maternity leave. You have your 12 weeks of FMLA but it takes a while to accumulate the sick days to cover pay. How do people do it there / how have they? I wouldn’t have asked in interview or negotiations directly because in my day it looked very bad to paint self as mother, certainly not before tenure. I would have come up with my plan and then NOT revealed pregnancy until it really happened and I HAD to take leave (note that the students only take a couple of weeks; in a worst case scenario I might just have to do that, too).

              THAT IS: I would already have information, or a position on her points 2-5, and there would be nothing left to ask for except: more salary? moving expenses? startup funds for computer, library books in field, travel to conferences and archives? And I would be asking, not demanding.

              You have to ask a lot of questions during interviews. I did not ask enough here because there were issues I didn’t know enough about the place to ask about. I didn’t ask in my first job interview whether I would have my own office, because I thought that would go without saying; then I didn’t get my own office and there were no plans to get me one. So I have always asked about offices after that.

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          2. Of course, asking if the salary can be higher is perfectly normal. But people take it so much farther than that and begin to ask for an earlier starting date because they need time to move, for extra pay for syllabi, for a job for a wife before they even get an offer. All of this, literally all of it – in the form of course releases, funding, etc – can be gotten without aggravating anybody once a person starts working.

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            1. Well, while interviewing it is worth asking a lot of questions about how a place works, although asking for $ to write syllabi is just too callow. And I actually do notice that negotiating certain things in works well for a lot of people; it’s just not something that really corresponds to a new asst. prof. to do. Job for wife, I just hate it when they ask that.

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        2. Well, in this place I negotiated starting a year late, and it was a good thing, too. I was contract and had already had to sign on there for the following year, because it took these people so long to actually produce a contract. I kept everyone aware. Once I had signed on for the next year I did not want to break contract, for various reasons having to do with their convenience and mine. Then they finally come up with a contract from here, only two months before classes started and I was looking at a cross-country move and I said well — what about starting the following year? fully expecting them to say no and they said yes. Later, someone else kept renegotiating, I will come next year, and next year, and next.

          But I am not talking about putting conditions, I am talking about asking what is possible. A lot of people, when they get an offer and ask for a match, and don’t get it or don’t get all of it, feel they have to take that offer whether they want to or not. I wouldn’t, but then again I wouldn’t have said “I will leave unless…” in the first place.

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      2. Z – What I did is, I think, in line with pretty typical, normal negotiations. The thing about not telling people you’re going on the market for fear of being blacklisted is so absurd. In no other field would such a fantasy last five minutes. Smh…

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  4. I negotiated for a slightly higher starting salary (which given how anemic our raises have been over the years, I’m very glad that I did) as well as for moving expenses. Both were cheerfully granted to me but wouldn’t have been if I had not asked. So I think that some negotiation is important before you accept a job. (But I remember that 2014 Nazareth example that Jonathan refers to and it was, indeed, insane.)

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