Monday, February 11, 2008

Your Love's Got Me Lookin' So Crazy Right Now

Remember Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre? You know, Rochester's crazy wife, who he secretly keeps locked up in his attic? Well, I am Bertha Mason.

The Future Dr. Mrs Dr. PGS has had some fly-outs, which is awesome. (In fact, she's had an all around better year on the market than I have. She works on the language and literature of a part of the world that's salient to a lot of Americans these days, owing to events of the past few years. It seems a lot of schools are looking to beef up their course offerings in the sorts of things she can teach.) Anyway, one of the things she's been dealing with in conversations with faculty in the departments she's visiting is the need to keep my existence on the down-low. All the advice she's got from her people, and all the advice I've got from mine, is to keep the two-body problem out of the picture until she's got an offer in hand. Especially in cases where there might be different factions in a department pulling for different candidates, she doesn't want to give anyone any reason to think she's going to be complicating their lives.

This puts the Future Dr. Mrs Dr. in a totally different position on campus visits than another friend of ours. Unlike us, this friend had the good sense to find an SO who wanted be a lawyer. So now that he's got his law degree, he's all portable and she's an academic with no two-body problem. Nice. But she's also cunning, this friend of ours. So on her campus visits, she made sure to drop enough information to let department members know her SO was a lawyer and could follow her. (When I've got the chance, I'll come back to why it seems like this is information women need to convey a lot more than men do.)

But the Future Dr. Mrs Dr.? Not so much. She's been bobbing and weaving like the sixth-grade dodge-ball champ she never was. She's had conversations where, frankly, it was just weird not to mention me. Like, she just moved to the city I live in last year, so why does she have such a first-hand feel for how it's changed over the past n years? Hm. But in any case, so far she's managed to keep hidden the dark secret of her BF, the loser philosopher.

And me? Up I trundle into my attic, to wail and gnash and be generally insane.


Anonymous said...

I like these kinds of posts.

TT Newb said...

PGS, your partner's instincts seem right to me. My SO, also in lit, went out with me this year. We both did pretty well, though in her case it is more impressive since she is just coming off her defense in December. Strangely, the bad news was that she generated an offer very quickly from one school quite close to where we are now (I have a TT job in a not so humanities friendly school). This early, though less than ideal, offer forced her to out me as a significant factor in her decision on two on-campus visits. She said in both cases there was a palpable deterioration in the visit as time progressed. Neither school gave her offer.

Hence, I would be inclined to wait if you can. The three people invited for an on-campus visit are usually relatively similar in skills, abilities, program strengths etc. As a consequence, moving their interest from one to another is not terribly difficult early on. Once, however, someone has been annointed as "the" choice, then things change dramatically. That individual's good qualities become increasingly exaggerated and the fear of being turned down makes departments strangely irrational. Certainly, departments would like to know earlier, but overall I think the best choice is not to tell early on.

I also wanted to address something I have read here over the past few days. I think your concerns about a VAP are justified to some extent, but also misplaced in another way. There are certain people, in my department as a grad student we called them the "golden people", who graduate out of their programs and into top R1 positions automatically. They tend to be very smart, often good looking, and profoundly confident/arrogant. They are their own press junket. Many others, equally skillful, tend to be less self-involved, self-promoting, etc and require some time, usually as a VAP or in a TT at a less impressive school. The thing to keep in mind is that schools differ widely in what they find attractive. My on-campus this year at a R1 involved absolutely no questions about teaching or work with graduate students. Instead, it was single-mindedly about research. Other interviewers found the details about my teaching to be the most compelling part of my application. (Though not compelling enough unfortunately.) Some good schools in great places care deeply about teaching, others don't. So while there is a sense in which becoming a VAP might play a role in disqualifying you from some jobs, it opens up other opportunities.

frustrated partner said...

my significant other and I are in kind of a similar position. And it really bothers me because I don't like lying, or feeling like I am close to lying, or doing anything deceptive. Yet the situation is such that not only should I do this, in order to act in our best interests, but its somewhat expected. That the otherwise very nice SC members would, if giving me objective third party advice, tell me to do just this.

I don't like this facet of the job market, where it is set up in such a way as to require us to be mildly deceptive, or to sabotage our own chances.

Anonymous said...

I guess there's one plus to being single--as we near Valentine's Day.

Anonymous said...

I have a boyfriend who is also an academic. To keep this quiet on the job market, whenever I tell a story or give a fact that essentially concerns him, I just say "a friend of mine."

Then I blush uncontrollably and get very starry-eyed. I don't think I'm fooling anyone...

Anonymous said...

You're male? This makes your foul-mouth more explicable, but your self-pitying whining even more pathetic.

Anonymous said...

7:52 - Oh, for Christ's sake with the f'ing backwards gender norms. PGS - it sucks to deal with the two body problem. That being said, with the way your previous posts have really illustrated an understanding of women's issues, the future Dr Mrs PGS is a *very* lucky woman. You are so worth a few fibs and blushes!!

Anonymous said...


male or female, you are equally repulsive.

St. Valentine said...

I sympthaize; I am part of an academic couple too. Both philosophers, both with a PhD from the same program. And there were 2 or 3 other couples we went to grad school with. It's an epidemic....

The CHE has lots of columns on this. Some helpful, some not. But navigating the two body problem CAN BE DONE. We know couples who have shared jobs, commuted and then re-located once a job in the same city opened up, one partner got a TT and one was a VAP until something opened up, etc.

My advice is to make sure that you and your SO are clear about what you will and will not do on the job market. And once that is decided, you need to stick to it no matter what your respective academic advisors says. Because sometimes their career advice will be at odds with your personal arrangements, etc. So you just need to be aware of that.

Some individuals and some SCs are anti-academic couples. (I once had someone tell me that their institution had an anti-nepotism policy when I raised the general issue of academic couples being hired by them) Some individuals and some SCs are pro-academic couples and will aggressively recruit them (Public/private universities in Maine have a recruitment policy to share job ads and info amongst themselves in order to recruit and retain academic couples; Carleton University in Canada and University of Maine Farmington both encourage applications from academic couples)

Keep us posted; we're all cheering you and your SO on...

Anonymous said...

don't feed the trolls means don't feed them, people. trust that all the rest of us feel the same and just leave it alone.

spot on with the jane eyre connection. but doesn't she die in a fiery inferno at the end, and he runs back in to save her but ends up dramatically mutilated for his efforts?

there must be another novel with a hidden significant other and a better ending.

Newly tenured prof said...

My experience is not vast, but I have been on a handful of SCs in the past few years. During that time we did not let the status of the SO affect our decision. We were looking for the best person, and if s/he had an SO who also is an academic, then so be it.

I know the worry you have is this: if the SC discovers you have an SO who is also an academic, then you may not stick around for long if they cannot offer your SO a position as well. But the number of reasons a candidate might leave are truly limitless, and we tend to just push that to the side. As long as the candidates express interest in the school, we are going to consider them on their merits, and leave their personal issues out of it.

Maybe we are not the norm, but perhaps other people on SCs could chime in--has the fact that a candidate has an SO who is an academic ever made any difference at all?

Anonymous said...

Just a word of caution. If you get the offer, and then say, "Thanks, I really like your school, but I have a SO who also needs a job," this counts legally as opening up negotiations, and at this point the school is legally allowed to rescind the offer (which they also are if you ask for more money, etc., so be very careful how you phrase this sort of thing!). And they may feel inclined to do so if they feel you deceived them along the way. So, whatever you do, be careful not do be deceitful along the way...

Anonymous said...

It is best to not reveal anything about your SO, especially if you are female, and most especially if they will need an accommodation, on an on campus interview. I say this as someone who has sat on a hiring committee several times, as someone who had been on the job market twice in the past, and as someone who is currently interviewing.

Keeping quiet is not easy. During my last on campus interview, at a Leitermiddling dept., I was asked POINT BLANK by THREE search committee members whether I had a spouse that would need an accommodation. Turns out, they have a terrible track record of losing candidates to the two body problem, and a lot of bitterness as a result.

I managed not to answer in each case, but there is no question in my mind that these folks want to know, and that my getting an offer from them will depend in part on the answer.

There is a good thread on the CHE forums on this issue (and even a new board dedicated to the two body problem).

Anonymous said...

Anon. 7:52, presumably the self-identified "troll": can you do us all a small favor? Can you tell us what your relationship to philosophy actually is? Are you a grad student? Prof? Dropout now making bundles of money, convinced all academics are pussies? Interested bystander? Not... that... I want to change the subject... but... I actually am fascinated by the interactions of academics and para-academics and nonacademics online, so indulge me.

If I had to guess, I would guess that you were a good philosophy major in college who then went on to take a "real job", who occasionally looks back at the academic world to see if it's still as emasculating as you remember. But that is, you know, typecasting.

(Also: if you're not the "troll", my apologies -- but hey, there's this other guy you should hang out with! You'd get along well...)

Anonymous said...

I am not anonymous 7:52. That is someone else. Anonymous posts are anonymous, don't assume you can figure out who wrote them, because you can't.

Prof. J. said...

I don't believe my department has ever decided not to offer someone a job because we thought he wouldn't come without a spousal hire. I suppose if a candidate actually told us that she wouldn't come unless our own department offered her spouse a job too, and we decided we weren't going to offer the spouse a job, then in that case we wouldn't make the pointless gesture of offering the candidate a job. But we're in an area where there would be a decent chance of a spouse getting a job within commuting distance, so maybe that means it is easier for us to proceed without worrying about a spouse.

I think it is in general a pretty bad thing for a SC to second-guess a candidate. The department really ought to decide who would be best, and then offer that person the job, with a smallish decision window if necessary. I do remember my department deciding not to offer a very stellar person a job on the grounds that he was almost certain to accept another offer he already had. I objected to that decision. (My colleagues were right about the facts, it turned out.)

I thought it was against the law for a SC to ask (as in 8:41 am) anything about your marital status, including whether you are married or partnered to an academic. Of course, if they break that law, there is still the question of what you should do. Yikes, that's a hard one. If you end up not getting the job, you could certainly complain to a dean, I think.

Anonymous said...

Hm. This is making me very worried. I've mentioned my 2 body problem to every school I've visited. Since I changed my name after publishing, it wasn't going to be possible to hide that I was married. And somehow what he does has always come up naturally in conversation and I haven't make the effort to hide it.

I do know that at a certain Canadian school, they seemed to get really excited about the fact that I had a spousal situation, suggesting that this might be a good way of keeping me there once they offered him a job too. But then, an offer even for me hasn't been forthcoming (although it is still early, right????).

on the other hand said...

I was on a search committee at an R1 located in a decent but somewhat rural city. Some committee members were worried about whether unmarried women candidates would be happy in the area, since (it seemed to some) there wasn't much, er, "boyfriend" material close at hand. Seems that some of the committee members thought that a single, PhD-toting woman philosopher might get lonely out there. (We were three hours from a major US city.)

I do not believe that this ended up making a difference, but it came up more than once in meetings.

Asstro said...

7:40 says something that I think is false, but I suppose I'm open to being persuaded otherwise.

7:40 says that "X counts legally as opening up negotiations, and that the school can then legally rescind the offer." I'm not concerned about X. I'm concerned about the extent to which opening negotiations can empower a school suddenly to rescind an offer.

Disregard the question of what's proper or wise, I guess I have two questions here:

(1) Is this true, legally, that once a candidate with offer in hand asks for an amendment to the offer, that this then makes it possible for the school to walk away from the candidate? This seems implausible to me. It would mean that all offers are take-it-or-leave it propositions, and that there are no circumstances in which one isn't seriously jeopardizing one's livelihood if one asks for an alteration, no matter how slight.

(2) If it is true, is it right?

If the answer to (1) is that it's true, I guess I was doing something far stupider than I realized when I negotiated for my position. Thank goodness I didn't ask for too much.

I'm inclined to think that it's neither true legally nor right morally, but I'd say that this is a topic that should be ironed out soon on this blog since a lot of students will be entering this phase in the coming weeks.

Toby said...

My advice is to make sure that you and your SO are clear about what you will and will not do on the job market.

It's also good to have a safety word, such as 'asparagus', in case things go too far.

Anonymous said...

Totally off topic, I know, but since this blog is much more active than the wiki's own discussion board:

In many cases, information about who is being interviewed for a position is readily available: many departments have job talks listed and even labeled on their events/colloquia pages. Some other fields (i.e. physics) track this: why not add this information to the wiki?

Along a similar line: over on Leiter's page, announcements of accepted offers are beginning to trickle in. Why not add this (i.e., who has been hired and what their previous status was) as well?

In both cases, we could gain a lot of data relevant to many of the questions we've been worrying about (i.e., how common is VAPing before getting a TT job?)

sex and the city said...

Seems that some of the committee members thought that a single, PhD-toting woman philosopher might get lonely out there.

This issue has come up -- regarding both single men and single women -- at more than 1 institution I've SC'd at. Mostly when contemplating senior hires, though.

Anonymous said...

Question: Has the job market destroyed anyone else's sex life?

I don't mean indirectly, as in "yes, the job market destroyed my sex life because the only place I could get a job was in Bumpkin, OK, where there is no one to date".

I mean something more like: "yes, the job market destroyed my sex life in that I couldn't possibly relax enough or get it up or feel worthy and desired enough to have sex, etc."

Anonymous said...

"Seems that some of the committee members thought that a single, PhD-toting woman philosopher might get lonely out there. "

This has certainly been true at my institution (though less so in my department itself). The retention rate for junior female faculty at the University has been much lower than it has been for the male faculty, with a significant number choosing to drop out of academia rather than continue to live here. A good friend of mine in another department did this, and while she had many complaints were about small-town life in general, the problems with being single Ph.D. in small town were at the top of the list.

Anonymous said...

Probably only an employment lawyer could answer the legal question with confidence.

But the idea makes sense. I offer you a dollar for you sandwich. If you say "yes", we have a verbal agreement, and its enforceable. If you say, "no, but I'll take $1.50," I can walk away. That's how negotiation works.

Prof. J. said...

There's something I'm not getting.

Why is it worse for women to be single in a small isolated lonely academic town than it is for men?

Anonymous said...

anon. 2:48 -

YES! The job market has interfered with pretty much all parts of my life, but particularly the part you mentioned. The last 6 months have just been a black hole.

Anonymous said...


According to my university's overpaid lawyers, if a candidate asks for more after being offered the job they are technically refusing the job. Think of negotiating for the price of a house: if you're selling and I offer you the price you're asking, you're obligated to sell it to me. But if I offer you less than when you're asking, you're not. Normally, that's how bargaining begins. But at each moment in the bargaining process, once it's begun, only one party in obligated to the other. So if your house is selling for 300K and I formally offer you 250k, I'm obligated to pay that if you accept my offer. But if you come back and ask for 280K, I can walk away. Or I can offer you 260K, and you can accept it or make a counter-offer, and so on. Same principle with job negotiations.

Say a university offers you a T-T job at 55K starting salary plus 8K moving costs, a research budget of 5K that recurs for the first three years. You can accept it and they are legally obligated to honor their offer. Or you can negotiate. But the moment you ask for something else -- a higher salary, more research money, a teaching reduction, a job for your SO, etc. -- you've technically rejected their original offer and at that moment they are no longer legally obligated to honor it. Normally, of course, they will honor it, because they want to hire you; they've gone through a lot of time and trouble to reach the decision that you're the best person for the job.

My original point was just that if you behave at this point in a way that leads the hiring department to revise its previously good opinion of you (say, by making it clear that you've been purposefully deceiving them about the fact that you won't take the job unless it comes with an offer for your SO), then you are in fact taking a major risk. This is a good reason to be straight-forward about a SO during your on-campus, so that you know if a job for your SO is a realistic possibility at this place, rather than springing it on them at the last minute. If you do that, you'd better be a hot candidate with other offers, IMHO. (All of this comes from first hand experience, unfortunately.)

I realize that being honest about your situation makes it more likely that you'll be discriminated against, but legally they can't discriminate against you for having a SO, so there are good ethical reasons for honesty by both parties, which would obviate most of the ethical problems that arise.

Anonymous said...

Prof J,

I suspect that the idea is that men are more likely than women to seek dates/partners/spouses who have less education, make less money, etc. So, in situations in which very few of the single people within shouting distance have comparable educational attainment etc., the dating pool is far larger for men than women.

Anonymous said...

Think of negotiating for the price of a house: if you're selling and I offer you the price you're asking, you're obligated to sell it to me. But if I offer you less than when you're asking, you're not.

First of all, that's not true. If you advertise your house for $250,000, and I offer you the full price but twenty minutes later someone else offers you $275,000, you don't have to sell me the house at the advertised price. (I suppose this may vary from state to state, but it's definitely true in my state.)

Second, a job offer is unlike the sale of a house in many ways. What usually happens is that the school will send the candidate a letter of offer, with a kind of expiration date. If the candidate signs the letter and returns it by the expiration date, it's a binding contract. The candidate does not void the offer by asking for more money.

But, remember, you should not consider yourself to have a real offer at all until you have the letter in hand. A department chair might have the best intentions but the matter could easily be out of her control. The department vote doesn't obligate the college or university to hire you. (Of course, a department offer almost always does result in a contract, so don't worry about it too much. I'm just saying you should remember the legalities.)

Anonymous said...

"There's something I'm not getting.
Why is it worse for women to be single in a small isolated lonely academic town than it is for men?"

Anon 3:10 again, but judging from my friend's limited experience it was partially due to the fact that she felt that the non-university male population (who primarily did not have any sort of graduate or professional degree) found it a major turn-off that she was a professor, while the local female population didn't have the same sort of negative reaction to male professors. She claimed that these guys weren't looking for a smart women who was, in a very relevant sense, higher on the social pecking order than they were. She found plenty of that attitude in the cities, but it was much more prevalent in small towns (or at least *our* small town).

tenured philosophy girl said...

Anon 4:19 -

Um, I'm no lawyer, but no, that's not how it works.

If you're buying a house, you put in an offer for 250K and you put a date on it - it must be accepted or rejected by 5:00 pm Wednesday or whatever. The seller can then say 'how about 280K?' but this does NOT mean they rejected your offer and nullified it - they can still legally take you up on the 250K until 5:00 pm Wednesday. I've bought 4 houses in my life. I promise this is true. I suspect you are doing Armchair Real Estate Law.

Likewise, why in the world would saying to the job offer of 55K, "How about 60K?", count as a 'technical refusal' of the offer of 55K? Of course it doesn't! You might say - and mean - "I'm not saying I won't come for 55K but I'd sure be more likely to come for 60K". It happens all the time. The original offer remains binding until its time limit, which is virtually always specified explicitly, runs out.

Apparently your university's lawyers are indeed overpaid!

Prof. J. said...

I see, thanks. (Those two answers fit together well.) I never would have guessed that.

on the other hand said...

Prof. J,

I think the worry was more-or-less what Anon 3:10/5:34 describes. FWIW, I do not recall this issue coming up when we discussed any of our single male candidates. I've only been involved with SC's seeking asst profs, not assoc. or full profs.

Mr. Zero said...

anon 5:28:

I'm not a lawyer or a homeowner, but I have a friend who is both. He tells me that if somebody advertises his house for $250,000 and you make an offer, then what can happen after that crucially depends on whether he accepts the offer or not. If he accepts, then it is your house, not his, and if someone comes along 20 minutes later and offers more, that's too bad for him because it's not his house anymore. (Of course, a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on.)

What this has to do with salary negotiations, I don't know. However, I would imagine that until an agreement has been reached, the hiring department is free to do whatever it wants, whether it wants to increase the offer or withdraw it completely.

Anonymous said...

No one suggested that bargaining on the job market was *exactly* like bargaining for a house. It seems obvious that the point of the analogy was to explain that when you don't accept the offer but instead make a further demand you're giving your bargaining partner an "out" to rescind the offer if they're so inclined.

fellow grad student said...

Uhh.... Can I get a post on best practices for preparing for next year?


Anonymous said...

Excellent thread. Thanks PGS.
I'm female and at every single one of my campus visits (at leiterriffic places) I got asked, subtly about my relationship status. I have a two body problem and thought it wise not to answer the questions and didn't offer any information. I had the sense that this harmed me: it made me come across as cagey and impersonal. Would be great to know what SCs think about this.

Anonymous said...

Very sad reflection of our society, but probably true.

Anonymous said...

It seems that the ideal female candidate is an avowed spinster with no plans of children either. And people wonder why it's hard to get women to go into philosophy...

It's especially frustrating for a young, attached female trying to create a career in this outdated academic framework which was invented before there were females in academia!

Denny Crane said...

Folks, stop the legal eagle nonsense. When a school makes an official offer, you get it in writing. From the time that the offer is received, you typically have two weeks to accept or refuse (I believe this is APA policy). Within this two week period you could ask that your salary be raised to a Gajillion dollars and cocaine-covered lemurs be placed in your office every wednesday, and guess what, they will say "No" but that doesn't mean they can rescind the offer.

It takes a massive and I mean fucking massive legal effort to rescind an offer to a fucking grad student for graduate school. Once that shit is on paper, until the time runs out, you are golden. Stop worrying, and start negotiating!

Anonymous said...

A word about spousal hires. In my university at least there is a real difference between intradepartment spousal hires and interdepartment spousal hires. As a department, we like it when one philosopher we like is married, or otherwise attached to another philosopher we like. We like to go to the dean and make an argument that we need another line to capitalize on the rare opportunity before us. My department has a good track record of convincing the dean to go along (though a bad track record of actually getting the couple). Things become more complicated if we don't like one member of the couple, though we might try to arrange VAPs or adjunct work. The really difficult situation, however, is when the significant other is not a philosopher. Other departments have no reason to make Philosophy happy, and it becomes the Dean's task to leverage things for us. Negotiations here can be quite complicated, and invariably involve budgetary considerations.

This is to say spousal hires at many institutions are far from hopeless, but prospects vary depending on the kinds of spousal hires in play.

Anonymous said...

I hear you, PGS, and am in pretty much the same boat. I almost-lied to SCs about my relationship status and didn't get any jobs, but I suspect that those things are unrelated.

What makes me even more hesitant to bring my girlfriend into things is that I too am a woman, and my sexual orientation has gotten me some weird reactions from philosophy's good old boys in the past (not hostile really, just uncomfortable to deal with). The job market is scary and alienating enough without bringing that into the mix.

Anonymous said...

Someone said this earlier, but I think that it is worth repeating.

Asking about marital status, or any other sort of personal information (e.g. religion, sexual orientation, whether you plan on having children, etc.) during an interview is, in most cases, illegal. Since this is so, it would be highly inappropriate for a SC to use any such information, however obtained, in making their decision.

In my (limited) experience on SCs, we made every effort to bracket such information. For example, a candidate told us, on his own, that his wife worked in field which would be hard to land a job in our area. In discussing him, that fact came up, but we reminded ourselves that this fact was irrelevant to our decision.

It may be hard to believe this when you are on the market, but my experience has been (on the other side of the table) that most people on SCs are trying to do the right thing and so will not hold it against you if you have a 2 body problem.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

(I'm 5:28)

What your friend said is consistent with what I said (or anyway with what I meant to be saying). The tricky thing is what counts as 'accepting' an offer. Usually it would mean executing a contract (a purchase and sales agreement), and anything short of that would be hard to make stick.

Also, I'm sure it's not *YOUR HOUSE* just because the offer has been made and accepted. For instance, you cannot evict him. It is very, very unlikely that you could force him to turn possession of the house over to you by deed. (Courts really don't like to throw people out of their houses.)

Anonymous said...

You think a two-body problem is hard, what about a three-body problem? In my experience this is where sexism really kicks in. For a woman candidate to come clean about having a child is likely to harm her, whereas for a male candidate, it's a plus--a sign of stability, maturity, whatever. I have even been told by a philosopher from another department about how a young man whose candidacy he was pushing would be a nice hire for us because he already has a wife and child.... imagine somebody telling me this if it had been a female candidate?

Philosopher with a lawyer friend said...

The question about counter offers seemed timely and important, so I asked a lawyer friend of mine. This was his reply:

A counter-offer is an offer made by an offeree to his offeror relating to the same matter as the original offer and proposing a substituted bargain differing from that proposed by the original offer. The general rule is that if the offeree makes a counteroffer, his power to accept the original offer is terminated just as if he had flatly rejected the offer. A counteroffer also confers upon the original offeror the power to accept the counteroffer.

However, there is a big exception: a “mere inquiry” will not act as a counter offer. “A mere inquiry regarding the possibility of different terms, a request for a better offer, or a comment upon the terms of the offer, is ordinarily not a counter-offer. Such responses to an offer may be too tentative or indefinite to be offers of any kind; or they may deal with new matters rather than a substitution for the original offer; or their language may manifest an intention to keep the original offer under consideration.” Restatement (Second) ofContracts§339, Comment b, at 106-07 (1981).

For example: Jaybe Construction Co. v. Beco, Inc., 216 A.2d 208, 211 (Conn. 1965) (concluding that the following statement was a mere inquiry: “The plaintiff stated that the bid to the state was a ‘close’ one, and if possible the plaintiff would like to have the defendant 'shave' its figure...."); Foster v. West Publishing Co., 186 P. 1083, 1084 (Okla. 1920) (concluding that the following statement, made subsequent to certain suggestions by the speaker, was a mere inquiry: “This, I say, would be my idea of a square deal; but, if you are not disposed to take the same view, I suppose there is nothing for me to do....”).

Conclusion: hire a good lawyer to draft your reply to an offer so that it does not constitute a counteroffer, and to litigate the matter if the reply, nevertheless, is construed to your detriment.

My conclusion: be very very careful. As a job candidate, you are in the less powerful position than a University with a staff of lawyers at their disposal. If you bargain, it will be your burden to prove you made a "mere inquiry."

Anonymous said...

"I'm female and at every single one of my campus visits (at leiterriffic places) I got asked, subtly about my relationship status."

That's funny, I'm a female who had several leiterriffic visits, and not a single person asked me. Maybe they weren't worried about a potential 2-body problem but were all just trying to date you. ;)

common sense said...

I can't believe the deceit I'm hearing related to the two-body problem. By not telling the SC about your partner until after the job offer is negotiating or interviewing in BAD FAITH. (But if the department really wants you, they may overlook that...maybe; that's a big risk you are taking. And it still says that you don't trust the department to not use that information against you.)

So OF COURSE you should mention the two-body problem as soon as prudent, which is typically *before* the job offer. BUT the trick is to do it in a way that it does not become a deal-breaker.

For instance: "Just to let you know, Dr. Prinz, I do have a partner who's also looking for a job in academia. We don't expect you to hire two people if you really don't have the budget for that, but it sure would be helpful if there were some position (lecturer, VAP, etc.) for him/her. Again, I'm sure you know that couples who work in the same department or university tend to not move around so much, and this is our situation as well; we're looking for a town and university to call home. Anyway, this isn't a deal-breaker, and I want to be completely forthcoming so there aren't any surprises on your end and to start off on the right foot; but anything you can do would be a big help."

If other schools are interested in you, you might also add: "Your department would be my first choice, everything being equal; but I should let you know that my partner is also looking for an academic job, so I'll need to consider her employment opportunities too, and some schools have already suggested that they could hire him/her at least as a lecturer."

Honesty is still the best policy (but this doesn't imply full disclosure when that's not needed)...unless you don't trust those with whom you're negotiating in the first place. In that case, what are you doing talking to them at all??!

Anonymous said...

I am female with a non-academic spouse and while it's come up in casual conversation on interviews, and people seem happy to hear about my husband's very portable job, it has never been treated as a big deal. What the search committees have been a lot more excited about is that I have family in the areas where I'm interviewing, and that I'll be fitting in a visit with said family after the interview before I go home. They seem really pleased that I have that connection to the area. Has anyone had a similar experience?

Anonymous said...

I have a question about negotiating when you only have one job offer in hand (presumably with two offers, you can basically ask 'can you beat this offer'?). What is the best way to negotiate? There are many areas where you could negotiate... my instinct is that it is best to make two or three moderate requests (aka): could you add another $1000/yr for research and cover my moving expenses? Presumably they might counter with something like.... yes on the research money, but only 50% of your moving expenses up to $3000.

I don't think one request at a time would work well... I think only the first such request would be taken seriously.

Obviously too many requests or even one request that is too big will make you look unreasonable.

But, I'm just a job seeker... Anyone out there actually know what the best strategies are? Or which issues are most negotiable? I know we've touched on some of these issues in other threads, but we've never really gone into the 'nuts and bolts' of what actually works in negotiations.

Thanks to all of you, you are so helpful (except the trolls)...

notamathmajor said...

Okay, new thread proposal. I very much hope that this question won't cause any more angst on the part of those who aren't doing so well on the job market... I'm one of the many not-so-far-along grad students who's reading this blog for the voyeuristic thrill of it all (but also trying to get a sense for what I need to do to get a job if I ever, you know, actually write a dissertation 'n stuff).

As part of my wasteful daydreaming, I was just skimming the online JFP, and I find myself totally perplexed. Here's what has me confused: JFP is up to job #409, with another issue still to be published. 409!!! That's A LOT of jobs, even when you discount the ones in faraway lands that most of us don't want to live in. (Especially when you consider that some jobs are listed in the Chronicle, etc. but not in JFP.)

I'm in a medium to big-sized department. We have better than two dozen faculty, and around 35-40 grad students. In a typical year, there will be 2-4 graduates from our program. So let's go with 3 as the average number. (That math checks out, right?)

Well, how many PhD-granting philosophy departments are there in the English-speaking world? Maybe 100?

You see where this is going... If I'm right to think that 3 grads per year is about average (and based on the size of my department, I bet it is), and if there are 100 or so PhD-granting philosophy departments in the English-speaking world, then there should be about 300 new wannabe professors out there each year. Well, if there are 400+ jobs, um, why isn't this easy? Doesn't it seem like those of us in programs that are Leiteraverage or better should routinely be choosing from multiple job offers?* Someone please explain to me where my reasoning is off track here.

*BTW, this comment about being Leiteraverage or better isn't meant as a criticism of those in lower-ranked departments... I'm just assuming that, as with most professions (and as comments on this blog have implied) being in a highly ranked department is probably better for your job prospects than being in a low-ranked department.

Anonymous said...

lawyer here.

Ignore the stuff written about "technical" rejections and whatnot. An offer can be rescinded prior to one's accepting it, regardless of whether you enter negotiations by asking for a job for your partner. They offer you a job, you pause a beat to gather your thoughts, they rescind before you speak: no legal problem. The point at which they can't rescind is when there's been an acceptance of the offer. (NB: There can be cases of reasonable reliance, but that's not relevant here.)

Anonymous said...


you cant count like that. First, the JFP is full of weird ads (c.f. marist college), postdocs in bioethis, postdocs that are for multiple disciplines, etc. Second, there are lots and lots of people who already have jobs who are applying. Finally, lots of the jobs in the JFP will go unfilled every year.

however it works out, the ratio every year of jobless applicants to jobless applicants who end up with jobs is pretty close to 2 to 1. (i.e. those who are looking for their first TT job have about a .5 chance, on average).

Richard said...

Common Sense,

I don't see much common sense in your comments. First of all, it is not negotiating in bad faith if you do not tell the search committee about a potential 2 body problem. If you lie to them and tell them you have no such problem, then you are in bad faith. However, if you do not bring up a topic that they cannot legally bring up, it's not negotiating in bad faith.

It would seem from your stance that if I know that I will not take a job that pays less than, say, $45,000, i am negotiating in bad faith if I do not give them this information during the campus visit!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Philosopher with a Lawyer friend! Very helpful; you and others rightly suggest that a rose-colored glasses view of negotiating is dangerous for the non-superstars.

There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip, as the old saying goes, and I've seen candidates blow it at the very end through unreasonable or just arrogantly worded responses to job offers. Common-sense's advise about how to word your requests is very valuable in this regard.

And I'm sorry, but If I only had one offer, I would not consider myself entitled to ask for more from it. Too risky. (If you have another offer to fall back on, of course, that changes things quite a bit.)

Don't fumble that ball on the one yard line!

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid 'common sense' is just wrong in his/her claims. It is 100% illegal for a SC to even consider your marital/relational status when hiring you. (just ask anyone in your school's HR department or crack open a Business Ethics Text). Legally speaking considering 'married candidates or candidates with SOs are undesirable' is just as illegal as 'irish candidates are undesirable.'

Keeping these details to yourself is NOT an act of bad faith. If you pretend to be interested in a job you absolutely would not take b/c of your SO, then that is an act of bad faith.

That being said, plenty of SC members and especially grad students will ask inappropriate or illegal questions during your campus visit. In fact, something as simple as 'what do you like to do for fun?' is technically an illegal question since it is not a bona fide occupational qualifier (it has no bearing on your ability to do the job). But that won't stop SCs from asking about your relational status, religious beliefs, whether or not you are a vegan, etc.

The odds of successfully prosecuting for these breaches is about 0% and you have to decide for yourself how you are going to respond. (Generally, pointing out a question is illegal is not a good idea... it comes across as 'hostile')

7:52 said...

I am 7:52. Whether I am a troll is for you to judge. I am on the market with a PhD. I find PGS to be a pretty pathetic individual, and find this more contemptible in a male because of all the advantages we males enjoy. I have made anonymous comments to this effect before, but PGS's expectation that someone will give him a job with no publications and no PhD is ridiculous. If being on the market serves any purpose for him, it's as practice for when he is on the market with a PhD or a publication. PGS in pre-season posts seemed to acknowledge that there was an old school of thought that said one needs a dissertation to get a job, and a new school that one needs publications. I am not aware of any school of thought that says, "Hey, just apply – people from non-top-10 programs with no PhD and no publications get jobs all the time". Anyone who said that would be delusional, as is PGS.

Anonymous said...


Of course you don't see the common sense in that. Your moral compass is off, as is with apparently many job seekers here...which I think was the point of the post in question. If you worked in industry at all or have been in the position of interviewing and hiring folks, then you'd know what the poster was talking about.

And yes, applying and interviewing for a job that you know you wouldn't take is a waste of the department's time (though perhaps good practice for you). I recall seeing a recent survey that concluded that ethicists are less "ethical" than the average person. Perhaps we're just very good at rationalizing and can point to theories such as consequentialism to justify our actions...

Anonymous said...

"It seems that the ideal female candidate is an avowed spinster with no plans of children either. And people wonder why it's hard to get women to go into philosophy..."

But if she's an exciting spinster, she'll be perceived as potential trouble (bad news for the department) and if she's a not so exciting spinster, she'll be perceived as boring (bad news for the department). The ideal female candidate is probably one with a portable husband, ideally one that fits into a purse.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

7:52 --

I might or might not be delusional, I'm sure the jury's still out there. But somehow you seem to have got the idea I have no publications. If you'd care to actually read this blog, you'd know that is false.

ttprof said...

Please stop what you're doing. Please. It hurts me.

Hobbes said...

Anon 1:54,

I don't see the common sense in 'common sense' either, so maybe you can help me with my moral compass. Richard didn't suggest that it would be a good idea to apply for a job you know you wouldn't take. Nobody has suggested that. Common Sense asserted that not telling the SC about your partner until after the job offer is negotiating or interviewing in BAD FAITH. That's not common sense. It's not true, and it's a silly thing to believe.

It's important in philosophy to read the argument you're responding to, and, in philosophy, it's considered bad faith (or weak intellect) to 'reply' to an argument that nobody has made. If you had spent any time in a philosophy seminar room, instead of wasting your time in industry, you'd know that.

Anonymous said...

No feeding!

Richard said...

Anon 1:54,

So, your conclusion is that it is immoral for me not to answer questions that are illegal for SC's to ask me without their having to ask me. That is plain Bullshit.

Every flyout I have accepted has been for a job that I am truly interested. However, as with any sane individual, I would only accept it under certain conditions. Do I have to tell them the conditions even before they offer me the job? Should I make up a list to give them, telling them, "don't bother to give me an offer if you won't pay me at least 460,000, provide full health care coverage with only a $10 co-pay when i visit the doctor, employee match to my retirement fund, at least $1500 in travel money every year, an office of at least 200sq feet, etc."

Again, that's just bullshit. If they are interested in me, they will make an offer. If the offer is interesting to me, I will take it. If not, we can negotiate. If we can reach an agreement, I get a job and they get an employee.

My caring more about myself than a potential employer that may or may not hire me is not evidence of a moral compass, it is evidence that I am sane.

In any case, I would love to see you explain why I am ethically obligated to provide potential employers with the conditions under which I would accept a job from them before they commit to me? It would be different if I had no intention of accepting an offer, no matter what it was, but that's certainly not the case.

So, the challenge is out. Rise up and defend yourself with more than "oh, I read somewhere that ethicists are less ethical than the average person."

Anonymous said...

To 7:52... several years ago, I was ABD from a department that barely cracked the Leiter list, with no publications, and fielded 3 job offers. Were they schools on the Leiter list? No, but they were all good jobs.

To Common Sense... There are any number of reasons a job offer may not be acceptable to a candidate. Candidates are not under any obligation to disclose them to the SC prior to an offer. Indeed, it is incumbent upon the SC who wants to hire its top choice to make the job so attractive to finalists that such concerns might be overcome.

Prof. J. said...

Despite what I said about my own department, it does seem to me that it's wise not to mention a two-body problem in an interview. I think most of the time it will not make a difference, but of the times it does make a difference it's much more likely to be to your detriment than to your benefit. (And I'm mystified by the suggestion that it's unethical to withhold the information.)

And as to lonely men and women: we've had single men and single women in my department in the past [x] years, and I would have said it was about equally difficult for both (but that's a very small sample size, of course). Anyway, I can see how, say, Brooklyn College or Boston College or someplace like that might have an advantage over Colby or Texas A&M when it comes to hiring singles, and Harvard over Princeton for that matter.

Oh, one more thing: there's a "First Person" by a gay woman (in Religious Studies) with a two-body problem over at the CHE.

TheRealTroll said...

Just for the record, I am not the Anonymous person(s) posting on this thread. I am the self-described troll. I will not post anonymously henceforth, just to avoid the confusion it is obviously causing.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why we're still discussing this. The ideal female candidate is clearly actually a man.

Anon 1:54 again said...

Dear Hobbes,

By your reasoning, I can "argue" back that I never suggested that Richard didn't suggest that it would be a good idea to apply for a job you know you wouldn't take. Nor did I suggest that anybody has suggested that. You're not very smart.


Anon 1:54 yet again said...

There you go with the rationalization again.

My, my, children, don't get sensitive. Do you not know that every sentence I've posted so far--including "Your pathetic"--is designed to elicit a certain response from you?

But to play a bit longer: Would you also say that it is ethical for the company to NOT disclose certain requirements, such as being Catholic, until after an offer has been accepted (e.g., "But before we can officially hire you, let's discuss your religion")?

By the way, for you smarty pants who reacted "You can't ask about religion!" to the preceding, try to not be so anal. It starts to smell.

Hobbes said...

Calvin = 1:54,

By your reasoning, I can "argue" back that I never suggested that Richard didn't suggest that it would be a good idea to apply for a job you know you wouldn't take.

Good, let's see that "argument".

Why did you say this:

And yes, applying and interviewing for a job that you know you wouldn't take is a waste of the department's time (though perhaps good practice for you).

if you knew nobody had suggested doing such a thing? Were you *deliberately* attacking a straw man?

Calvin said...


My argument is a reductio to show how flawed yours is. If your argument were sound, then I could simply turn the tables on *you* to claim that I strictly did not suggest X (because you don't see an explicit statement of X from me). Of course I suggested X, because Richard suggested Y, even though he did not explicitly say Y. In an argument, premises are not always explicit, though it would be nice if they were. Get it now?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the legal questions, the comment by Anon 5:10p (on 2/13) is true and the most practically relevant. (Didn't anyone here take an undergrad law course of some kind?) Having said that, I've never heard of a job offer being rescinded just because someone negotiated. As long as you act in good faith and try to see things from the department's point of view (ask yourself: would they view what I'm asking about/for as "fair"?), I think you are very likely to at least be given the opportunity to retreat to the terms of the original offer, should you wish to do so. And you might even get a little more in the process. Very few people or institutions will start with what is truly their best offer.

Regarding being asked illegal questions, I would think it a good idea to register a complaint somewhere -- perhaps with the APA, or perhaps with a Dean -- and perhaps anonymously. Registering a complaint might at least lead to a "reminder" email to faculty at the department in question, which might help in the future. And by registering a complaint with, say, the APA, it is possible to track over time whether there is a recurring problem in a given department.

loser said...

Um, I had a job offer rescinded because I was negotiating, though it was an industry job. The reason, I suspect, is that they didn't like the manner by which I was negotiating (over email). Looking back at that now, they were probably right: it betrayed a lack of judgment, especially for a job with a lot of high-level responsibility. And I may have been asking for too much in a single email. An in-person or phone conversation would have been more appropriate.

I don't see any reason why this couldn't also happen with academic job offers. The way you negotiate is an indication of your personality, ability to be tactful, etc. It can also signal that you were not interviewing in good faith, if the committee takes offense with a point of negotiation, such as that you require a job for your partner.

Anonymous said...

How about a wiki that identifies departments who you believe acted inappropriately, such as asking illegal questions?

Hobbes said...


Of course I suggested X, because Richard suggested Y, even though he did not explicitly say Y. In an argument, premises are not always explicit, though it would be nice if they were. Get it now?

Richard did *not* suggest suggest that it would be a good idea to apply for a job you know you wouldn't take. Nothing in his posting suggests such a thing.
You were simply wrong; you didn't read the comment correctly. That's understandable. Now admit it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the "First Person" link, prof. j.! The other article she wrote there nails a lot of the frustrations I have about looking for an employer that will be respectful of my same-sex relationship. (The rest of my frustration stems from assumptions about what my AOS must be: obviously a lesbian can't be an epistemologist, because she has to be a queer theorist or cultural studies flake of some kind. Fuck.)

Anonymous said...

One landmine that I've encountered more than once on flyouts has been the lunch (or other time) alone with students. I've been asked whether I wanted kids, whether I believed in God, what religion I was, etc. numerous times. I know that they report back to the SC, so this is of course highly inappropriate.

Now, I don't hold students to quite the same standards as faculty, but they really should be given a basic lecture on appropriate and inappropriate questions.

calvin said...


Richard in fact did suggest that it would be a good idea to apply for a job you know you wouldn't take. He said yesterday at 11:49AM:

It would seem from your stance that if I know that I will not take a job that pays less than, say, $45,000, i am negotiating in bad faith if I do not give them this information during the campus visit!

It is reasonable to read this statement as: Richard thinks that it is *not* acting in bad faith to not disclose that you really cannot/would not accept the job at the advertised rate of, say, $35,000 per annum. That is to say, it is ok to apply for a job that you know you would not take. How else could you claim that you were not acting in bad faith if you didn't act at all, i.e., apply for the job?

Now the missing caveat here would be that if the advertised rate were in the ballpark of what is acceptable for you, i.e., you're counting on negotiating a higher salary if you're offered the job, then that may be a different story.

So my point still stands: Not all negotiations are inappropriate, but not being upfront about true deal-breakers is. I believe this is what Common Sense, the original poster, was getting at. So at least other folk(s) here agree with me, which is to say that your position is not obviously right. In fact, I'm still unclear what you're quibbling about...

So put that in your pipe and smoke it! ;)

P.S. I appreciate your restraint from using profanity, unlike others here. For instance, calling a statement "bullshit" doesn't make it so or make one's argument against it stronger; it's just desperate. Disagreements can still be fun and civil, as philosophy should be.

7:52 said...

PGS, I clearly owe you an apology. I have read ever post on this blog, and don't know how I missed that you have a pub if the info is up there, but I have clearly baselessly maligned you.

I take anon's point that his/her empirical evidence shows that you can get offers without a PhD, pubs or a prestigious department. However, I expect that s/he would have had at least one of two other things going for her: glowing references from known figures and/or working or at least having clear teaching ability in an in-demand area (e.g. business ethics). Pre-emptive apologies if this is not the case.

I hope I have now 'stopped what I was doing'. I don't think I'm trolling. I don't know how one can meaningfully toll a moderated blog.

Hobbes said...


Okay, fair enough.
I think you misunderstood Richard (he can answer that himself), but I admit it was a plausible, if uncharitable, interpretation of what he did say.

calvin said...


And I have to admit that I might have been uncharitable to Richard, though I tend to do this, i.e., play Devil's advocate, when I see that the interlocuter is being narrow-minded and fails to consider the opposing perspective. In this case, he doesn't seem to understand the hiring department's predicament with respect to candidates with the two-body problem.

As any introductory ethics course can tell you/him, matters of ethics are distinct from matters of law. While it may be illegal to ask questions to test for the two-body problem prior to offering a candidate a job, it is cowardly and intellectually dishonest to hide behind the law when we're discussing what's fair or ethical in the situation.

Failing to see how it could possibly be reasonable/fair to raise the two-body issue--which is a serious issue, unlike haggling for a few more dollars in your paycheck--proactively and in a tactful, non-deal-breaking way says something about Richard, which I'll leave unsaid.

Richard said...

Of course, I was just assuming that it would be a waste of my time to even bother to apply for a job that I knew I was not going to take. So, if I saw a job advertised that payed $35K and knew I would not take one that payed less than $45K, I wouldn't waste my time. However, most jobs are not this clear on their salaries, so I apply. And, I don't tell them what I would accept before they offer me a job.

Of course, the thing that started this all was about telling them that there was a potential two body problem. And, I still believe that there is nothing morally wrong about not providing them with answers to questions that they are legally obliged not to ask.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to make another comment on "illegal questioning" about the two-body problem. I've had a number of on-campus visits and I've been asked whether I faced the two body problem at least once (sometimes 3 or 4 times) on every visit. Sometimes this is prefaced with "I know this question is illegal, but...". I do think that the profs who have asked me this have been doing so because they wanted to sell their school's dual-hiring policy to me, rather for some nefarious end. But I still found it discouraging that people would decide to place me in the situation of having to answer the question when they could have merely started telling me about the dual-hiring policy *just in case* I had an academic partner.

My not-very-experienced opinion is that it is in your best interest to answer the questions you are asked, even about your personal life. Most interviewers want to hire someone friendly and personable. It's hard to dodge personal questions without seeming distant or deceptive (but maybe that's just true for me).

Anonymous said...

If illegally asked about your two-body dilemma, perhaps a diplomatic answer would be:

"My partner is working on several job opportunities in the area, so we're hoping to not have to burden your department with an additional hire. But in case these job leads fall through, it would be great if your department would be able to accommodate my partner as a lecturer, VAP, etc."

This kind of answer is perhaps more applicable for departments near a big city, so that there are other universities/colleges to make it plausible.